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I’ve drawn the Nine of Cups as this free tarot reading, and the card has appeared in reverse this time around. Let’s catch up on reversed cards and then unpack the meaning behind the classic Rider-Waite-Smith Nine of Cups.

If you’re wondering how to read tarot card reversals, you might recall that there are plenty of ways. In fact, many tarot readers don’t actually read reversals and prefer to keep every card upright. There’s no one right way to handle these upside-down cards. But I follow an approach I developed through my own intuition over my years of reading tarot.

When a single card appears in reverse, that tells me the card represents how my client is treating or experiencing other people in their life. In contrast, an upright card reflects their own position in the world around them, so the reversal context makes a big difference! With that element in mind, let’s dive deep into the Nine of Cups’ meaning.

 

Nine of Cups tarot card meaning from the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck
The Nine of Cups tarot card suggests a sense of arrogance and superiority in the seated figure.

THE NINE OF CUPS CARD IN THE SMITH-WAITE CENTENNIAL TAROT DECK

In our trusty Rider-Waite-Smith version of the card, the Nine of Cups shows a defiant, prosperous figure. They’re seated in front of a high, curved table with nine golden cups. The table is draped in a heavy blue fabric, evoking the water element that the Cups suit is affiliated with. In tarot, water represents the depths of intuition and wisdom, as well as the ever-changing emotions that wash over us.

Because the table is behind the figure, these symbols of water suggest a person who keeps their emotions strictly in check, in the background. That repression might explain why the figure appears so confrontational. Their crossed arms and flashy clothing betray a deeper insecurity that keeps them aloof. And with their nine cups standing like trophies that loom overhead, the Nine of Cups figure is all about trying to impress others when they actually doubt—and even fear—themselves.

Basically, if you’re looking for “big dick energy,” the Nine of Cups isn’t it. It represents a carefully manufactured illusion of confidence. It’s about trying too hard to seem effortless, holding others to impossible standards in order to seem more powerful yourself, and generally repressing a lot of emotional baggage.

TRY NOT TO LET THE NINE OF CUPS IN YOUR LIFE GET TO YOU

Fortunately, with the Nine of Cups’ reversed position, this week’s free tarot reading means you’re not channelling this damaged energy yourself. But unfortunately, it does mean you’re putting up with this hostile vibe from someone else. Is there someone in your life who’s making you feel inadequate

This week’s card suggests that somebody is always reminding you that you haven’t achieved what you have, but they’re also totally unwilling to help you succeed. (Remember the warning about gatekeeping with the Page of Wands reversed? This week’s card is like being on the other side of that dynamic.)

It’s incredibly draining to deal with someone who insist on showing you how capable they are but leave you no room to celebrate or even discuss your own accomplishments. Such characters are used to the people around them tolerating their brags, and they likely don’t see how much strain this attitude puts on their relationships.

AN OLD CLICHÉ RINGS TRUE

It’s a tired schoolyard reassurance to say that if someone’s giving you hard time, it’s because they’re jealous. But the Nine of Cups reversed suggests that there’s a grain of truth to that cliché for you right now. If you can, try to remind yourself that the person who’s always judging you and praising themselves are actually repressing waves and waves of self-doubt.

You don’t owe compassion to anyone who abuses you, so please don’t think that your takeaway from this card is to be nice to harassers. Instead, this week’s card is trying to reassure you that any inadequacy you’re feeling because of this person isn’t actually warranted. In this way, the Nine of Cups card in reverse is an invitation to give yourself the benefit of the doubt.

Can you let yourself off the hook for feeling behind when you look up at all those trophies on other people’s shelves? Remember that everybody has their own secrets hidden behind the curtain. The real measure of your worth is in those hidden depths, in how love and kindness shape your world. Try not to forget your inner value in a desperate show of superficial accomplishments.

S.M.