Ending Cups with the Exodus story is, tbh, dreamy. What a fucking cool piece.
The Eight of Cups is an instruction manual for leaving something that had once structured your entire world. The thing you’re leaving can be anything: an addiction, a controlling relationship, a gender that isn’t working out so great. A country that isn’t safe enough to live in anymore. A terrible degrading job.
If you’re leaving, the Eight of Cups is an offering for you.
If you know you need to leave someday and aren’t ready yet, the Eight of Cups is an offering for you.
If you’ve “left” and then realized the leaving has only just begun, the Eight of Cups is an offering for you.
This is the first year I’ve understood the biblical Exodus story as an Eight of Cups story, and – not coincidentally – the first year that I’ve really given a damn about what the story means for us as Jews and human beings today. TL;DR: the Israelites finally gtfo of Egypt where they’ve been enslaved for generations, after ten serious attempts at trying. Maybe they’ve never fully allowed themselves to believe they would make it. That they would ever know in their lifetimes what it means to feel the ground under your feet and the sun on your face as a free person. But they make it and there they are.
And then! The first thing they do after they’re done partying and celebrating getting free is melt down all their gold to form a giant golden calf to pray to and ask it to tell them what to do and how to live because they simply cannot bear the terror and ambiguity of living as free people who need to determine their own destiny outside of the cruel iron grip of Egyptian rule! Iconically messy! Honestly, ladies, who among us cannot relate?
The Eight of Cups is the promise of freedom if we can leave what needs to be left. And it is a harsh reminder that leaving anything of this magnitude results in a giant chasm, a vacuum that needs to be filled with meaning. To fill that chasm, we will need to go deep into the question of why it was ever like that at all before we left – for us or for anyone. We can’t just say fuck you, we got ours, good luck to the rest of you. Understanding the root causes of cruelty and exploitation creates in us an obligation to structure the world differently.
To get free, we have to tell the story. Of what happened, yes. Of how it was. Of how we suffered. Of how we tried to get free, how we failed, and how it ultimately, somehow, incredibly, by-the-grace-of-god worked out. But to leave in an Eight of Cups way requires that we let our experience radicalize us, that we make the familiar strange, and come to despise the structures and logics that make us believe anyone’s humanity is disposable in the service of someone else’s comfort or freedom.
Our ancestors are speaking to us through the archive of the Exodus story and through the Eight of Cups. Our task in this lifetime is to listen and take up the torch.
Bex Shubert is a psychotherapist, social worker, and born-and-raised New Yorker. They approach Tarot as a spiritual practice and as a reliable way of being read for filth by inanimate objects. They live in Jackson Heights, Queens.
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