The Nine of Cups and the Expert Syndrome

Did you ever have a friend who was an expert in EVERYTHING all the time, no matter how obscure the subject?  Whatever you mention to them they always have a rejoinder like,”Oh, yes, I read several books about that years ago.”


“I actually took a course on that in college.”


“I actually TAUGHT a course on that in college.”


“Yes, I had an affair with Professor Crumbley who’s the leading expert on that and we discussed it many times while we were having sex in the most IMAGINATIVE positions.”

Bring up anything – quarks, inflation, ancient Roman gods, the cotton content in Victoria Secrets thongs – they already know all about it and also manage to convey that you are somewhat intellectually deficient for just finding out about what they’ve known for years.

In my original definition for the Nine of Cups I wrote this:

This card indicates an individual who is rather smug and self satisfied.  He is very well pleased with his position in the world and doesn’t mind telling you about how great he’s doing.  There is a warning against going too far and appearing to be arrogant.

On an intellectual level, that’s an expert.

I’ve had several of those people in my life lately and started to think of them as having a personality disorder that I refer to as, “expert syndrome.”  Just for grins I ran it through the search engines and found that a few other people have noticed it, too.

Having a conversation with someone who has expert syndrome can be extremely frustrating.  I admit that I’m an idea junkie: I have a high degree of intellectual curiosity and I get excited when I discover a new concept or explore a new subject.  I look forward to discussing them with other people.

 And then I run into an expert.

“Oh . . . yawn . . . is THAT what you’re excited about?  Really? Yes, I explored all of that quite some time ago . . .”

They literally can’t hear you because their brains are already stuffed with their own opinions and self-importance.  That’s the frustrating part.

That’s also the part that’s very sad:  they literally can’t hear you. At some point in their lives they adopted the intellectual posture that they are smarter and know better than anyone else, so why should they listen to anyone else?  

Psychologists refer to it as, “the Dunning–Kruger effect,” and it’s an illusory perception that you are intellectually superior to, well, just about everyone.  It’s not an over-compensation for an inferiority complex as you might think and, oddly, it afflicts both people who are extremely bright and people who are dumb as stumps.

The bottom line on it is that the second they adopted that posture, they stopped growing intellectually or spiritually.  They can’t take in anything new if they’re convinced that they already know it.

The Nine of Cups certainly represents smugness and self-satisfaction.  It also represents the kind of energy stasis that we see in expert syndrome.  There’s no growth, no expansion, no seeking out what’s new or different. And that’s a very sad place to be.

“Just the Tarot,” by Dan Adair, a book of basic Tarot definitions available on

Abuse Cards in the Tarot

One of the most frequent reasons for people to consult a Tarot reader is relationships, specifically romantic relationships.  This includes the full gamut of topics from, “Does Bobby like me?” to, “Is my marriage worth saving?”

You may find that a prominent subcategory of that topic is physically and/or emotionally abusive relationships.  People who are in abusive relationships are frequently desperate for advice and guidance.

You may also find – as any cop, social worker, or emergency department nurse can tell you – that the questioner may not even be willing to admit that he or she is in an abusive relationship.  They may be deeply ashamed of it. They may have been victims for so long that they’re afraid to reveal the truth, afraid that talking about it will only bring more abuse down on their heads.

It can be very puzzling to a reader.  You’re looking at a reading that indicates that something is very, very wrong in the questioners life and, yet, they assure you that everything’s fine.  There are, however, a few cards that can tip you to what’s actually happening.


The picture kind of says it all, doesn’t it?  This card may well indicate an abusive relationship though at this point – given that this is a Wands card and, thus, ideas card – the abuse is probably more verbal than physical.  A couple living in a constant state of verbal warfare with nasty, wounding arguments.


A card of stealing away in the night, this may indicate someone who is literally fleeing from a really bad relationship.  This can be a relationship that is SO bad that the questioner is leaving town to get away from his or her partner.


This is a card of really ugly power games and can indicate a person who is a serious sadist.  Deep wounds are being inflicted here and they may be actual physical wounds as well as emotional wounds.


