Reflections on The Ace of Cups

Last night I had a most frightful dream. I was sitting in a courtroom, standing trial for murder. The state’s lead witness against me was a small black dog, who testified that he detected my scent on the body of the deceased. Worse yet, I knew the dog was telling the truth, and that I was guilty as charged! The judge was just about to enter the chamber to pronounce sentence when I abruptly awoke, and the dream had seemed so realistic and lifelike, it took me a minute or two to realize where I really was (my  bedroom) and to reassure myself that I wouldn’t be spending the rest of my life in prison.

While waiting for my morning tea to finish steeping, I laid down my daily ten-card Tree of Life spread. I was still pretty rattled from my nightmare—and in retrospect, perhaps I should have waited awhile before laying down the cards; the last four cards in the spread, depicting the most imminent “formative” influences surrounding me (the bottom card depicts my current state) were these:

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 6.38.07 PM

It’s amazing how this Tarot stuff works, no?

(FYI: For those of you who are wondering about the lack of reversed cards in these reflections and spreads up to now, I’ve been giving reversals a rest for awhile. We’ll get into them in detail at a later date.)

Behold the agony: everywhere we look in these cards we see frustration, oppression, confusion, defensiveness and loss. See the bottom card of this spread, which represents my world in the here-and-now: The card of the “wounded warrior” who has literally “walled himself off” from humanity. Perhaps this was the “prison” my dream was trying to warn me against—the prison of the “split mind”: The ego at war with the psyche.

Needless to say, I didn’t find this spread terribly edifying, though it helped to clarify my dream to an extent (the black dog I will leave to others more knowledgeable in Jungian typology); but the spread was still missing something, a suggestive alternative course of action I could take to overcome my fears or to heal my frazzled psychic state. So I reshuffled the deck, and turned up a card:


I amaze myself at my own cluelessness at times.

Conventional meanings of this card are fairly transparent and include “a gift of joy” (Pollack), “reunion with God” (Crowley), “beauty and pleasure” (Case) and “house of the true joy” (Waite). Aces are generally seen as favorable cards since they signify a new beginning, effort or enterprise. My own discourse on the card (which I’ll post in full eventually) ends with this:

When we choose to love, we not only experience a union of souls here on earth but a reunion of man and God in heaven.

At this point, however, I had to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: for someone who has spent the last couple of years writing about the transcendental power of love and the ability of Tarot to help make it manifest in us, I had to admit that my own inner life, over the past few years, had fallen into a state of lovelessness.

A bit of backstory: Like many of you (I am guessing), my financial health took a serious turn for the worse in the Great Recession, and my fortune has, like millions of others, not been in the least restored. This has caused a great deal of strain and stress in my waking life, and has contributed, at least to a degree, to an aversion on my part of any kind of long-term commitment, or of placing much trust in people at all. Everybody’s got a hustle these days, and we’re all just marks for the fraudsters, amirite? Just scan the headlines of your favorite news site, and it’s easy to lapse into cynicism and bile when you see the outrages that some of our brothers inflict upon us. But such an outlook extracts a heavy psychic toll over time, for we were not brought here to condemn and criticize our fellow spirit-travelers but to love and honor and forgive them—and in so doing, we love, honor and forgive ourselves. We’re not perfect, either!

Perhaps that’s the significance of the “murder trial” of my dream: he who condemns others shall himself be condemned—and I’ve been guilty of much negatively judgmental thought in my life.

‘I guess my takeaway from the card today was this: It’s one thing to speak of love—even passionately and emphatically—but it’s quite another to put it into actual practice. To love fully, after all, we must be willing to expose our emotional vulnerabilities, with all the risk of heartbreak and loss that accompany them. We must be willing to wear our “hearts on our sleeve” and love unconditionally—otherwise love becomes just another transactional relationship like a business contract or a political deal. Love should be a mystical bonding of souls, not a “marriage of convenience” or based on expectations or material considerations—and obviously, I’ve got a bit of homework to do in this regard. So do we all, at one time or another, and because of this, it’s wise to recall the caution from Scripture about dispensing advice to others that we’re ignoring ourselves—Physician, heal thyself!—and make sure we’re abiding by its edict before we expect others to do the same.

Dante DiMatteo

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