In this article Queen of Cups Symbols, I refer to the Queen of Cups card from the Rider Waite Tarot deck, also known as the Waite-Smith, or Rider-Waite-Smith, or Rider tarot deck. In the Thoth Tarot deck this card is called The Queen of the Thrones of The Waters, Queen of Nymphs or Undines.
The symbolism found on this card is primarily drawn from mythology, religious text, psychic symbols and color meanings.
- Queen of Cups: Key Symbols
- What Does The Ornate Chalice in the Queen of Cups Symbolize?
- What is The Symbolism of The Crown?
- What is The Symbolism of The Throne in The Queen of Cups?
- What do The Angels on the Throne Symbolize?
- What Does The Sharp Cliff Represent?
- What do The Stones and Rocks Represent in This Tarot Card?
- What is The Meaning of the Swirling Sea?
Queen of Cups: Key Symbols
Ornate chalice, crown, throne, angels, cherubs, cliffs, stones, sea
“Beautiful, fair, dreamy – as one who sees visions in a cup. This is, however, only one of her aspects; she sees, but she also acts, and her activity feeds her dream.”A.E.Waite
The Original Rider Waite Pictorial Key to The Tarot
Queen of Cups Imagery: symbol meanings, metaphors, allegory and legends
What Does The Ornate Chalice in the Queen of Cups Symbolize?
The Queen of Cups holds an ornate Gothic chalice in her hands, and she is staring at the cup, seemingly using it as a scrying tool to divine the future; much in the way a fortune teller might use a crystal ball.
This is the only chalice with a lid and closed top in the Rider Waite deck. The cross on top of the lid suggests it may be a ciborium, a sacred chalice used in Catholic Mass to contain the sacrament. The Queen does not need to open the chalice to see what is inside, she appears to be using her sixth sense or an extrasensory perception like clairvoyance. She knows when the time is right, everything will be revealed.
The Queen of Cups is emotional and sensitive, but she is good at keeping her feelings under a lid. Her hair is neatly braided, reflecting this sense of self-control. She sits at the edge of water (emotions) but her throne is firmly planted on land.
This Queen is the most psychic and intuitive of all the Queens in Tarot. Perhaps for this reason the artist Pamela Colman Smith, and author A.E. Waite thought she needed a suitably ornate cup to symbolize her metaphysical mastery. The closed lid certainly creates an esoteric atmosphere of a ‘veiled’ or hidden world derived from the superconscious.
Two angels are holding the cup, and appear to be similar to those angels described guarding the Ark of the Covenant; the chest which is said to have held the Ten Commandments.
Notice the red jewel in the center of the chalice? This is possibly a ruby. Rubies are considered the stones of kings and queens, and are associated with good luck and wealth.
What is The Symbolism of The Crown?
Traditionally a crown is the symbolic ‘hat’ worn by royalty and sovereign rulers. In Tarot, the meaning of the crown can vary. A crown can suggest, for example, that the querent desires recognition for their work or efforts. Or maybe, they feel a little out of control and want more stability in their life.
The golden crown in this card appears to be adorned with pearls, which are borne from the sea. Pearls symbolize wisdom gained through experience. This can mean that the querent has become wiser after enduring some hard knocks in life.
Pearls also represent purity and symbolize the purity of the person who wears them.
⭐Crowns appear in all the King and Queen cards in Tarot, as well as: The Empress, The Emperor, High Priestess, Hierophant, Justice, Death, The Tower
What is The Symbolism of The Throne in The Queen of Cups?
In a Tarot reading, a throne represents the seat of authority and power. It signifies that the querent is stepping up to the plate, and taking control of their life. As the Queen of Cups rules over feelings and relationships, this might refer to issues at home, in caring for other people or investing time in their health or personal development.
