This was a fun, raunchy card to do. Does an image count as unsafe for work if there are representations of tiny plastic dongs in it?
The Seven of Cups: Debauch
Aleister Crowley had some choice words about Debauchery in the Book of Thoth. “This is one of the worst ideas that one can have;” he explains. “Its mode is poison, its goal madness.” Considering the exciting life Crowley was reported to have enjoyed, I’m suspecting that his unusual clarity regarding this card may come from some personal experiences with the dangers of excess. The Thoth version of the card that Lady Frieda Harris painted for him depicts a set of cups overflowing with some sort of horrible green slime, floating above a lake of the same. Pamela Colman Smith’s version of the card takes a slightly different angle, showing seven cups overflowing with strange and enticing wonders: jewels, a mountain castle, a laurel wreath. But among them there are also more ominous symbols: a snake, a dragon, a mysterious veiled figure, an almost-hidden skull.
In all the Sevens, we see what happens when energies in the pure and perfect Six becomes unbalanced and corrupted. The Seven of Cups speaks to us of the powerful, sometimes irresistible allure of false and fleeting pleasure -- glittering and exciting, but ultimately self-destructive. We seek fun and escape in drugs, alcohol, sexual adventure, but those thrills do not last, and when they are pursued as ends in themselves, they lead only to destruction. Does that mean it’s not okay to enjoy a reckless night of hedonism now and again? Certainly not if you’re asking me; I like to think of myself as generally quite debauchery-positive, in the appropriate times and places. But the temptation to indulge in ever-greater and ever more risky excesses can be deeply seductive.
This card warns us against the impulse that tells us to throw everything away for a blissful moment that gains us nothing of real value, while slowly destroying us from within. This card cautions us to beware a drive that is ultimately suicidal, which leads us into a terrible and all-too-common trap. If you’re someone whose life has never been personally affected by the dangers of substance abuse, you should count yourself among the lucky few.
I envisioned a wild bachelorette party for this card, or rather the last painful dregs of a party that has already gone on a bit longer than was really wise. A dazzling series of tempting, fruity frozen drinks stand above a table littered with the castoffs of a drunken night that nobody will recall too clearly. In the Six of Cups, we saw Pleasure that was healthy and life-affirming. Here we see that same pursuit of pleasure become corrupt trough blind over-reaching, leading to an inevitable downward spiral of regret and pain.
I had a lot of fun setting up the reference photos for this shot, trying to artfully dump some condensed cream of mushroom soup around our coffee table, then putting out a few cigarettes into the muck. Generally making an unappealing mess, that my wife could barely stand to look at, not to mention smell. I was quick to clean up of course, once I’d taken the photos I needed.