Estimated Reading Time: 16 minutes

December 2018 Tarot Card Astrology: Ten of Cups

In this series on tarot card astrology, I’m highlighting cards whose planetary correspondences are currently being played out in the heavens above. The planet Mars is in Pisces now and will move through the last third of the sign between December 16 and December 31. Mars in the third decan of Pisces is associated with the Ten of Cups. We’ll explore the symbolism of realizing goals by connecting with Mars energy to navigate Piscean nebulousness. A candle magic ritual is provided to help you focus your energy and achieve a specific intention. Be sure to check out all the articles, upcoming and past, on tarot card astrology.

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Ten of Cups: Mars in Pisces

  • The Ten of Cups is titled “The Lord of Perpetual Success” and frequently represents success, happiness, fulfillment, and loving family relationships
  • Mars is the warrior and expresses qualities such as passion, excitement, desire, ambition, anger, and a willingness to fight for what is right. It is our energy and vigor.
  • Pisces is a mutable water sign ruled by Jupiter and its nature is dreamy, imaginative, escapist, enmeshing, meditative, and compassionate. Its symbol is The Fishes and its glyph is back-to-back crescent curves connected at the midpoints by a horizontal line, representing two fish swimming in opposite directions.
  • Ten of Cups: Mars Ruling the Third Decan of Pisces
  • Mars will pass through the third decan of Pisces from Sunday, December 16, 2018, 8 p.m. through Monday, December 31, 2018, 7:20 p.m.
  • Best times for ritual work: Tuesday, December 18 and Tuesday, December 25. I like Christmas Day better because the aspects are more supportive. December 18 places Mars square to the Sun, but December 25 has no hard aspects to Mars and in fact highlights a lovely reception with Venus. I prefer the planetary hour of Mars in the evening (7:05-8:17 p.m.) to that at dawn (7:15-8:00 a.m.) that day.

Mars in Pisces

The Ten of Cups from, left to right, Jolanda Tarot, Ceccoli Tarot, Mary-El Tarot (trimmed), Universal Fantasy Tarot, and The Medieval Scapini Tarot. The symbolism of the Ten of Cups: Mars in Pisces includes fulfillment, success, and rejoicing, but also contains the spark of life that gestated properly breeds all life.

Mars is hard and fast, high energy, determined, and ambitious. Pisces is the vast ocean, floating, boundless, interconnected. Mars separates. The water of Pisces cannot be cut. It is common to think of sharp, fiery Mars extinguished in the oblivion of Pisces, but that is not the case according to the traditional principles of astrology. Mars is the triplicity ruler of water. That means that Mars oversees all three water signs: Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. The coolness of these placid signs takes the aggressive edge off Mars’ too sharp blade, releasing his productivity. Under liquid caresses, he can express passion without the overbearing intensity that too often turns us off.

Image of the Ten of Cups

“Ten of Cups” from the Rider Waite Smith Tarot by A. E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, Pamela-A edition.

The gaiety of the image by Pamela Colman Smith expresses the lightness and relief of accomplishment. The man wraps one arm around his partner, hand on hip, while each holds an arm up in a graceful acceptance of victory. Ten cups arch across the sky in a rainbow which beams down on the jubilant couple. To their side, two children hold hands, dancing in gleeful circles. Perhaps they have weathered a storm or made it through difficult times successfully. The couple does not face the viewer. Rather, they are turned toward their land and their distant red-roofed cottage, resulting in a feeling of safety and protection.

Title of the Ten of Cups: Perpetual Success

I learned this card as “The Lord of Perpetual Success,” although I have also heard “perfected success” used as the title. I prefer the former. Perfected success has a finite sound to it. Regardless of what went before, this card offers the promise of on-going fortune. Whatever toil achieved this outcome, the system is now self-sustaining, forever fulfilling its promise.

The Astrology of the Ten of Cups

The calendar dates associated with this card, the third decan of Pisces, correspond to the ten days leading up to the spring equinox, roughly March 11-20. In fact, the name of this Piscean month derives from the planet Mars. Mars rules two decans in a row: the last third of Pisces and the first third of Aries, the ten days following the vernal equinox. The earth needs a double dose of Mars’ heat not only to melt away the winter snow, but also to warm up the ground so seeds germinate. This is the perpetual success of the earth — to annually overthrow the deathlike grasp of icy cold and reanimate itself into the warmth and glow of spring.

Mars is the life force, the vigor of health and rush of blood through veins. He is the palpitation of power and the direction of that force towards goals. He challenges ambition. Pisces is the vastness of oceans, of space, of uncharted land. Mars wants to conquer things. He thrills at the work lying ahead of him. However, our tarot image is of the completion, the attainment, the success. The Orphic hymn tells us that Mars yields to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, to Bacchus, the god of the vine. Pisces is commonly associated with escapism, and sometimes following those lines, with the use of drugs or alcohol to descend into dreams. After his achievements, Mars yields to this Piscean force, the perpetually flowing wine of Bacchus. He works hard and parties hard. The Ten of Cups can tell us to back off from the go-go-go and toast our victories.

