9 of Cups Rough Sketch


Here is the rough sketch for the 9 of Cups.   I actually have several smaller sketches detailing the background and the baboon separately.

The baboon is an aspect of Thoth.  Does it seem strange to have the god of science, math and measurement as the main character of a Cup card?  Yes.  I have radically changed my views of cups, or the element of water, over the years.  Once I thought of it as emotion, relationships and the like.  I still do but I think of those things as merely the surface ripples of a deep well of truth and knowledge.  Emotions are a language that our subconscious uses to motivate us, to prod us into doing its bidding.  That knowledge is the knowledge of our entire ancestry. 


I’m finding this painting very personally uncomfortable.  It took me a while to figure out why, at least in part.   I think the image is somewhat bland, not a big deal, but maybe some sort of ego thing, I am uncomfortable that there is so much freemasonry type symbolism, yet, that is how I see it and that is the way it appeared to me, the monkey was the last and biggest.


I had issues with it already when I remembered the scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey with the monkeys and the monolith.  That happened to come out the year I was born, btw, and I remember seeing it when I was very young and being freaked out by it.  I never watched it as an adult because of the bad feeling. I have to assume the symbolism has a similar meaning.  After looking around I think this is a pretty wide-spread symbol, a monkey and a monolith ( Earl, that’s why I thought your gorilla guess, and King Kong, see the Empire State Building as a monolith, was such a good guess!!!) is pointing to an archetype. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the story of Moe the monkey, the chimp from West Covina, CA who was take away from his “family” and put in a wildlife sanctuary of some sort.  Well, that was very close to where I lived, where I grew up and so I always followed this story in the news.  At the house where Moe used to live the family kept a protest going for years, with signs out and a shrine of sorts.  I used to drive by it a few times a week.  My feelings on it were that they were right to take away the chimp.  He had bitten the finger off of an animal control officer and other people in the neighborhood were scared that the chimp would get loose and hurt someone.  The family said he was raised by them like a child and he was perfectly safe.

Then, a few years ago when the man was visiting Moe at his new home he was attacked by several of the other chimps and brutally mutilated!  Then, of course, there was the incident that happened more recently with the woman where her face  was torn off.   This is what chimps do!  They tear off your face and rip off your testicles and rip off your hands and feet.  I think they are so close to humans that I find it disturbing ow the exploit our weaknesses so greatly, and, maybe seeing something so close to a human acting in that way is particularly disturbing.  After all, if a person did it I would consider it murder.  Either way, monkeys have never been my favorite animal, just a personal thing.  I am an earth monkey in Chinese astrology, btw.  Pfft, why couldn’t I be a dragon or a tiger? 

If you are thinking like I am thinking you might be starting to see that there is some illusion here, some ego, some thought that there are things out there better than I, and some sort of rejection of who I really am. 

I realized this about this image and the monkey, the baboon, that in the end all I really am is a monkey.  (lets not split hairs about evolution here, its the same family, ok?)  I mean, I am, and you, and everyone, is, another creature sharing the earth, not better or worse than any other creature.  All evolving into our own niches, exploiting our strengths and weaknesses.  I think I am just a monkey, one of billions, and I am in awe and wonder of the world around me, the sky and the stars, the earth, love, my family, my roots, everything I share this world with.  I’m just lucky to be alive.   

After looking over lots of images of baboons the last week or so, my feelings have softened on them.  Monkeys aren’t just murderous, they are also communal, they love each other and they love their babies, the wonder at the world and play.  Its almost like *my* evolution of thought about humans, I used to think of them as nothing but a murderous cancer on the earth and now I think they are a lot of individuals all just doing their best trying to live life.  I guess I see monkeys like that now too.   It’s a self acceptance, perhaps a shadow acceptance. 


Now, I realize that in my averageness (so I’m not really a dragon or a tiger) there is perfection.  Oh I’ve realized that a long time in theory, but I think now I fully KNOW it. 

Something else I was thinking about while working on this was the Wizard of Oz.  It reminded me of the scene where the dog pulled back the curtain and revealed that the great Wizard of Oz was really just an old man, and that everyone was capable of fulfilling their own wishes.  This is the same, they are all you, all of those characters, the lion, the tin man, the straw man, the dog, Dorothy, the witches, the flying monkeys, the munchkins, the Wizard and the dog and anyone else I left out.  They are all you.  Oz is on the inside, Kansas is on the outside.  And you think there is a great magick that can save you or accomplish things for you or whatever, but in the end when you pull back the curtain, when you stand in front of the High Priestess and you pull back the veil, all you see is just a common monkey marvelling at the world.  And you realize that there is nothing else.  And you realize that there doesn’t need to be anything else because this is enough.  And that even a lowly monkey is divine and will live on in eternity.

Does that make sense to anyone but me I wonder?

The other symbolism.