This appears to be a fairly placid card on its’ surface but there are undertones that can indicate abuse. As I said in the original definition from my book, “Just the Tarot,” this is a card of leaving troubles behind and moving toward better times.  A journey from rough waters to waters that are placid and calm. There is a definite element of escape, of fleeing in this card.

There is also an element of hiding and of turning your power over to someone else and asking them to guide you to safety.  The woman and child are cloaked and bent over, as if to conceal their identities.

I have seen this card frequently in the context of an abused wife or girl-friend fleeing to a women’s shelter or finally, finally calling the cops to stop the abuse.  


This card doesn’t so much indicate physical abuse but may point toward a form of emotional abuse.  The questioner may be involved with someone who is stealing his or her power in a relationship, belittling them, and grinding down their sense of self-worth on a daily basis.


Again, the picture pretty much speaks for itself.  A person who is literally being held prisoner in a terrible relationship.  The blindfold can indicate a high level of denial on his or her part, refusing to even acknowledge, much less deal with, the fact that they’re in deep shit.


This may well be the scariest of the abuse cards.  It’s the end of the power cycle and the subject lies dead on the battlefield stuck full of the swords that he or she tried to wield.  A reminder that abusive relationships can have horrible endings.


I’m including this card in the post, not because it shows overt physical or emotional abuse, but because it may show a certain form of emotional or financial bondage in a relationship.  The woman in the card is to all appearances happy, content, and surrounded by wealth. One of the key elements of the card, though, is the blindfolded hawk. This card may indicate a person who has – perhaps willingly – surrendered his or her freedom for financial security.  There can be a great deal of inequity and inequality of power in a relationship like that and that can certainly lead to abuse.


The Devil can, of course, indicate a whole slew of other things besides relationship abuse but it’s almost always there when abuse is present.  You have to be a wee bit cautious in automatically assuming that, though, because human sexuality covers a whole spectrum of behaviors. I have never personally understood it but there ARE people who enjoy giving and receiving pain as a part of their sexual experience.  If it’s mutually agreed on, it’s none of our business.

Despite that, The Devil can be a clear indicator of a relationship that has gone very, very wrong.  The man and woman are chained but the chains are obviously loose enough to be slipped off if they chose to do so.  There is an element of voluntarily sinking into a terrible, poisonous relationship and elevating the very worst of human nature into a so-called, “relationship.”  The abuse here can be emotional, physical and spiritual.


The Tower can show abuse but it’s probably just happened.  The Tower is sudden calamity, a bolt from the blue, a shocking development.  Chronic abuse can go on for years. It may be shocking to others to discover it’s been going on but it’s certainly not shocking to the victims or perpetrators.  Depending upon the surrounding cards this may indicate the very start of the abuse cycle.


As I said in my original definition:  The Moon shows that the questioner may be involved with someone on a very primitive, unconscious level and that there may be deception on the part of the partner or, more likely, denial on the part of the questioner.  There is a lot of emotion present but it may not be of a healthy, evolved nature.

This card can show the depths of rationalization and deception involved in an abusive relationship.  Everything is murky, shadowy, and there’s no clear path out for the victim.

So those are the primary cards that may indicate an abusive relationship.  They don’t always indicate that but you’ll be able to tell a great deal by the surrounding cards.  I would also emphasize that these are by no means the only cards that can indicate abuse. Abusive relationships can be incredibly complex and so can the readings for the person being abused.

The Sex Cards in the Tarot

Everyone likes sex!  Well, nearly everyone.  I actually read an article recently about people who don’t like sex in any way shape or form and don’t feel any sexual desires.  They’re calling themselves, “asexuals,” and actually have their own organization.  How about that?  What an interesting world.

Anyway, nearly everyone likes sex and there are certain Tarot cards which definitely indicate its’ presence in a persons life.  It can be handy to know when it’s likely to pop up in a relationship, whether you’re interested in the other person or not. Come to think of it, it could even be handy for people who are official Asexuals because they’d know who to avoid.  Nearly everyone, right?


