King of Cups — Tarot of the Absurd

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

KIng of Cups Meaning


The King of Cups was the final card illustrated for the Tarot of the Absurd. My baby was coming soon. Working all day in front of the computer made my ankles disappear into puffiness. I needed a King, and I needed him fast. I cheated— I, too, stole the image of an ancient god.


At first, humans were rather wretched and lived like all other wild beasts. But within one year, a reasonable beast named Oannes emerged from the Erythian Sea, at the point where it borders Babylonia (i.e.: the Persian Gulf). He had a fish’s body. Above his fish’s head he had a man’s head. Human feet emerged from beneath his fish’s tail. His voice was human. He was never seen to eat.


He passed his days among civilization. He taught the use of letters, sciences and arts of all kinds. He taught men to construct cities, to found temples, and to compile laws. He explained the principles of geometry. He made them learn their plants and showed them how to harvest. In short, he humanized them. No one has ever improved on his instructions. And when the sun set, Oannes retired into the sea, for he was amphibious. After this, there appeared other animals like Oannes.**


Over the years, the confusion of gods multiplies. Who came from whom? Where are the origins? One can trace the threads of mythology’s history like a spider’s web, each strand weaving back upon the others to create a structural whole that makes sense for the present time. Deconstructing mythology— deconstructing the spider’s web— is fascinating from a historical point of view, from a story-teller’s point of view, and from the point of view of those interested in following multitudes back to unity. Mythology is the bizarre sort of lineage where a parent begets a child and the child becomes not just a parent, but the parent of his own self.


Deluge and recovery. Subjugation, assumption, resurrection. In order to better subjugate the conquered people, the gods of the victors assume characteristics of the gods of the vanquished, and the gods of the vanquished rise again. Thus the names and places of gods change through the ages, one god after another taking on similar forms and forces, gods amassed and gods split


Adapa. Oannes. Dagon. Poseidon. Neptune. Triton. Delphin. Noah. Names of gods come and go, but the robes of priesthood have changed very little. Three or five or seven thousand years later, Catholic popes and bishops still wear the headdress dedicated to an ancient Babylonian water god.



… and after this, there appeared other animals like Oannes…




* My illustration is very, very closely modeled after a bas-relief carving of a fish-garbed priest on temple of the god Ninurta (Saturn) at Kalhu (biblical Calah), ca. 883-859 BCE Assurnasirpal II. Source: Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary, p. 83. fig. 65. Published in London by the British Museum, in association with the University of Texas Press, Austin. 1992.

fish garbed priest


** Story, in italics, adapted from Berossus, a 3rd century BCE Babylonian priest. Oannes is born of the Mesopotamian god Enki, whose origins go back to the 5th century BCE in Sumer; i.e.: as far back as we have writing.


*** Pen&Ink ilustration by Syrena Seale. Image used without permission, but I would like to use it, with permission, in my book. To see the original image and to see more of Syrena Seale’s work, click here or click on her illustration.


pope mitre



King of Cups — Kitty Kahane Tarot

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

[I have been drawing a lot of other people’s kings lately. I need to get back to work drawing my own kings. Perhaps this one shall have a fish’s tale. A fish’s head? A fish, sitting in a throne…]


Artist: Kitty Kahane
Booklet: Lilo Schwartz


Shuffling the deck, thinking about some new-found health issue of mine, I thought— “Tell me something about health.” Out tumbled the King of Cups— on his head— reversed.


Interpretation: “You rule as king over the world of your feelings. You are accountable for your feelings towards yourself and towards others and you discharge this responsibility with care. Your realm is the sea and you give yourself up to the waves. Dance with them, dive into them, let them flow through you.”


Emotions play a large part in all aspects of health. Although this is largely ignored by modern western medicine and its drug-dealing sponsors, it has been explored in depth in eastern medicine. Many renowned western scientists with a more holistic view on health (Candice B. Pert, PhD; Dean Ornish, MD; David Eisenberg, MD; Karen Olness, MD & dozens of or hundreds of others) have explored this topic in-depth.


A human being is not a mind and a body, but rather a mind/body. The physical body responds to the way we think, feel and act, a commonly accepted phenomenon called the “mind/body connection.” This also works in the other direction: chemical interactions in the body control our thoughts, feelings and actions.


When we are stressed, anxious or upset, the body tells us “something is not right.” The following are common physical signs that emotional health is out of balance:


• Back & neck pain • Change in appetite • Chest pain • Constipation or diarrhea • Dry mouth • Extreme tiredness • General aches and pains • Headaches • High blood pressure • Insomnia  • Lightheadedness • Racing heart • Sexual problems • Shortness of breath • Sweating • Ulcers • Upset stomach • Weight gain or loss •


Poor emotional health can weaken the immune system. During extended periods of stress, chronic illness becomes prevalent. When we are stressed, anxious or upset, we often do not take care of our health as well as we should. Exercising and eating nutritious foods become arduous tasks. Drug addiction (include such mundane drugs as sugar, coffee and chocolate here), sexual promiscuity, and inappropriate social behaviors are signs of poor emotional health that eventually lead to worsened physical health. Years after emotional health has regained stability, physical health may remain compromised. King of Cups, MD, re-minds us: mind and body are one.