The 7 of Cups is, by its very nature, confusing. The meaning behind the card is multifaceted, even more so than most cards.
Some key words that spring to mind when thinking of the 7 of Cups are: choices, confusion, illusion, wishes. To examine further, I decided to compare the same card among 5 different tarot decks.
I first drew this card at random from The Wild Unknown. You can see that the image is quite minimalist, which is what spurred me to squirrel out all the other 7 of Cups from my other decks for comparison. The picture of the moon is reminiscent of the Moon card from the Major Arcana, it alludes to deception and illusion, things being not what they seem, dimly illuminated in the moonlight.
The one upside down cup speaks of imbalance. The sun at the bottom gives me pause for thought. Is it that the upside down cup is poised to catch the sun, showing that the right choice is not the obvious one? Or do we look at the sun as being upside down from the moon, illustrating confusion and illusion. Or perhaps the moon is in the sky, it is night time, a time of darkness, but soon the sun will rise and it will be day. The more I examine the imagery on this card the more I find.
As expected, the Rider Waite Smith imagery contains lots of clues. The figure in the card seems almost taken aback by the cups before him. Each cup contains a wish. I am reminded of the paradox of choice and analysis paralysis. When we are faced with too many choices we can get stuck trying to make a decision.
The Oliver Hibert card is basically a clone of the RWS, but its psychedelic colouring reminds me of how I love to have options. I am not one of those people who get bewildered by all the options. When I go shopping, I look at everything, I read all the labels. This depiction of the 7 of Cups brings to mind the childlike wonder and excitement of being able to choose out of ALL the things.
The Spirit Speak card draws on the imagery of the RWS with the clouds and the cups with wishes inside. Some of the wishes are changed. There is a rose to represent beauty, a heart for love, a wand for action, a yinyang for balance. The tower, snake and jewels remain. Perhaps this version of the 7 of Cups represents the artist’s take on temptation and desire.
The card from The Fountain tarot deck is the most minimal. The light and airy colouring alludes to things not of the material realm, it seems to say that the issue at hand is mental and/or spiritual. The woman in the card is surrounded by cups, highlighting the aspect of choice. She is looking straight ahead, rather than at the cups. Perhaps she is avoiding having to make a decision? Her expression is not a happy one. I struggle to pin down an emotion. Is she determined? Slightly stunned? Thoughtful? The Fountain tarot often raises more questions than it answers.
Finally, here is one last picture of all five cards together.