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King of Cups Tarot Card Meanings
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UPRIGHT: Emotionally balanced, compassionate, diplomatic.
REVERSED: Self-compassion, inner feelings, moodiness, emotionally manipulative.
The King of Cups sits on a large stone throne and wears a blue tunic and a gold cape – a symbol of his authority and status. A small fish amulet hangs around his neck symbolising his creativity. In his right hand, he holds a cup representing the emotions, and his left has a sceptre, showing power and control. Unlike the other Cups court cards, he doesn’t look at his cup and seems to be focused elsewhere; perhaps he has already mastered his emotional self and doesn’t need to concentrate as hard on this facet of himself.
The King of Cups appears to be floating on a granite block in the middle of a turbulent sea. Behind him on his right, a fish jumps out of the ocean, while on the left, a ship sails steadily despite the waves. These images show that this King stays calm and balanced, even in turbulent conditions, and has learned how to stay open to his emotions and unconscious impulses, without being overwhelmed by them. He keeps power and control while balancing his feelings.
NOTE: The Tarot card meaning description is based on the Rider Waite cards.
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Everyday Tarot Deck
The King of Cups represents mastery over the realms of emotion, creativity and the unconscious. When this card turns up in a Tarot reading, you have gained control of your feelings and can accept them without allowing them to get the better of you. Even when life throws you a curve ball, you can draw on your emotional maturity and stability to help you navigate these challenges. You don’t let things get to you, and you steer clear of the drama, instead choosing an emotionally balanced and calm approach.
If you are being challenged personally, the King of Cups suggests you need to remain emotionally mature when faced with negative energy from others. Be firm on your personal boundaries, stating what is and is not acceptable on an emotional level. This King is level-headed and in control of his emotions. He uses his intellect to make smart decisions and does not let other circumstances or whims sway him from his central beliefs and morals. Stay true to your emotions and feelings and do not allow others to steer you off course.
The King of Cups embodies the perfect balance between the executive and the heart. Not only are you able to assess and manage a situation logically, but you can also draw upon your intuition and understanding of human interactions. As a leader, you care as much about achieving your goals and objectives as you do about making sure everyone is happy and engaged along the way. If you sense that logic and emotion are out of balance, draw on the energy of this King to realign yourself.
As a King, he has a masculine, fatherly energy, and as a Cups card, he brings his emotional self to the forefront. He offers wise advice when it comes to feelings, emotions, creativity and relationships and can see the human dynamic in its entirety. The King of Cups is compassionate towards others, creating strong bonds and relationships based on patience and understanding. As you interact with others, you may need to navigate their strong feelings and emotional triggers so you can create a sense of peace in your interactions. He may appear in your life as a mentor, coach or spiritual guide; or you may step into this role yourself.
The reversed King of Cups indicates that you are focusing your attention on your innermost feelings. You are discovering the emotions stored in your subconscious mind and how these emotions affect you. Through this work, you hope to gain a stronger sense of control over your emotional well-being so that your feelings don’t steer you away from living your best life. You may read more self-help books, journaling or seeking the support of a trained counsellor or hypnotherapist so you can journey deep into your subconscious mind.
When the reversed King of Cups appears in your spread, you may be more prone to emotional upset and drama. Others may trigger you or push your buttons HARD, even to where you worry you might lose it and throw an emotional tantrum. You may feel moody, depressed, anxious and unpredictable. You may also lack in self-compassion, beating yourself up over small things that have gone wrong. If this resonates, seek to understand the root cause of your emotions and bring your conscious awareness to the impact they are having on your life. Pay attention to your emotional balance and find your place of calm and compassion. Other people may trigger these emotional responses in you, but it’s up to you to stay in control!
The reversed King of Cups could show that you are repressing your emotions and withdrawing from the outside world because you fear what may happen if you were to confront your feelings head-on. Your feelings are bottling up inside you, and you are at risk of an emotional outburst if the pressure gets too much. If this resonates, consider finding a therapist to help you to work through your feelings in a safe environment.
At worst, the reversed King of Cups can represent someone who is vindictive and has a talent for being able to punish others through emotional manipulation. He uses emotional blackmail to get his way and to push his personal agenda. He leaves you feeling uncertain about yourself and as if you are the problem, not him. This only leads to (undeserved) emotional instability within you. If this sounds like someone you have met in the past, you still have work to do in releasing yourself from his controlling forces.