Two people dancing beneath what looks very much like a wedding gazebo.  There is an element of sex here but in the more traditional sense of marriage and an on going union.  A happy card that includes the idea of sex without actually signifying it outright.


A man and a woman hold chalices and gaze into each others eyes.  This is a card of profound bonding and love, the start of a serious relationship.  While it can often indicate something as mundane as a good business partner or a best friend, it can also indicate a deep romantic and sexual relationship.


Three women dance together, chalices raised in mutual salute. Sex is not necessarily a central theme in this card but it’s a possibility because the central theme is PARTY!!!!  This is a card of joyous celebrations so why not sneak a little whoopee into the celebration? May also indicate a happy three way relationship.


A heart pierced by three swords.  This can often indicate a monogamous relationship in which one of the partners has decided to be not so monogamous.  He or she may be screwing around and it’s breaking the partners heart.


An Earth Mother type of woman reclines on a couch holding a sceptre loosely in one hand.  Again, The Empress is not exclusively about sex but it’s definitely included in her vibrations.  Unlike her sister card, The High Priestess, who appears to be a little prim and proper, The Empress is openly sensual.  She reclines comfortably on her couch, legs slightly spread with a definite, “come hither,” look on her face. If you’re involved with The Empress, expect a good time.  On ALL levels.


An individual who looks like a pope sits stiffly on a throne between two pillars while two monks bow down to him.  The Hierophant is mainly about organized religion and dogma, so it may seem strange to include it in this post. The point, though, is that The HIerophant is about CONVENTIONAL religion rather than spirituality.  In that sense, if this card shows up in a reading about a relationship you can expect it to be a very CONVENTIONAL relationship with very CONVENTIONAL sex. In other words, always the missionary position, probably with the lights turned out and only when the kids are fast asleep.  If you’re into sex toys and trapezes in your boudoir, RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY . . .


A nude man and woman stand in a Garden of Eden setting while a snake climbs a tree next to the woman and an angel hovers over them.  As the name indicates, this card is about love and not JUST love but triple whammie hit in the head with a sledge hammer love. These two people are absolutely thunder struck and there WILL be sex.  Really good sex.


This is obviously the same couple from The Lovers, only they’ve been driven out of the Garden of Eden and are now sporting horns and tails while a demon hovers over them instead of an angel.  There is a very strong element of sexuality here but it’s not what you’d describe as happy sex. Instead of joy we find pain and enslavement. It can indicate sexual addiction, BDSM games that have gone WAY too far into pain and humiliation,  or the sexual element of a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. And, to me at least, it’s a sad card: it’s taking one of life’s greatest joys and turning into something sick and twisted.

So there you have it.  When you see these cards in a reading think about sex.  Or think about it anyway – it’s always fun.

King of Cups

A person sits on a throne that appears to be floating on the water.  He holds a scepter in one hand and a cup in another. He wears the symbol of a fish around his neck and his feet are covered in chain mail.  The seas around him are turbulent and a fish is visible jumping out of a wave while a ship is seen sailing by behind him.

A very affectionate person but one who controls his or her emotions carefully.  Capable of staying very grounded and steady, even in the midst of turbulent emotions flowing all around him.  The chain mail beneath his cloak indicates that he may be a trifle protective of his own emotions and perhaps that allows him to remain so stable.

Reversed:  A lover or emotional partner who is not well grounded or reliable.  Perhaps even flighty or mercurial, this is not someone you can count on in a pinch.

EXAMPLES:  A lover who is caring and sensual in private but is really uncomfortable with public displays of affection.

A good friend who is always there for you if you need help but doesn’t much like discussing emotions or affections.

Queen of Cups

A blonde woman sits on a throne and sort of glares at an extremely complex vessel which we assume to be a cup of some sort.  Sea shells or gem stones are gathered at her feet and one foot is quite visibly submerged in the water. There is a cliff in the background.

