I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
The suit of Cups flows, ebbs, and throws us to the sand. For when we deal with Cups, we deal with water. The element of water rules our tears, our moon cycles, our psychic connection, the blood that runs through our heart, so, romance, and of course, our sense of balance. The wine runneth over. We drown in our tears. The imagery we use for water so succinctly wrap up what the suit is about. Cups are all about our emotions--the good, the bad, and the ugly. How we use them, as Oscar Wilde so eloquently puts it, how we enjoy them, and how we dominate them. No card more righteously dominates the emotions than the King of Cups.
This King controls his emotions. He has figured out how to dominate his own impulses, his desires, his natural drive to have his heart dominate the conversation. The imagery on this card bears some examination, as the Cups also rule our own spirituality. We often think of this suit as being one of romance, love and emotional turmoil, but it also governs our spirituality and psychic, intuitive and empathic connections. He wears the golden fish around his neck, and a fish jumps out of the water. Fish harken to Christ and give us a vision into this man as a religious man. He is also on choppy water, reminiscent of the Two of Pentacles--balancing rocky seas with aplomb and grace. This King is one of balance and peace, as is always said.
When you pull this card about another person, remember Cups rules the astrological signs of Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio. This person tends to be romantic. Incredibly passionate with a strong sense of moral justice and extremely ethical. This might not be completely obvious, for the King has learned his emotional lessons well. Unlike the Knight or Page, he doesn't lead with his heart anymore. He knows when to show them, and when to hold them (thank you, Kenny Rogers!) He can be artistic--a painter, poet, musician. And that might be something he doesn't broadcast to the world. He may be a closet guitarist, or a journal writer. He is psychologically astute, so he may be in the field of social work, or psychology. He may be psychic or intuitive. King of Cups are incredibly spiritual people, but that doesn't mean they are religious. In fact, I would say their nature is to see the truth in many things. This King rules the Arts and Sciences, and so he may be a Liberal Arts professor, for example, or someone who teaches. Whatever this King's profession, it tends to be a calling or passion. This is how his emotions get funneled into positive use. Genuine compassion and empathy are the mark of the King of Cups, and his sincerity is obvious. Some say naive, but this King knows better, because he has learned those lessons, and for him, love rules, or rather it trumps cynicism every day.
Before you fall madly in love with this debonair King of Hearts, as he once was in the traditional decks. There are downsides to each card, and person we encounter. We often see the blending of some of the positives and negatives in real live people, right? So, when you are reading for someone and pull the King of Cups, know this person probably has a blending of both the attributes and challenges of the King of Cups. The challenging aspects of the Kings of Cups are that these Kings can sometime try to escape their emotions, specifically because they are overwhelmingly emotional. They feel every piece of life deeply, every careless word, every interaction, every criticism. They can be a bit immature, or emotionally stunted. This comes out with sarcasm, over sensitivity, cynicism or defensiveness. They may put up large barriers to the Spiritual because of this hurt. Emotional turmoil often comes out with patterns of running away or numbing out through booze, drugs, sex, overeating, or any addictive behaviour. It is something you don't often hear discussed in the Tarot, but the suit of Cups has the additional layers of meaning about alcohol and drug abuse. So, when you pull reversed Cups, think about the card in terms of emotional hiding, numbing or burying. If the upright card is the full expression in all its positivity of emotion, the reversed is often the blocking of that emotional expression. The King of Cups reversed can most certainly be alcoholic. Carl Jung noted the intrinsic link between Spirits and the Spiritual. He wrote in a letter to Bill W., founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. "...'alcohol" in Latin is 'spiritus' and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum." This later phrase is often translated as, "Spirit against the effects of spirits." And so Water signs are most in need of this full dive into the spiritual pool, so to speak, when they are emotionally turmoiled.
When you read for yourself, the King of Cups means coming to a place of dominating your emotional nature. You understand your emotional, psychic, intuitive or spiritual self. You feel fully expressed. It can mean to be right where you are. This King knows when he needs a good cry. He does not suppress his emotions, and likewise, if you are being asked to embrace the energy of the King of Cups, you are asked to begin labeling your emotions with the proper words and really fully embracing your emotional self. Love him or hate him, the King of Cups rules the deep waters of your soul and notices the connections between all living things, so allow his energy to seep into your soul too.
Let me know what you think of the King of Cups, or how you have interpreted him. If you disagree, I'd love to hear about that too. If you have questions about the King of Cups, please do not hesitate to post in the comments section. I try to answer all questions that arise.