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7 of Cups: Magical Thinking
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2007

Morgan Greer Tarot: 7 0f Cups

But it was just my imagination
running away with me.
It was just my imagination
running away with me...

"Just My Imagination" by The Tempations

"Thus experience does not happen to us but is created by our minds and senses and by the external objects received by them."
"Moonscapes", Rosemary Ellen Guiley

"Strange chalices of vision, but the images are more those of the fantastic spirit
Divinatory Meaning: Fairy favours, images of reflections, sentiment, imagination, things seen in the glass of contemplation; some attainment in these degrees but nothing permanent or substantial is suggested."

Seven of Cups: The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by A.E. Waite

According to an American Indian Legend - If anyone desires a wish to come true they must first Capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it. Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly can not reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all. In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, The Great Spirit always grants the wish. So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted.

The Seven of Cups in the Tarot is a card of imagination, visualization, dreams, daydreams, fantasies of every kind (especially sexual), wishful thinking, staring out windows and delusions. Seven cups float in the air, all filled with wondrous and magical images. A figure stands watching this display, enthralled with the vision before him. We can only wonder what he is thinking about. Is he seeing what he wants to see? Is he seeing what is there? Is he delusional or hallucinating? Are these objects under his control or do they control him? Are these objects real and tangible? Are they products of his imaginings or his magical workings? Is this a visual or emotional experience? Is this part of his creative process? Is he lost in his thoughts? Is he manifesting or attempting to manifest his desires? Did he just read "The Secret"?

The Seven of Cups is often a card associated with our emotions, our sense of reality and the creation of positive and negative thought forms. It can indicate our imagination running away with us (particularly about relationships). It also speaks of wanting more than we can have or looking at too broad a picture regarding the issues we are presently having. This card can speak of deluding ourselves in relationships, especially about the availability and true feelings of another, and can indicate emotional infidelity (just because you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't look at the menu, right?) We can be daydreaming about some wonderful person who is going to magically appear and change our lives, love us forever, make everything alright.

There is an artistic and creative quality about this card and also a sense of the opening of intuition, dreams and clairvoyancy. We being to explore new ways to achieve the realities we want in this world. We notice the clock saying 11:11, you mention someones' name and they magically appear or telephone. We are developing peripheral recognition but it is very easy to get carried away. We can put too much meaning on too many things, do too many rituals, too many prayers, burn too many candles, overanalyze every little minute detail and start to see coincidence around every corner and in every thing that happens. We are in the realm of magical thinking and we have to understand what it is.

Magical thinking is a term used by child psychologists when describing how children understand their world. Children have a very subjective world view, they self-reference. Causes and effects are interpreted by what the child thinks, wishes, needs, wants or desires. A child may think it is raining out because they are sad or that the day is sunny because they are happy. They may think they caused an illness or an injury to another because they misbehaved or said something mean to someone. You can see where this could create a tremendous psychological burden on a child who was coping with a severe illness or death in the family - they could easily blame themselves based on a very casual thought, a wish or minor indiscretion or outburst. Children have great imaginations and we, as adults, encourage the belief in a magical world full of wonderful characters like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Many children have imaginary friends and play in imaginary worlds. Children eventually outgrow these beliefs, usually at the point where we stop encouraging wishfilled behaviour and start introducing them to the concepts of faith and prayer. We never really lose the capacity for wishful and magical thinking though - what a dull world it would be if we did.

We all have our own personal superstitions or little rituals that we engage in, probably without even consciously knowing we do it. Knocking on wood, carrying a lucky charm, throwing salt over your left shoulder if you spill it, making a wish on a found penny, or wearing the same shirt (and refusing to launder it) when you watch your favourite team play because they always win when you wear it. We all do it or have done it at some point in our lives. This is all part of magical thinking. We don't distinguish between correlation ( linked behaviour or circumstance) and causation (causal relationship). Magical thinking is based on the Law of Similarity in which the effect resembles its' cause and the Law of Contagion, in which objects which were at one time physically in contact or connected, maintain that connection even after there is no longer any physical contact. Perhaps one day we heard a prediction of rain and took our umbrella with us, then it didn't rain. This happens once, twice, three times and we connect the two events even if they really have nothing to do with each other. They never get the weather right.

Magical thinking can give us a sense of power and control over a random, unstable and uncertain world. We enact our little rituals even if we know that they aren't logical or rational. We use them to calm ourselves down, ease our distress and comfort us in difficult or important situations. In some people it crosses the line to obsessive compulsive behaviours and they can become paralyzed by their compulsive rituals, unable to function without the repetition of their routine. In their attempt to create order in the world, they create a trap for themselves. It can manifest in excessive handwashing, the order of dressing, placement of objects and can take them into the realm of delusion and psychosis. Their ideas of reality and fantasy are no longer separate. Obsessive Compulsive behaviours are not necessarily rooted in magical thinking, some people just need their system of routines in order to get through a day but it can be debilitating and limiting just the same.

There are people who think they have special powers of manifestation and this can create false hopes and estrangement from reality . It can also make them feel responsible for something bad that happened to another person. There is power in words and learning not to wound with your tongue is the first spiritual gift to master. We can say cruel and hurtful words to someone in a moment or wish a horrific disaster on someone who has transgressed us - what happens if what we said or wished comes true? Maya Angelou, the poet, once said that she, as a child, didn't speak for several years, because she had said something terrible to someone who had hurt her and something terrible had happened to that person. She learned the power of words and their impact in that moment.

Karma is also based on magicial thinking and how events from our past affect our present circumstances. Magical thinking makes coincidences meaningful in the reality of our mundane world. Carl Jung called this synchronicity. Magical thinking is rooted in our nature and it is hardwired into our brains. The brain will leap to connect unrelated events and coincidences because it is the master of finding patterns in all things but not discerning the connection between those patterns. Cultures through time immemorial have engaged in magical thinking and it is very much a part of who we are as humans, being. Alternative medicines and healing techniques, faith healing, homeopathy, a return to traditional cultural paths and New Age spirituality all tap into the timelessness of magical thinking.

Superstitious behaviour is based on believing that a certain pattern, or patterns, of behavior will control events or circumstances that concern the superstitious person - the pattern, routine or object has the control. Very often when we first begin utilizing a psychic tool, like the Tarot, we get hooked. We read and do layouts constantly to the point of pure frustration and obsession. We ask the same questions repeatedly and don't give a reading the chance to fulfill itself. Reading for yourself is a difficult practice, you will either be too positive and only read your own wishful thinking or too negative and read your own worst fears. You need to use your discernment and keep your detachment and objectivity. Most people have enough realistic awareness to not go over the edge with an act that is mostly being utilized because it is comforting or reassuring. It is a battle between knowledge and reason and our fondness for superstition and ritual. The best definition I have ever heard for Magic is that you can change your reality with a concious act of Will - you maintain control.

This card is a reminder to not go over the edge, to think for ourselves, be skeptical, don't mislead yourself, admire the power of our minds and to always remember that thinking is not the equivalent of doing or taking a right action. Now go catch that butterfly .......


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This page was updated 2010-05-23.