In numerology the number seven is associated with wisdom and intelligence. There is a difference between the two. A person can be intelligent but not wise, and vice versa. Wisdom is more spiritual. Intelligence is more worldly--it has to do with what you can learn, and is cerebral. The number 7 covers both. It is also associated with spiritual growth and meditation. As God rested on the seventh day, the number seven implies a need for rest and introspection.
Let's start with Wands in the Minor Arcana.
Here, the man in the kilt stares down six Wands, his own Wand blazing. Who or what is holding those other Wands? What is this man's goal? He is fortunate to have the high ground, though, and his legs are strong in his stance. He even has a slight smile on his face. He is confident in his strength and in himself.
In the Celtic Deck, it is apparent that the protagonist on the hill is fighting against six other men. He still holds the high ground, and has a determined expression. Generally, if Seven of Wands shows up in a spread, it's telling you to stand your ground. You're probably going to come out on top, or at the very least learn what you're capable of.
Freyja, the mediator goddess between the warring gods of Aesir and the peaceful Vanir, is the goddess of the Staves. While the men on the Robin Wood and Celtic decks are confident, Freyja is uncertain. In certain situations, it is good to be wary. It could very well be that there are aspects of the situation that you are not aware of. Being wary will help you keep your position and maintain your supremacy.
Here is a man in a Damocles situation. What is unique about this card is that it reminds us that conflict may be caused by ourselves. We may take on to much and find ourselves overwhelmed. Such is the price tag with success, a concept associated with the Wands/Staves, as they are aligned with the external masculine energy.
Reversed, the Seven of Wands/Staves means that the questioner is overwhelmed and unstable. A retreat may be in order. It may also mean an argument will not be won, or a request will not be granted, as they are too many things working against it.
Moving along to the Coins/Pentacles:
The Seven of Pentacles/Coins is in keeping with the theme of rest and contemplation associated with the number. Here, a man is very content with his handiwork, which is growing and almost ready for harvest. From his gloves, it's apparent that it took hard work to get here, but it was worth it. This card signifies that now is a waiting period, and that good things are on the way, particularly if the question concerned financial, health, and real estate matters, which are under the umbrella of the earthy Pentacles.
The man here is contemplating his money. How much does he already have? How much more does he need? If he needs more, how can he get it? Those may be the questions the Seven of Pentacles may recommend the questioner consider.
In keeping with the garden theme--gardens as a metaphor for fertility, abundance, richness, patience, cycles, and hard work paying off--Lakshmi is depicted tending hers. The work is satisfying, and is not a hardship. She is full of happy anticipation. If the question is concerning whether work, education, or another venture will pay off, the Seven of Pentacles is a good omen.
Of course, Barbara G. Walker has to break up the happy-fun time and poop on everybody's party (I mean no disrespect. Barbara G. Walker is one of my heroes. It's just I know this change in tone is quite jarring and I wanted to add some levity). In her deck, Seven of Pentacles can mean failure. As far as I can see, this has to do with the nature of cycles, which is one of the concepts the Earthy Pentacles have to teach --sometimes the garden is fallow or frozen. However, in the distance is a dark door flanked by seven stars, leading into the cave. What is in that cave? Is there gold? Or perhaps a place to rest and recuperate from loss? Look at the other cards.
The Seven of Coins/Pentacles reversed in other decks say basically what Barbara G. Walker's upright Seven of Pentacles says, and also warns against impatience, laziness, and entitlement.
The Seven of Swords indicates a need to protect oneself, and vulnerability. It also indicates shadiness or deception, on the part of the questioner or on the part of someone the questioner knows.
The Seven of Swords tells the questioner to be careful--someone is either actively trying to harm them, or an impersonal crime may take place. Put up extra protection and be very watchful. Someone may be sneaking around or spreading rumors. This card can also indicate that the questioner may be up to no good, and are about to be caught, or get themselves entangled in the negative behavior. Those who live by the sword die by it.
This picture makes me think of Caesar's last moments. Watch your back, the cards are telling you. Someone may be a traitor.
Isis, the goddess of the Swords suit, is frightened as she carries her five swords. Her brother/brother-in-law Set (I know, right?) has killed her husband/brother, Osiris (I know, right?), not once, but twice, dismembering him the second time, and she must now put Osiris back together, all the while watching her back in case Set tries to kill her and Osiris again. The Seven of Swords is sympathetic. It knows how difficult it is to carry the burden of fear. It would make a world of difference if someone came to help carry the burden, but the Seven of Swords indicates isolation, or the feeling of isolation. When the Seven of Swords shows up, it may be beneficial to take stock of whom you can trust. You may not be as alone as you think.
