All of the four suits have to do with the elements in interaction with one another(with the exception of the Aces, which are the awakening of the element). Another example of the head / heart interaction is the eight of cups. A figure is making his way on a tricky landscape, there is no clear road to follow. In the foreground an arrangement of cups is incomplete, there is a gap. Above it all is, what for the longest time I thought was, an oddly shaped moon.
I will digress here, for a moment. It just goes to show that you never stop learning with Tarot, it never stops surprising you, if it does stop…put them away for awhile. I have to always be on the lookout for new inflection and possibility. In the case of the eight of cups, I had been working with Tarot for a good 10 or 12 years when one day, while reading cards in a restaurant ( the now defunct Eastside Exchange) one of my co-workers was looking at my cards. His name was Ken and he’s a writer, amongst other things. He looked at the eight of cups, HAVING NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE, and said “oh there’s an eclipse”! I looked at it, and frankly, I was gobsmacked!
Pamela Coleman Smith, the illustrator of the deck, clearly knew how to draw a proper circle. She also knew how to draw a moon and a sun (as they are part of the major arcana). On the eight of cups she didnt simply draw a moon or a sun. It was clear (in that moment- thanks to Ken) that it is a circle over a circle, most certainly an eclipse. This makes even more sense when we consider the association of the moon card with the unconscious, the primal and instinctive and the sun card with the rational, out in the light of day clarity of consciousness, The eight of cups takes on a greater deeper (and I think far more constructive) meaning.
If you were having to make a difficult journey on uncertain terrain, in the hopes of finding fulfillment, it would stand to reason that you would want to take a careful, practical approach, just traveling by daylight and watching your step. But true fulfillment isn’t something you can plan and schedule. It’s not a scheduled enlightenment weekend at Mount Shasta. Nor is uncertainty a bad thing. Fulfillment has to catch us off guard, it has to have an irrational component. Sooner or later in every one’s life, there are those rare times, like an eclipse, where it is dark in midday and we have to allow our instincts and urges to also have their say.
Many traditional interpretations of the eight of cups refer to it as a time of uncertainty, disillusion and confusion. I think it is the uncertainty we HAVE to travel through. It’s not the same as confusion where we are wandering around in circles in the same part of the forest saying “didn’t I pass that tree three times already?” It is the BLESSED confusion of being outside our usual comfort zone, on unfamiliar ground, allowing ourselves to venture towards what we have not yet experienced. When we know that we can take a certain amount of pressure off of ourselves and use the experience more wisely and deeply.