‘The tarot embodies symbolical presentations of universal ideas, behind which lie all the implicits of the human mind and it is in this sense that they contain the secret doctrine which is the realisation of the few truths embodied in the consciousness of all.’
The ace cups in the Rider Waite Smith deck has been a source of intrigue for a long time, particularly the reversed M in the centre of the chalice. I used to think it was a W but somehow that didn’t sit right with me.
It was my interest in ritual and symbolism as a lady Freemason that inspired me to go in search of possible meanings to this card
A.E. Waite was a master mason and I guessed that much of the content of the Rider Waite Smith deck will be rich in the Masonic and Rosicrucian language of symbols. I feel that this deck was not meant to become as ubiquitous as it is, but never the less it is a wonderful legacy left to us by metaphysical narrators of the early 20th century.
I was in a church in Euston one day marvelling at the stained glass windows when I came across the image of the annunciation. As I gazed at this, it dawned on me that there was a striking resemblance to the ace cups, not in imagery per se but more in what it made me feel. I thought about Gabriel presenting himself to Mary and announcing that she would be mother to the Christ child even though she was a virgin.
In pagan times Virgin meant she who belongs to no man, so she would have been a woman of undetermined power. Gabriel being the messenger of God who happened to be an expert in announcing forthcoming births! Mary, for me, symbolises the Earth, her consciousness and organic nature (struggle, physical limitations but pure love), the Dove depicts peace and the Holy Spirit.
I sense that the message from this array of symbols is Gnostic in its root. From nothing, something can be created. We are reminded that we are creators, we grow life on all levels, in all forms.
Annunciation, the dawn of a new era
Now to the link in Freemasonry: it can be said that Freemasonry uses the symbolism of a very ancient Goddess religion that goes back to Neolithic age which can be seen as an inherited set of ancient symbols.
The most common symbolism in Freemasonry is the square and compass. Sometimes a letter is put in the middle, usually G but sometimes M. The V shape is also of interest as it is said to represent the vagina.
There are feminine symbols in the compass and square, the top half is a W, the bottom is M. The zigzag effect goes back to Paleontology art & represents water. We get the letters W and M in the zigzag and it has been noted that it could also represent female vaginal moisture and the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb. This gives us the sense of life giving waters, primordial by nature.
The M is Mother, a consonant for the word Mother in many different cultures, mama, mah, maa, mana, mtat.
Linked into all of this is the Hexagram. A Symbol going back in the mists of time to signify sexual love.
It consists of 6 sides, 6 points and 6 small triangles.
There has been so much speculation about the meaning of 666
It was given to Aleister Crowley, also Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) as part of anti Islamic propaganda of the time, he died in the six hundred and sixty sixth era of spain and this was used as an omen suggesting
corruption and ruin.
And further, before the book of Revelations was written, 666 stood for the triple Goddess, especially Babylonian Ishtar. Maybe there is an undefinable link between this ace and strength, the woman sometimes depicted as the Whore of Babylon, Ishtar. In light of this we could see that Revelations could be an attack on Goddess worship, the annunciation heralding the dawn of a new era. New eras bring out new leaders and spiritual thought. The arrival of the Christ child was the beginning of the end of pagan worship in some cultures.
So, back to our ace of cups
We see the chalice as the womb with flowing waters, the cup runneth over. Our spiritual nature is the well spring within, the psyche that builds the inner landscape. The lilies are purity and the Dove reflects our connection to the divine source which is very much a part of us.
The M is mother, we are all the mother as we all have the ability to create, to be fertile, to heal.
This ace is about concepts and conception, not just on anatomical level but on all levels. Waite called this card the house of the true heart bringing nourishment, abundance and fertility.
We can see the fecund Goddess in this card and are reminded once more that out of nothing, something can be created. We are magnificent and brilliant, we have the power to manifest our personal new eras from the life giving waters of our spirit.
Tarot can be inspiring, leading us ever on to understand the chaos we have been born into
This is but a brief foray into understanding the complex nature of symbolism, an outline. I don’t suppose it is the full picture but a tantalising glimpse through ideas into the deeper meaning of this beautiful card.