The King of Cups is the final card in the Minor Arcana suit of Cups and, as such, represents the maturation of Cups’ themes — emotions, intuition, and creativity — in the form of archetypally masculine energy. Symbolically, this can be understood as representing the ability to control one’s emotional responses, the capacity to rise above emotional turmoil, and a maturation of emotional responsibility to self and to others.
King of Cups Keywords
emotional maturity, rising above turmoil, channeling feelings to constructive ends, self-awareness
drowning in feelings, emotional turmoil, repressed emotions, emotional immaturity
Description of the King of Cups Tarot Card
The King of Cups is the masculine counterpart to its fellow court card, the Queen of Cups, and represents mastery, maturity, and stability around the task of bringing one’s emotional responses and reactions into balance through the cultivation of self-awareness and a commitment to healing one’s personal wounds. Whereas the Queen represents mastery on a more internal or relational level, the King represents the ability to externalize these qualities and act as a guiding force for others.
Like the Queen of Cups, the King appears in the middle of the sea, rooted on his throne amidst the churning waves. In contrast to the Queen, who stares at her chalice, he gazes off into the distance as if deep in thought. This suggests that he’s not as involved in his own emotional world, and instead, he reflects on his feelings rather than observing and analyzing them.
In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, this older male monarch is seen holding a chalice in his right hand and a golden scepter in the other, indicating his position of power and authority over his domain. In the Page of Cups, a fish appeared out of his chalice, indicating his emerging awareness of his own unconscious insights by seeing them mirrored in the outside world. The King wears a fish amulet around his neck, suggesting that he’s integrated its qualities, which were previously experienced as external to him.
Though his gaze is steady, the seas around him are choppy, indicating that he’s able to remain calm and grounded amidst the chaos of life. The ship in the distance suggests that he’s equipped to navigate the storms of life and remain focused on a destination or a goal. The sea creature in the distance, which appears to be a whale, is the largest mammal in the sea and speaks to the King’s position at the top of his own metaphorical food chain.
King of Cups Upright Meaning
When the King of Cups appears upright in a tarot spread, it speaks to your level-headed ability to rise above difficult emotional situations and feelings by accessing your inner sense of calm and stability. Tarot readers often view the King of Cups as a positive card because it is a good sign that you may have endured many emotional challenges and have learned through these trials to become a pillar of strength, wisdom, and emotional maturity. Your calmness, compassion, and sage advice make you a treasured confidante and a capable leader.
The upright King of Cups indicates that you are able to mine your own emotional depths and use these feelings as fuel. You are driven by your desire to use them toward productive ends, whether by channeling them into a creative project, guiding or counseling others, or establishing feelings of trust and safety with those you love. Your sense of comfort with your own shadow allows others to feel a sense of ease in expressing their difficult emotions.
This card represents a feeling of peace with the past and an ability to forgive yourself and others for previous experiences of hurt, betrayal, neglect, or pain. You can simultaneously access a deep well of feelings and memories while simultaneously releasing any resentments around what has happened. This card speaks to healing the past by releasing old and negative emotions, allowing you to rise to a new level of emotional awareness.
Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)
The King of Cups speaks to softness as a strength within your relationships. Your ability to be open, vulnerable, in touch with your own emotions, and receptive to your partner’s are qualities that support the development of intimacy between you. The external world may feel chaotic, but you can create a feeling of stability, safety, and emotional well-being within your relationship when you embody the calm and grounded qualities of the King.
With the King of Cups upright in a love reading, there is the sense that still waters run deep. You are able to draw on your own feelings, memories, and past experiences to offer reflection, support, and guidance. You may be a strong and emotionally reliable support system for your partner, or your partner may embody these qualities for you.
Love/relationships upright keywords
Career/finance upright keywords
softness as strength, vulnerability, emotional responsibility, holding space for others
holding space for others, healthy boundaries, emotionally perceptive, guiding and counseling others
Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)
The King of Cups upright speaks to your ability to hold and honor your own emotional experience while simultaneously holding space for others. You may be a valuable source of support, guidance, and wisdom for others in your work, whether you are a professional counselor or simply a confidante to others in your workplace. Your healthy sense of boundaries supports your ability to hold space for others.
The King of Cups indicates that you can create success in your work when you utilize your talents for active listening, emotionally perceptive insights, and your ability to draw out the truth in yourself and others. You may be drawn to professions that rely on your ability to stay calm, grounded, and centered amidst chaotic or rapidly changing situations.
King of Cups Reversed Meaning
The King of Cups reversed suggests a need to look within to ascertain how you are showing up in your relationships with others. The reversal suggests an imbalance, either because you are expending too much emotional energy or, conversely, because you are holding back from sharing your wisdom, assistance, or support.
If you are spending an outsized amount of energy and time caretaking others, you may feel emotionally drained. If you are giving to others more than what feels reasonable or sustainable, it may be weighing heavily on your heart and depleting your energy. You may benefit from considering if there is anything you can walk away from, delegate to others, or create a stronger emotional boundary around.
Alternatively, the King of Cups can appear reversed in a card reading when you are holding back from sharing your emotional energy or offering support to someone who needs it. You may feel scared to say the wrong thing or feel unsure of yourself if you are in the position of offering advice. This card asks you to honor your truth and to relate to others with an open heart and a willingness to speak your truth.
Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)
In the reverse position of a love & relationships tarot reading, the King of Cups asks if you are expending too much emotional energy within your partnership. You may be offering support out of obligation or a desire to please while surrendering your own sense of boundaries. If there is an imbalance in the energy of give and take within your relationship, this card asks you to address it openly and honestly.
The reversed King of Cups can also speak to an imbalance in one’s emotional needs, either from denying one’s true feelings, emotional manipulation, or because of an inability to regulate one’s emotional responses. It can represent the sensation of drowning in feelings or being overcome with intense mood swings. There may be a need to cultivate self-awareness about your true feelings and the source of your emotional turmoil.
Love/relationships reversed keywords
Career/finance reversed keywords
imbalance of energy, giving too much, emotional imbalance, drowning in feelings
busyness to avoid feelings, overly emotional decisions, immaturity, need for objectivity
Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)
The King of Cups reversed may indicate that you are consumed with work and are using busyness to avoid your feelings. You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of having to deal with all of the submerged feelings which are bubbling up below the surface. This card invites you to check in with your inner self so that your feelings can find a healthy channel outward.
You may be making decisions about work from an overly emotional place and are potentially relating to the situation from a place of emotional immaturity. There may be a need to view the situation dispassionately or from an objective point of view so that you can make decisions from a place of emotional stability and balance.