The throne is decorated by shells, continuing the water and maritime theme. In new age tradition, seashells are associated with emotions and symbolize the unconscious. In Medieval times, seashells were often associated with love and fertility, and can be seen as symbolic of female genitalia. Scallop shells appear in many Renaissance paintings, including the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli and The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci.
It is worth noting that shells, as well as sticks, bones and stones (rune stones) have all been used as tools of divination by ancient cultures.
The clasp on the Queens robe is a red seashell, possibly echoing the ‘power’ of the red ruby in the chalice.
It is more honorable to be raised to a throne than to be born to one. Fortune bestows the one, merit obtains the other.Petrach
⭐Thrones appear in all the King and Queen cards in Tarot, as well as: The Empress, The Emperor, High Priestess, Hierophant and Justice
What do The Angels on the Throne Symbolize?
The throne is topped by two cherub angels, and one cherub at the base of the throne. These angels appear to be half cherub and half mermaid, as the lower part of their body is covered in fish scales. The cherub at the base appears to be holding a fish.
The concept of mermaids in the West may have been influenced by Greek mythological stories of Sirens, exotic creatures who lured sailors with their singing voices to shipwreck on the coast of their island. It was said Sirens could even charm the wind. Originally half-birdlike, they became pictured as half-fishlike in the Christian era.
The Hebrew Bible describes cherubim as the throne bearers of God. In Christianity the cherubim are the celestial attendants of God and are ranked among the higher orders of angels.
Perhaps the artist of this card was trying to make a point about the shared connection between Christianity and mythology.
On a more mundane level, cherubs can mean that the person asking the Tarot a question, is one of life’s more gentle souls.
What Does The Sharp Cliff Represent?
There is a large cliff in this Tarot card which is positioned to the right-hand side of the Queen. What is the symbol of the cliff?
Mountains and cliffs tend to represent ‘obstacles’ to overcome in Tarot. The closer the mountain, the more immediate the problem.
Interestingly, there is a theory that people are either left- or right-brained, meaning one side of your brain tends to be more dominant than the other. If you tend to be more analytical in your thinking, then you are left-brained and if you are more creative or artistic, then you are right-brained.
Is this why the cliff or ‘obstacle’ is positioned to the right of the Queen? A subtle message that many obstacles in life can be overcome by tapping into the subconscious. This can only be viewed as a modern interpretation as the right- and left-brain scientific theory only came to light in the 1960s.
The cliff looks like the famous White Cliffs of Dover. If you were to jump off the cliff, you are looking at a sheer drop. Perhaps this is what it feels like to those people who are more comfortable working with logic than intuition. A dangerous leap off a cliff into another world or mindset.
What do The Stones and Rocks Represent in This Tarot Card?
Stones and rocks are symbolic of the history of Earth because they have been around for billions of years. They remind us of the transient nature of life, and help us to see life in perspective. Is it really worth getting so emotional over this or that problem? the rock asks.
We have forgotten what rocks and plants still know. We have forgotten how to be – to be still – to be ourselves – to be where life is here and now.Eckhart Tolle
Notice the smooth edge of the stones at the foot of the Queen, and the curved outline of the seashore. There is a symbolic message here: Storms make a sharp cliff, but the gentle perseverance of a tide makes smooth stones. Persistent gentleness and love, even in the face of a storm, eventfully wins out.
What is The Meaning of the Swirling Sea?
The ocean is vast, majestic and awe inspiring. When an ocean or sea appears in Tarot, it signifies the querent is reflecting on life and asking the Big Questions, like, who am I? and what is the meaning of life?
The sea in this Queen of Cups Tarot card is swirling and stormy. However, the blue sky suggests that the storm has passed. The swirling sea water represents swirling thoughts, but calmness is returning. Perhaps this is because the querent has received answers to their questions, or they are practicing meditation or mindfulness to still the mind. There is a sense here of mastery over emotions.
Complete List: Tarot Card Symbolism
Karina, author of Tarot in 5 Minutes.
The Ultimate Guide to Queen of Cups Symbols