The Black and White towers are the ubiquitous duality, male and female, yin and yang, sun and moon, up and down, inside, outside, macrocosm, microcosm, good and evil, higher self and shadow etc. ad infinitum.

In our earthly incarnation we live with both black and white in somewhat equal measure and that is the checkered ground pattern that we walk upon.

The Star.  The 9 pointed star is made out of 3 triangles, three 3s, fitting with the card number.  Symbolically I think he Star is Eternity.  I think this is the way we have thought of them for a very long time – in reality they are far of suns and astral bodies, but to us they were a place to project and mirror our own inner mythology, to take it outside ourselves and examine it, watch aspects if it interact like old pantheons.   Learn about our selves and the world.  And for hero’s you could become a permanent part of the sky, the gods could install you there for eternity.  That’s the part I really like, something that is here for only a brief time can live forever in the sky as a star, a hero, a myth, a story passed on to children through the ages.

There is a stairway leading up to the star.  That means so many things, a stairway to heaven, Jacob’s ladder, a road to eternity.  When I was drawing the background separately I noticed that it was incredibly similar to the 3 of Wands!  There is the two obelisks which are 2 of the wands and then the snake is the third.  The snake, is Knowledge, you know it is!  It is the middle pillar, the central path of the mystic.  It is the lightning bolt from god which connects heaven and earth, the place where we begin to exist.


I think I mentioned in my last post I remembered that I wanted the columns in the 9s to represent a doorway, a doorway to eternity.  With this card the doorways is reached through death.  from death comes knowledge.  If our mother is the womb we are born from into life, the grave is the womb to the afterlife.   I wanted to point out this aspect with a scorpion on his foot.  I thought of using a spider too, but I like the traditional scorpion, the one that chases Orion through the sky and bites him on the heel.  A spider often appears at the end of myhs as well.  I think it kills you so you can make the final journey.  Death could be the end of anything though, keep it in context.


The last thing I wanted to mention today is the ankh.  Eventually I will need to address this symbol in full, but for now I wanted it included as a symbol of infinity.  I was originally going to put an ankh on one hand and a star on the other as infinity and eternity before I decided to install it over his head.  The difference is that I see infinity as a straight line with a past, present and a future, even though there is no perceivable end,  like the chain of life in our existence, in the physical universe.  Eternity is all together in one, there is no beginning or end, or circle or past or future, it is all at the same time.  Once you exist in infinity you exist in eternity.  Once you are created and born you become a star in eternity for all time. 

That’s about it for now.  I will start on the final sketch in the next few days.  The 9 of Swords will be Eternity itself.  God, I’m nervous about that one.  The last card.

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7 Responses to 9 of Cups Rough Sketch

  1. Earl says:

    Hey Marie, More on your nifty new card later but for now could you please tell me how I can go back to the start of your posts here. I can’t find the hyperlink that says press here to go past GO collect $200 and end up at the start of the Mary-El Tarot blog. E

  2. Tarotsmyth says:

    Here is a link to the first posting here back in June ’08.

    If you really want to go back to when I started publicly journalling this tarot deck here is a link that goes back to July ’03!

    God help you.

  3. I love this card.
    I was swarmed by Monkey’s while in India. I was going to see the monkey temple in Shimla. The man I was with had fruit in his backpack and they jumped on it and bounced on it as he tried to get off as fast as possible. They ripped it open and took what they wanted and left. Being surrounds by a dozen monkeys was scary. The suddenness of it all was the scary part. Kind of like lightening they came out of the trees and then were gone. In retrospect the justaposition of divinty at the temple and violence on the path to it is fascinating to me.

    This card feels abit like many moon cards if the Ape is subbed in for Anubis or the dogs. The monliths are like the towers – the gateway to ressurection.


  4. Tarotsmyth says:

    Absolutely Andrew! I relate this card to the Hermit and the Moon. Thank you for the story, I really like it. Do you know what kind of monkeys they were? I didn’t even think about it until last night, but there is the Hindu monkey faced God Hanuman, and I have been reading about him.


  5. Here is a link to the temple i visited which was of course dedicated to Hanuman. It includes the story of the place.


    The monkeys were Rhesus monkeys. I had to look it up but there is some stuff and pics here. They were everywhere in the north of India where I was.


    I had not thought about the Hermit link. can say a bit more about that – or did you someplace I missed?

  6. Tarotsmyth says:

    That’s really cool, it looks beautiful.
    I don’t think I’ve mentioned the Hermit in reference to this card yet though I have with the other 9s. All of the 9s in this deck are the Hermit in the different elements. I decided long ago to illustrate the minor arcana using the numerology that was already present in the Major Arcana then divided into the 4 elements. All of these are the wise person at the end of the elemental cycle, finding the gold or transforming themselves into gold like the Hermit’s lamp.


  7. Earl says:

    Hello Marie, You O.K.? How’s the art coming. Havent’t heard from you so I thought I’d ask. E.

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