In this article Ace of Cups Symbols, I refer to the Ace of Cups card from the Rider Waite Tarot deck, also known as the Waite-Smith, or Rider-Waite-Smith, or Rider tarot deck.
The symbolism found on this card is primarily drawn from Alchemy, Astrology, mythology and religious text.
- Ace of Cups: Key Symbols
- What Does The Chalice Symbolize in The Ace of Cups?
- Why Are There Five Streams of Water?
- What is The Meaning of The Drops of Water, or Yods?
- What is The Significance of The Ocean or Water?
- What do The Water-Lillie’s Floating on The Water Mean?
- Who’s Hand is Emerging From The Cloud?
- What do Clouds Mean in The Ace of Cups?
- What is The Meaning of The Dove?
- Is That The Letter W or M on The Chalice?
Ace of Cups: Key Symbols
Chalice, 5 streams of water, yod (drops of water), hand of God, clouds, sea (ocean), water and dove (bird)
“The waters are beneath, and thereon are water-lilies; the hand issues from the cloud, holding in its palm the cup, from which four streams are pouring; a dove, bearing in its bill a cross-marked Host, descends to place the water in the Cup; the dew of water is falling on all sides. it is an intimation of that which may be behind the Lesser Arcana.”A.E.Waite
The Original Rider Waite Pictorial Key to The Tarot
Ace of Cups Imagery: metaphors, hidden symbol meanings, allegories and religious references
What Does The Chalice Symbolize in The Ace of Cups?
The chalice or goblet symbolizes the human heart and family. It indicates that family, in particular children and grandchildren, provide the emotional security and happiness you desire.
In Christianity, this could be the holy chalice from which priests drink during mass to represent the blood (and heart) of Christ. It may even represent the Holy Grail, the legendary cup from which Jesus drank during the Last Supper.
And He took a cup and when He had given thanks He gave it to them saying “Drink this, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”The Gospel of Matthew (26:27-29)
Is the chalice your Holy Grail? Perhaps something is being offered to you now, which truly is the answer to your heart-felt prayers. Open your heart to receiving, is the Ace of Cups symbolic message here.
In Wicca, a chalice is representative of water and feminine receiving energy. It is a symbol of the Goddess, particularly her womb and typically the contents of the chalice are used as an offering during rituals.
Why Are There Five Streams of Water?
Five streams of water pour from the chalice. These streams may represent the Fountain of Life or Fountain of Living Waters, a Christian iconography symbol for baptism or the Eucharist. You will be spiritually reborn if you drink from this blessed fountain. Will you take a sip, the Ace of Cups asks?
The number 5 holds spiritual significance in many religions and orders: It represents the 5 points of the Pentagram, 5 gates of grace (from Masonic ritual), and the 5 wounds of Christ.
The fountain may also represent the five human senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. When a psychic or medium receives information from the invisible world, it can come through any of those five senses. You may ‘see’ an image in your mind, you may ‘hear’ a voice call your name, you may ‘smell’ flowers although there are no flowers in the room. The Ace of Cups advises you to be aware of all five senses, as information and ideas flow to you.
What is The Meaning of The Drops of Water, or Yods?
The drops of water falling from the chalice are found in many other cards in the Rider Waite deck. They appear to be in the shape of the Hebrew letter yod (pronounced ya). According to the Jewish sages, the yod represents the world to come and completeness.
There is a sense of the alchemist about the yods in this card, one is not sure if they are falling from the cup, or magically rising up from the water below. We may, in fact, be witnessing a miracle.
There are 26 drops of water or yods surrounding the cup. Yods are found in several Tarot cards, including The Tower, the Ace of Swords and the Ace of Wands. It signifies that the hand of God is at work. You are being divinely guided, or events are being directed around you by a Higher Power.
What is The Significance of The Ocean or Water?
