Several different meanings present themselves when the King of Cups appears in a reading. He can represent, particularly in the arts or creative enterprises, a mastery of the craft; a refinement of skills. He can symbolize success and the attainment of goals.
In some cases, this card can point to situations where we may have had to curb our creative impulses due to the responsibilities inherent in our lives. The fish leaping from the water to the left of the card reminds us that this creative element of our inner self is alive and well, and can be accessed when we’re ready, or when the time is right.
The King may sometimes appear to advise us that a mature emotional response will be called for in reaction to a possibly difficult situation: just as the Queen fuses the emotions and the intellect, so does the King, but he manifests this convergence differently and suggests that we allow our rational selves to ground the emotions we are feeling when required.
When the King of Cups pops from the deck reversed he is often asking us if we are allowing our emotions to slide out of control: are we letting another person have too much influence over our thoughts, our state of mind, and our energy? If this is the case, then the reversed King suggests that we ground ourselves more firmly on our throne and remember our strength.
The King of Cups can sometimes mean that we are beginning, or contemplating, a journey of self-discovery: the thought of letting our feet touch the actual element of Water all around us may be scary - we have grown used to containing our feelings and to the sense of having complete control over them.
The waves that surround the King of Cups’ throne do not affect him: he remains stable and calm despite the rolling waters, and this is the message of the card: his stability does not come from the repression of his emotions but a mastery of them.