The fundamental conflict inherent in the Knight of Cups concerns Water’s tendency to passivity in combination with the drive towards actions and adventure that typifies the Knights. Here, the Knight’s Cup is empty, and the stream before him is a shallow one; this suggests that the creative force that belies the element of his suit is not, externally, in evidence. Perhaps, the Knight suggests, we have become so intent on our inner visions and fantasies that we are in danger of losing the ability to connect them to the world and to make a tangible reality of them.
This card can indicate that we have the potential to use this inner awareness to our advantage: that a quest for self-knowledge, rather than a desire to escape reality, can be just as great an adventure as more worldly pursuits. The card’s compositional similarity to Death emphasizes this: just as Death signifies transformation and new beginnings, so the Knight can herald changes that start from within.
When the Knight of Cups appears reversed in a reading it can indicate that we may feel pressured into taking action or surfacing from the time we are spending with ourselves when we feel very resistant to the idea. This may be a good or a bad thing, depending on the other cards in the reading, and our intuition. Perhaps this push is what we need to get out into the world and start trying to build the life we want, rather than just dreaming about it. Or perhaps we feel we are being urged to act in a way that goes against what we’re comfortable in doing. Perhaps we have commitments that we need to attend to, and so emerging from our reverie, whether we want to or not, is necessary.
The Knight of Cups is the romantic of the tarot deck. And, just like all romantics, he is led by his heart and is prone to idealism in his quest: the steely determination with which the Knight pursues his mission suggests that success is easily within his reach.