Some authors point out that the family represents the typical hierarchy of the court cards — the father is the King, the mother the Queen, son the Prince/Knight and daughter the Princess/Page. This series is also associated with the Tetragrammaton, the Divine four-letter name of God, YHVH. (Read this article for a relevant discussion; also, more info in this one.) In the image, the father and son wear red, the color of Mars, of fire and the masculine principle. The mother and daughter wear blue, the color of water and the feminine principle. The Tetragrammaton alternates masculine and feminine qualities in an interplay of opposites, which combined, symbolize the process of creation; opposites connecting, becoming one, and breeding the next generation, which repeats the process. Pisces is the ocean, the matrix of creation, while virile Mars is the inseminating force that plunged into undulating depths sparks solidity out of liquidity, the coalescence of life. The Ten of Cups represents conception in a healthy environment, and the resulting embryo which develops through a full gestational cycle. In other words, the visions, projects, plans, and dreams you have are ready to be born.

Mythology of the Ten of Cups

In The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A. E. Waite gives as one meaning of this card, “the town, village or country inhabited by the Querent.” This spurs the connotation of the feeling of arrival, the bliss of coming home after difficult and dangerous travel. Any story of homecoming, or of challenging travel to arrive at a new home, particularly after a sea voyage, fulfills the symbolism of both card and astrological correspondence. The story of immigrants coming to America via ship from Europe would express the Mars ambition and drive and the Piscean sense of being lost in an undefined area (both lost at sea as well as lost in a new world). Likewise, before the railroads traversed the entire United States, east coast residents would travel either across country via covered wagons or, more relevant to our symbolism, take the very dangerous sea route around the tip of South America to relocate to California. The story of fighting danger to arrive at a new home is a common one, and relevant to our card.

One well-known story that combines martial adventure and duel with dreams of arriving home is The Wizard of Oz. The song Somewhere Over the Rainbow, with its titular symbol shared with our card, postulates an idyllic land “way up high,” a land of Piscean dreams and lullabies. But the theme of the story is that home is within, where you are, and being there is not about the dangerous journey, but rather is as easy as recognizing that you’ve already arrived.

The Orphic hymn to Mars invites the warrior to hand over his weapons to the goddess of the grain. If Ten of Cups: Mars in Pisces would stop trying to conquer and expand past the edge of Pisces’ boundlessness, if he would turn his swords to plowshares and stop fighting neighboring nations to expand and protect his borders, he could finally settle down, make his home, raise a family, and realize his own perpetual success.

Candle Magic Ritual for Ten of Cups: Mars in Third Decan of Pisces

Mars ritual work is done to increase your energy and vigor, motivate you towards your goals, and fight against conflicts that stand in your way. However, Mars energy is difficult to work with, because it frequently brings with it aggression, anger, agitation, frustration, and risk taking that are not in harmony with your goals. However, we can offset those problems with watery, cooling, calming Pisces. Finding just the right balance that spurs desire without antagonism, that inspires without drowning the spark, is part of the challenge of this type of work.

Connecting with Mars

To connect with the Mars energy, you can still use a prayer or hymn as we’ve done in past rituals, but a simpler method for this straightforward energy is to connect with it via color. The color of Mars is red, so wearing that hue can connect you to that energy. Furthermore, wearing jewelry made of Mars-ruled metals and stones (iron, hematite, magnets, ruby, garnet, bloodstone), or holding a sword or weapon can also bring up those qualities within yourself.

For this ritual, we’ll use simple color breathing. Imagine the space that you are in, or for practical purposes, imagine an egg-shaped space around you about as wide as your outstretched arms, filled with red light, or red mist. Begin breathing that red misty light in through your nose and see it enter your body at the solar plexus. See the red mist fill your body. On the outbreath, see the color completely leave your body and return to the sphere of color in which you sit. Breath the color in so it fills you body, then breath it out so it envelops you all around. When you breathe in, see you whole body glowing with this color. If this becomes too intense, switch to breathing white or clear mist. Return to the red color breathing when and if you can until you feel energized and excited, but not lightheaded or anxious. Practice this a bit until you get the hang of it, then we’ll use it at the appropriate time in the ritual. For more information, please refer to my post on color breathing meditation.

Statement of Intention

As with all our rituals, write a statement of intention that expresses your goal. Base your goal on the tarot card and/or the astrological associations as suggested by this article or by your own study and meditation. Examples of goals can be:

  • Help me achieve perpetual success in such-and-such an endeavor
  • Through your guidance and inspiration I arrive at my destination
  • I have the strength to successfully reach my goal
  • I victoriously celebrate my successes
  • I carefully nurture and care for the spark of my dream until it can be fully realized in the world of manifestation


This is a good ritual to keep simple, using only a red candle, Mars planetary oil to anoint your candle, and your tarot card. Although as always, use as many symbols as needed to remind you of and keep you focused on your intention.

