King of Cups

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The King of Cups is the powerful male ruler of the water element and the realm of the unconscious and all it encompasses; deep emotions, potent creativity, psychic abilities.

When the King of Cusp shows up in a Tarot reading, he is usually a positive omen, a powerful symbol of emotional intelligence, psychic intuition and vast reservoirs of creative potential, just waiting to be tapped into.

The King of the water element displays a high level of maturity, mastery and confidence. He is truly at home in his element, having long since earned the right to call himself king.

Whether he signifies a deepening sense of creative potency or emotional sensibility within yourself, or an important person or energy in your life – often, an enigmatic love interest or imaginative mentor – the King of Cups is sure to teach you much about yourself and to draw out creative powers and emotional depths you might only have sensed the vague contours of before.

What do the Cups mean in Tarot?

In the pictorial language of the Tarot, the Cups represent elemental water and all of its associations; emotional depths, powerful feelings, the irrational and mysterious realm of the subconscious mind, as well as psychic and creative power.

What do the Kings mean in Tarot?

The Tarot’s Minor Arcana has four Kings, one ruling over each of the four elements. In their own right, the Kings are personifications of the element of Air, just the Queens are manifestations of Water, the Knights of Fire and the Pages of Earth.

Elemental air deals with the realm of the mind; with thinking, communication, ideas and ideals.

In the King of Cups we have a powerful archetype, combining and balancing the energies of air and water; intellect and emotion, rationale and psychic intuition, practicality and creativity.

The King of Cups personality

The King of the Tarot’s Cups suit is the embodiment of positive water energy.

The King of Cups personality is most of embodied by a well-established male adult, but his qualities are neither gender or age specific.

The King of Cups is emotionally mature, responsible, and a calm and soothing presence. He is someone who has acquired a certain level of life experience, and with it, a deep empathy for others as well as a rare level of mastery over his own emotions.

The King of Cups is open-minded and very much in touch with his creative side, as well as with his finely attuned psychic senses. He may not be a practicing astrologer or Tarot reader, but his ability to pick up on the moods and motivations of others is uncanny.

The typical King of Cups is highly emotionally intelligent, attentive and romantic. He is naturally drawn to the arts, or to working with people.

King of Cups Tarot card description and symbology

Although renditions of the King of Cups Tarot card differ between Tarot decks, most contain the following symbols, inspired by the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot.

The King

The main feature of the King of Cups Tarot card is, naturally, the King. He is depicted and a mature man, calm, collected and in perfect emotional balance.

Clad in a light blue tunic and donning a golden cape and crown, this King’s status and power are obvious at a glance. He seems relaxed and confident, carrying his responsibilities with ease.

The cup

In his right hand, the King holds a large golden chalice, symbolising his control over his own emotions.

Unlike the other Cups court cards, the King of Cups is gazing off to the side instead of looking at the cup he is holding. This is a sign of his level of mastery and experience; he doesn’t need to look at the cup in order to preserve every last drop of its precious essence.

The sceptre

In his left hand, the King is holding a golden sceptre, a classical royal power symbol, indicating his status and authority.

The throne

The King’s throne is carved out of solid rock which appears to be rising out of the turbulent sea. It hints at the King’s ability to remain calm, cool and in control no matter the circumstances.

The sea

The sea behind and around the King of Cups is unruly and turbulent, reminding us of the vast forces and powers of our subconscious, irrational and emotional selves. The King of Cups is fully attuned to these forces, and is able to direct them with a sure hand.

King of Cups Tarot card meanings

When the King of Cups appears upright, he is showing himself from his best side, all positive water energy, emotional intelligence and creative force. Here are the primary meanings and interpretations of the King of Cups Tarot card.

Emotional maturity, sensitivity and balance

The upright King of Cups card suggests emotional maturity and integrity. He might represent a diplomatic, sensitive, and well-balanced person in your life – someone you can rely on, trust, and lean on if necessary.

The King of Cups might also point to emerging King of Cups-like qualities within yourself. His appearance within a Tarot reading could be a sign that you are developing a higher level of mastery over your emotions, that your sense of compassion is deepening, or that your psychic or creative powers are growing.

Creative powerhouse

The King of Cups is a powerhouse of creative force.

Because of his direct connection with the water element and with the subconscious mind, where true creativity lives, the King of Cups is able to access inspiration and creativity with ease.

This ability to instantly tap into inspiration is part of his special energy – unbridled self-expression is as natural to him as breathing.

Psychic ability

The King of Cups suggests fine-tuned psychic senses.

We all have some level of extrasensory ability, but the King of Cups is unafraid of the depth of human potential, including psychism. Whether he consciously works at developing these gifts or not, the King of Cups naturally picks up on the energies, moods and motivations of others.

Reversed King of Cups card meanings

When the King of Cups is reversed, his stability topples and his positive qualities take on a negative energy. Here are the most typical interpretations of the King of Cups reversed.

Emotional manipulation

In the reversed King of Cups card, the King uses his ability to read and understand others as leverage over them, with the aim to control and manipulate, rather than to help, support and inspire.

The reversed King of Cups wants complete control over other people and doesn’t shy away from compromising their emotional well being if it serves his own ends.

Emotional instability, immaturity and imbalance

The reversed King of Cups card is a sign of emotional instability, imbalance and a lack of control.

Whether the reversed King in this instance refers to yourself, or to another person in your life -a romantic partner for example – an inability to deal with emotional challenges is implied.

What the King of Cups means in a Tarot reading about love and romance

Upright

The upright King of Cups Tarot card is marvellous news in Tarot readings about love.

Whether the King of Cups represents an aspect of yourself or another person, his appearance signifies emotional compatibility and attraction, as well as emotional fulfillment. The King of Cups is the consummate romantic, so expect an inspiring courtship.

Reversed

The reversed King of Cups Tarot card is a bad omen in love. At best, your partner is absent and your emotional needs are not being met. At worse, your mind and your feelings are being manipulated. Watch out for other signs of a toxic relationship.

What the King of Cups means in a Tarot reading about career ambition

Upright

The upright King of Cups suggests that you are in a good place in terms of work and career.

You have developed a level of mastery and recognition within your field, and you are in a position to deepen your skills and mould your working future as you wish. You are confident in your abilities and you have a clear sense of direction. You may be in a position to mentor others, who are just starting out doing what you are already doing so well.

Reversed

The reversed King of Cups Tarot card has a negative career meaning.

Dissatisfied feelings characterise your working life. Perhaps you are not expressing the full depth and range of your potential. Perhaps your current job situation doesn’t offer enough stimulation or lacks the opportunities for growth that you crave.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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