As a reminder, the suit of cups is driven by feminine energy and channels the power of emotions and feelings in every shape and form. Scholars and academics have connected the suit of cups to the classical element of water, and most of the cards from that suit embody the symbolic attributes of this element, one way or another.
Nine of Cups card: Traditional meanings
The Nine of Cups is a rather ambiguous card within the suit of Cups. While the main tarot card meaning that can be analyzed is one of content bliss and happiness, a sense of fulfillment that is strong enough to dispel any craving for anything more, this kind of bliss often triggers a false sense of superiority and self-worth that can turn fleeting pride into excessive ego and smugness, like a member of the one percent looking down at the rest of the world from their ivory tower.
Upright: Contentment, worldly pleasures, bliss, well-being, and satisfaction.
Reversed: Smugness, arrogance, selfishness, and self-aggrandizement.
Upright Nine of Cups card
The illustration of the nine of cups minor arcana might almost have been used for one of the court cards. The central figure is an obviously wealthy man sitting on a small bench with an air of smug contentment and happiness. He is surrounded with a series of columns where the nine chalices are displayed.
In the suit of cups, there are no extra elements or symbolism in the original RWS illustration for the nine of cups, drawing attention to the main figure and the abundance of chalices.
This minor arcana card represents the feelings of pride and fulfillment that can be felt when someone achieves something substantial and satisfying. The nine of cups in a tarot reading usually echoes a great sense of well-being and satisfaction, the kind of pleasure that can be experienced after a great meal in a fancy restaurant surrounded with friends. This is a state of complete bliss when so many cravings and desires have been met that you finally take some time to just be content and enjoy your situation.
The source of such contentment can vary widely but is usually mainly physical (a good meal, a satisfying sports training session, a sensual evening with a lover, etc.).
Reversed Nine of Cups card
A reversed nine of cups unveils the negative aspects tied to the kind of bliss mentioned above, hinted at in the facial expression of the main character from the illustration in the Rider-Waite-Smith(RWS) tarot deck. Content and satisfied with one’s own accomplishment can trigger a surge of excessive pride in that subject, a certain smugness, and sense of superiority that make it easier to look down on other people who do not share that bliss and privilege.
While this kind of superficial arrogance can be annoying, the worst part is that it often leads to two even greater flaws. Indeed, this might strengthen any latent tendency for selfishness, but also weaken any personal or professional resolve, leading that person to rest on their laurels and stop trying to improve themselves, thus creating the conditions for their own doom as the rest of the world eventually passes them by.
Nine of Cups and love
Drawing the nine of cups in a love tarot reading usually highlights the mental and physical pleasure shared with a significant other or lover. This card hints at a high level of physical compatibility between the two. The scope of the nine of cups in a love reading does not go beyond that, however, so the rest of the cards in the reading must be considered in order to define the kind of mental and emotional compatibility that can arise between them.
Combined with other cards providing a meaning of deceit or secrets (like a reversed Magician, High Priestess, or Moon among the major arcana) might imply that the nine of cups in that love reading instead refers to a secret love affair outside the limits of the subject’s couple, with one side of the couple cheating on the other with someone else.