Okay, I'm going to point out the elephant on the wall before anyone can jump to conclusions. Yes, that is a swatstika on the wall. Yes, when I saw it, I literally flinched. But trust me, Barbara G. Walker is NOT a Nazi. Here's the a brief history of this symbol, from her invaluable book, The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects: "Named for the Sanskrit 'so be it' or 'amen,' the swatstika has been a religious emblem of worldwide occurrence since at last 10,000 B.C. It appeared on the oldest coinage in India, on images of Buddha in Japan, and on Greek and Roman figures of the Great Goddess...It was still used as a magic sign in Europe up to the beginning of the twentieth century" (Walker 61). Even with such an illustrious history, the swatstika is another casualty of the Third Reich, and I won't touch it in my work with the runes (the Futhark and Futhorc do not even have the swatstika anyway).
Okay, now that that's out of the way, the woman, who is a wise crone, has created a circle of seven swords over her as a protective amulet. She sits with closed body language, with her arms and legs crossed. The black cat by her side is her familiar, an extension of her soul and boon companion. Again, this card seems to ask whom we can trust.
Reversed, a Seven of Swords indicates paranoia, or unrealistic fear,, and indicates that the questioner must seek help. It can also reveal truly dangerous activity or a terrible threat. Your intuition may also tell you, looking at the card, that a reversed Seven of Swords indicates the danger is past. Use the other cards surrounding it.
The Seven of Cups is a card of dreams and decisions.
Here, the girl's hair becomes the clouds. She is clearly in a flight of fancy. Her head isn't just in the clouds, it is the clouds! The young girl is constructing many lovely scenarios for herself--there's a cup of jewels with a dollar sign motif, a castle in a cup with a crown around the brim, and fireworks shooting out of the cup with the heart. What those stand for don't need explaining, but some of the symbols are more estoteric. The dragon in the red cup symbolizes power and passion. He's a little bedraggled, because he's been fighting temptation and oppression, as shown by the chains on the band of his cup. Dreams take work to come true, and sometimes a fight.
The snake in the cup with the moon waxing, full, and waning represents, wisdom and healing. Because snakes shed their skins, they were associated with healing and the shedding of disease. The molting of snakes was seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The moons are symbolic of womanly wisdom, the feminine knowledge of the subconscious, the hidden, and nature cycles.
The laurel in the cup with the skull and crossbones motif is a visual pun meaning "Victory over Death" (Wood 201-208). The last one is a mask in a silver cup. The color of silver is symbolic of feminine energy and the moon. The mask is the Self. Getting behind the mask means the ultimate self-knowledge.
This is why I love Robin Wood. She is so rich in meaning and her artistry is stunning.
In the dreamy Celtic Deck, the Seven of Cups shows a woman peering off the back of a boat. Is she longing for the past, which will never come again? Is she happy with the person she is with, the person rowing the boat? Actually, he's not even rowing the boat. He's gazing at the beautiful sight before him, seven cups in a glowing pyramid. But is that vision real, or a mirage, an illusion? Is it distracting him from the real goal at hand, which is getting to shore? Is he not paying attention to his surroundings, and putting himself and his companion at risk?
Sometimes, the Seven of Cups warns us against illusions and distractions. It reminds us to know when to let go of a desire it is impossible to obtain, such as a return to the past, or the returning of a love who is not good for us.
In Kris Waldherr's goddess deck, Venus, the goddess chosen for the emotional, romantic cups, is dreaming of the snake, the castle, the crown, and the victory laurel. The skull can represent the ultimate knowledge of the afterlife, a rebirth, or holding death in the palm of your hand, or, in this case, a goblet. The rose is for sensual pleasure, beauty, and romance. Then there is a mysterious seventh cup, shrouded by a piece of white cloth. What is it? What surprises does the universe have in store?
There are many things to choose from. The Seven of Cups may indicate several choices, all of them equally appealing. The choice must be made, however, and the best way to think about it is with gratitude, and tell yourself that no bad decision can be made here.
Here, a poet who makes me think of the Romantic poets (those transcendent, nature loving, emotional dreamboats!) or perhaps Rumi, the Sufi ecstatic. He has his quill and paper, and is gazing off into the soft swirling fires of inspiration, from which emerge a blonde angel (or siren, depending) with a rainbow aura. She sprinkles him with seven blood red drops from an overturned cup. She is the Muse, watering our imaginations. He leans on a tree shaped like a hand reaching to the heavens, symbolizing the desire to break earthly bounds. Seven of Cups may symbolize a visit from the Muse, but it may be ephemeral. Watch for insight and revelation, but also be careful of indulging false hopes or red herrings that may lead you away from what you may really want or need. For example, if you're seriously considering leaving a wonderful person for the person you're infatuated with simply because you're bored. Or, you're taking a job that you claim to love but you only love the money.
Reversed, Seven of Cups signals self-deception, false hopes, ennui, and indecision. It also may indicate spreading oneself so thin there's no commitment to any one thing.
Sources: Walker, Barbara G. The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988. Print.
Wood, Robin. The Robin Wood Tarot: The Book. 1998. Livingtree, 2009. Print.