This card refers to Chesed in the sphere of Water. Here, below the Abyss, the energy of this element, although ordered, balanced and (for the moment) stabilized, has lost the original purity of the conception.
The card refers to the Moon in Cancer, which is her own house; but Cancer itself is so placed that this implies a certain weakness, an abandonment to desire. This tends to introduce the seeds of decay into the fruit of pleasure.
The sea is still shown, but its surface is ruffled, and the four Cups which stand upon it are no longer so stable. The Lotus from which the water Springs has a multiple stem, as if to show that the influence of the Dyad has gathered strength. For although the number Four is the manifestation and consolidation of the dyad, it is also secretly preparing catastrophe by emphasizing individuality.
There is a certain parallelism between this card and the Geomantic figures Via and Populus, which are attributed to the Moon in her decrease and increase respectively. The link is primarily the “Change=Stability” equation, already familiar to readers of this essay. Four is an “awkward” number; alone among the natural numbers, it is impossible to construct a “Magic Square” of four cells. Even in the Naples Arrangement, Four is a dead stop, a blind alley. An idea of a totally different Order is necessary to carry on the series. Note also the refolding-in-upon-itself suggested by the “Magic Number” of Four 1+2 + 3+4 which is Ten. Four is the number of the Curse of Limitation, of Restriction. It is the blind and barren Cross of equal arms, Tetragrammaton in his fatal aspect of finality, as the Qabalists knew him before the discovery of the Revolving Formula whereby the Daughter, seated upon the Throne of the Mother, “awakens the Eld of the All-Father”.
For the meanings of Via and Populus, refer to the “Handbook of Geomancy” (Equinox Vol. I, No.2).