This represents a sensual person who can give and love deeply.  She is probably able to be deeply emotional while remaining relatively stable and grounded.  She may have a tendency to make love more complex or complicated than it needs to be. Her sensuality may include a fairly materialistic bent and a love for the finer things in life.

Reversed:  This may be a person who has a sour attitude toward love and affection.  Perhaps a very materialistic person who prizes possessions over true affection.

EXAMPLES:  An older lover who teaches you what sex and sensuality are really all about.

Your friend who is a hopeless romantic and loves to be in love.

Knight of Cups

A fully armored knight sits astride a gentle horse.  His visor is open and he holds a cup in one hand.

A person who feels true love and affection for the questioner.  The open visor indicates that he or she approaches the relationship with eyes wide open, fully aware of all of its’ implications, and still holding a strong, steady love.  There may be some element of travel involved here, as in a long distance romance or an individual who is frequently on the road to make a living.

Reversed:  Unfaithful love, a relationship where the affections have dulled, possibly even a lover or spouse who has decided to move away.

EXAMPLES:  Your boyfriend who knows exactly how many men (and or women) you slept with in your younger,wilder days and still worships you.

Your best friend who is unfailingly kind and caring even when you’re being a real asshole.

Page of Cups

A rather dandy-ish looking person poses dramatically with one hand on his hip.  He stares at a chalice which holds, improbably, a fish.

This may indicate a time to withdraw from the world and devote yourself to a course of study.  May indicate a student who is putting serious time into cramming for exams or an individual who is starting to learn some new philosophy or spiritual discipline.  A time to think and puzzle things out, such as, for instance, why in the hell do I have a fish in my cup? On a mundane level, this may indicate a young person, probably with blonde coloring, and perhaps a quirky sense of humor.

Reversed:  Trouble may lie ahead.  For a student this may indicate a really difficult course which has to be taken and a lot of extra effort studying.  If a young person is present his or her sense of humor may be weird rather than just quirky.

EXAMPLES:  Locking your door and taking your phone off of the hook so that you can cram for finals without any interruptions.

Taking a year off to go live in a meditation center.

Ten of Cups

A man and a woman stand before a rainbow of cups in the sky.  Their arms are upraised in joy and two children dance merrily beside them.

Happiness, joy, fulfillment, that feeling that everything is just perfect and all of your dreams have come true.  May indicate a really happy, healthy family.

Reversed:  Problems in the family, perhaps even a breaking up of the unit.  Difficulties in manifesting one’s dreams of achieving one’s goals.

EXAMPLES:  Your friends who still worship each other after 10 years of marriage.

Finding exactly the right lover after years of dating Mr. or Mrs. Wrong.

Nine of Cups

A rather well-fed looking individual sits on a bench with his arms folded.  Nine cups line the top of a raised platform behind him.

This card indicates an individual who is rather smug and self satisfied.  He is very well pleased with his position in the world and doesn’t mind telling you about how great he’s doing.  There is a warning against going too far and appearing to be arrogant.

Reversed:  Indicates some small failures or set backs which should be easily remedied.

EXAMPLES:  Your neighbor with the giant flat screen television, the super gaming computer, the sports car, the trendy clothes and the dream job.

Your beautiful female friend who got married to a rich guy and has 2.5 perfect children, belongs to an upscale church where she sings in the choir, and is voted the most popular girl scouts den mother 5 years in a row.

“Just the Tarot,” by Dan Adair, a book of basic Tarot definitions available on

Eight of Cups

A person in a red cloak holds a staff as he walks down a dark path.  It’s night and both a quarter and full moon hang in the sky above him.  Eight cups are stacked in the foreground.

A dark and confusing situation.  Fleeing from troubles. Stealing away in the night.  This isn’t a really pleasant card. It shows confusion, illusions, pain, false and misleading impressions.  The full and quarter moons, however, indicate that the situation will change, probably over the course of the 28 days.

Reversed:  The bad situation is ending.  Things will literally and figuratively lighten up and the path forward will be more clear.

EXAMPLES:  Leaving town because of a really, really bad relationship.

Checking into a shelter for abused women while you wait for the divorce to become final.