  • Small table (one of those folding TV trays works great in a pinch) or clear area on a shelf or surface to set up the altar
  • Altar cloth, such as a red cloth (Mars color)
  • Red taper candle or Chime candle, also additional candles for general illumination; candle holders
  • Mars essential oil, either a prepared planetary blend or use a straight oil associated with Mars, such as peppermint, basil, or pine
  • Carrier oil to dilute the essential oil (vegetable oil from the kitchen will work; if you have a choice, use castor oil, olive oil or sunflower oil)
  • Ten of Wands tarot card
  • Mars incense such as dragonsblood, garlic, sulfur, asafoetida. I stick to dragonsblood and maybe add a bit of garlic, but avoid the foul-smelling others except for the most intense and needful Mars rituals.  Incense burner.
  • A printed checklist for your supplies
  • A printout of the ritual instructions or your own notes for your ritual
  • Your statement of intention for the ritual, printed or written on an index card
  • Coins or stones or other counters to mark repetitions of prayers and intentions
  • Stones or metal pieces or beads such as iron, hematite, magnets, ruby, garnet, bloodstone
  • Other appropriate symbols, including photos or art of rainbows; personal items that remind you of your intention
  • Mars beverage: I choose from nettle tea, ginger turmeric tea, or peppermint tea. I sometimes do a peppermint teabag and nettle teabag together.
  • Mars food: Spicy/hot food with cayenne or hot peppers, basil and garlic, or foods made with other Mars flavors.
  • Clothing and accessories: wear red and/or wear jewelry made of Mars-ruled metals and stones (iron, hematite, magnets, ruby, garnet, bloodstone), or dress like a warrior or soldier, or whatever best expresses your intention.

 Candle Magic Ritual

This is a simple ritual, but I try to cover most contingencies and explain things in detail so you don’t have any questions. Please read through the instructions carefully ahead of time so you know what it coming up and can work out any problems or questions.

  1. Set up a basic altar. On a table or clear area of a shelf, place your appropriately colored altar cloth, candle, and incense. You can also include any other symbols or decorations that will help you connect with your intention.
  2. Have on hand your candle, your anointing oil, Ten of Cups tarot card, your statement of intention, and a printout of these ritual instructions or your own notes for your ritual.
  3. Light any candle(s) you are using for general illumination. Don’t light the red one yet.
  4. Find a comfortable seated position (standing works depending on how long your ritual is) at your altar. Ground and center yourself, perhaps using the fourfold breath.
  5. Light the incense. This is optional if you think it will make the following breathing meditation difficult to do.
  6. Begin the color breathing practice. See your space filled with red. Begin breathing in this color as a fine mist or colored light. Breath it in until  your body glows with the color, then breath the color out to fill the space around you. Do this until you feel energized and excited. If you start feeling agitated or anxious, start breathing white (or blue or green) light, or discontinue the exercise and sit quietly while breathing normally until the unpleasant feelings pass.
  7. Next you’ll focus your excitement by turning your attention to the Ten of Cups tarot card. Meditate on it briefly, becoming immersed in the scene.
  8. Anoint the candle. Mix a drop of your Mars oil with a teaspoon or so of the carrier oil. Rub it in your hands (be aware that Mars oils can be irritating, don’t go to town with this until you know your level of sensitivity) until the oil heats up. Take the red taper candle and hold it sideways, parallel to the floor. Face east, so the base of the candle is pointing to the north (use a compass if you’re unsure). Hold the candle in your oiled hands, the left hand toward the base end (north) and the right hand toward the wick end (south). Your hands should be in fists around it, like gripping a railing in front of you, thumbs touching. Slide your left hand three times in quick succession from the center of the candle off the base end, then mirror that with your right hand, sliding it three times off the wick end. This should cover the candle in the oil, but also charges it with psychic energy using the polarity of your two hands. You can say something appropriate, such as “I charge this candle with the fiery passion and drive of Mars” or whatever Mars keywords are appropriate to your intention. You can say this five times for the number of Mars.
  9. Place the candle in a holder and light it.
  10. Read your statement of intention ten times (the number of the card).
  11. Meditate on the flame for at least a few minutes up to as long as you like, feeling the energy and motivation inspire you. You might want to have a pen and pad of paper or journal at hand so you can write down any ideas that come to you.
  12. When the energy begins to dissipate, put the candle out. You can let it burn all the way down now if you will be around to watch it, or you can burn it some every day until it is gone. Once a candle is charged, it will always have that energy and not even melting it down will destroy the intention you gave it. So it’s best not to reuse the candle, but simply to burn it for this intention as time and need dictate, preferably everyday until it’s gone.
  13. Ground the energy by imagining it flowing back into the earth and touching the ground if possible. You can follow this with eating and drinking (give preference to Mars beverages and food), a traditional technique for grounding.
  14. Continue this ritual everyday until your intention is achieved. Although it is nice to leave out your altar for as long as you need, it may be more practical to put everything away and pull out the candle as needed to revisit this intention.

If you have any question about this ritual, please leave them in the comments! I’d also love for you to share your experiences with this practice in the comments.

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit

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