The ocean is vast, and when it appears in a Tarot card, it can often indicate the need to think about our life. Life is full of ups and downs, much like the ebb and flow of tides. The sea is calm however, in the Ace of Cups, suggesting calmer times ahead.
Water is one of the main symbols in this Tarot card, and water typically represents cleansing. This is not a cleansing in the physical sense of washing yourself, but rather it is an emotional ‘washing’ of the mind and soul. You are washing away what has worried you, and preparing for happier times. All Aces hold the promise of a new beginning.
What do The Water-Lillie’s Floating on The Water Mean?
Notice the flowers floating on top of the water? Waite tells us that these are water-lilies, the pointed petals of which create a star-like bloom.
The lily flower symbolizes self-care and self-love. In order to love another, we must first appreciate our own beauty.
Some writers claim that the artist Pamela Colman-Smith, intended the flowers in this card to be lotus flowers.
Lotus flowers have been a powerful symbol of purity in Buddhism for thousands of years. The lotus grows from the depths of a muddy pond, and begins its journey towards the light and surface of the water. It is a symbol of emergence, you may be emerging from difficult times and entering a lighter period of happiness and optimism.
The lotus can also be considered a symbol of mind, body and spirit. There are 8 petals on each layer on the lotus flower, aligning with the chakra energy systems in the body. There are seven chakras in the body, the top one being the crown chakra. Beyond the crown is the eight chakra which is sometimes called the Soul Star Chakra. It is where the crown chakra merges with the Divine, and draws down spiritual guidance. This is why the Ace of Cups can also signify mediumship abilities.
⭐The lotus flower also appears here: Page of Cups
Who’s Hand is Emerging From The Cloud?
This hand emerging from the cloud is usually considered the Hand of God. We do not see His whole body, and for this reason it feels more like a type of supernatural vision or the starting point of a shamanic spirit quest. Ayahuasca, anyone?
All of the Aces in the Rider Waite deck show a hand appearing from the cloud with an offering. Will you accept?, is always the question.
⭐The hand also appears here: Ace of Wands, Ace of Pentacles, Ace of Swords and Four of Cups.
What do Clouds Mean in The Ace of Cups?
Clouds have a variety of meanings in Tarot, depending on their color and type. The clouds in the Ace of Cups are dark and swirling, which suggests confusion on your part. Perhaps you have been troubled or been through a stormy period in your life? Be calm, because the Hand of God is here.
What is The Meaning of The Dove?
In the ancient world, birds were considered spirit messengers and highly sacred. Later Christianity assimilated many pagan symbols, myths and deities into the religion. The peace-loving dove became linked to the Christian message. It was a dove that Noah released after the flood in order to find land. The bird returned with an olive branch in its beak, proving there was dry land nearby. Thus, the dove became a symbol of hope. The Ace of Cups is one of the most inspirational cards for this reason. Universally today, the dove is a symbol of peace, hope and optimism.
Over time the dove also became a symbol of the Holy Ghost, and the messenger of the Divine.
In the Ace of Cups, the dove is placing a holy wafer, also called Communion bread or Eucharist wafer, into the chalice. This represents the Holy Ghost giving you spiritual nourishment and feeding your soul.
⭐ The dove also appears here: Star Card
Is That The Letter W or M on The Chalice?
This is one of the stranger Ace of Cups symbols. Notice the letter inscribed on the chalice? Is it a W or an upside-down M? No-one really knows for sure, and there is much debate about the matter. Unfortunately Pamela Colman Smith and Arthur Edward Waite, the deck illustrator and author, have left no record of their thought process here.
Possible meanings for the letter W: womb, water, wisdom or woman.
Possible meanings for the letter M: Magic, miracle or Mother Mary.
Or perhaps you can think of a meaning yourself? Your guess is as good as mine!
Next Tarot Card: Two of Cups Symbols
Complete List: Tarot Card Symbolism
Karina, author of Tarot in 5 Minutes.
The Ultimate Guide to Ace of Cups Symbols