In the Tarot card the Nine of Cups, we see a large man in a striped robe and a red hat with an ornate feather relaxing, arms crossed, with a large arched table behind him. This table is draped in a fancy blue satin tablecloth and lined with nine gleaming golden cups, presumably filled with wine or spirits in some sort of party. The man smiles contentedly and looks as though he has just enjoyed a delicious meal. He seems to be digesting and resting, perhaps listening to a delightful story being told by his neighbor, friend, or family member while waiting for dessert to be served. His smile is serene and satisfied – we can only imagine what a scrumptious feast must have been served and how well he must have eaten. The Tarot represents a wide range of emotions and human conditions, and this card symbolizes festivity and pleasure at its finest. A gathering of loved ones, a meal filled with fine aromas and flavors, cups filled to the brim, lively conversation, laughter, music, comfortable chairs, children running about, the family dog under the table… What kind of meal was served? What type of songs were played? Was there eggnog, mistletoe, menorah candles, red envelopes, firecrackers, flower offerings, altars to commemorate ancestors? Depends on the festival, doesn’t it? Traditional ceremonies are essential in all human societies – they bring us together across generations, weave our histories into the present, allow us to remember our heritage, and ultimately, give us reason to celebrate the human experience. They are sensual experiences, anchored in rich tastes, sounds, and textures that are unique to our cultures. It's why when we smell pumpkin pie, we often think of a specific holiday. Regardless of the occasion, the one thing most festivals have in common is union, the coming together of folk to pause in our day-to-day routines so that we may remember our heritage, our gods, our community, and our luck at being alive, healthy, and for a moment, carefree.
This card signifies a moment in our lives when we are celebratory, filled to the brim with good health, auspicious tidings, satisfaction, and sensory delight. Not every lesson in the Tarot is one of spiritual or intellectual challenge or hardship. This card is one that asks us to lean back, relax, and just let the good times roll. It asks us to appreciate what we have, to let our blessings gather around us like friends or family members, and to celebrate with them like we are having a glamorous gala. The Nine of Cups gives us permission to get a second piece of pie, pour another round of drinks, turn the music up, light another firework, stay up a little later than usual, and sing another one of our favorite songs (with or without a karaoke mic). Life is messy, painful, and filled with loss, heartbreak, and confusion – on that we can probably all agree. So, it is especially vital to stop and take a moment to indulge in the sweeter moments, cultivate gratitude, count our lucky stars, and remember all that we cherish. When coming across this card in a reading, know that whatever question or problem is being contemplated will have a favorable outcome, our wishes will be fulfilled, our goals attained and a celebration to reflect these happy occurrences is just around the bend.
During any traditional festival where a substantial meal is served, inevitability indigestion may follow. To lessen the discomfort a rich meal can cause, consider eating Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) afterward, a plant with a number of leafy, aromatic flowering cousins that are also tasty and adept at easing digestion, including carrots, coriander, cumin, dill, parsley, and cilantro. Fennel has a slightly sweet taste remarkably similar to licorice, and the seeds, which carry a higher concentration of the volatile and medicinal oils, make a perfect digestif as they ease cramping, discomfort, or spasms caused by gas or indigestion in the abdominal and gastrointestinal tract. They can be decocted into a sweet tea or carefully roasted (a popular method in India). Studies show that Fennel Seed Extract improves intestinal epithelial barrier function, thus reducing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In the same way that Fennel relaxes the stomach and intestinal muscles, so too does it soothe uterine muscles related to painful menses cramps. Perfectly paired with Chamomile, it can be given to colicky infants as well.
With some tasty Fennel seeds on hand to support the healthy digestion of a hearty meal, we can indulge in a little celebratory imbibing as the Nine of Cups would encourage. Gathering with our loved ones around us, let us take stock of what is important in life – our traditions, our heritage, and our health!
*Tarot reading is based on the Rider-Waite Tarot Card deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith
Das Barun, Rabalais, John, Kozan, Philip, et al. “The effect of a fennel seed extract on the STAT signaling and intestinal barrier function.” National Library of Biotechnology Information, 8 July 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35802574/
Dresden, Danielle. “Five Benefits of Fennel Tea.” Medical News Today, 9 October 2017. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319651
Geer, Mary K. Tarot for Your Self: A Workbook for the Inward Journey, 2nd Edition. New Jersey, The Career Press, Inc, 2002. P262
Tierra, Lesley Lac. Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, The Crossing Press, 2003. P82