3 of Cups from RWS, TdM and Thoth tarot systems
When I started my journey with learning to read tarot, I started out with the Tarot of the Spirit by Pamela and Joyce Eakins, a Thoth-based deck, having no knowledge that there were different systems, or styles, of tarot decks. I struggled with it for a few years until I finally found the pictorial system of the Waite-Smith, or RWS, decks and found those much easier to learn how to read. Most of us start there and some never venture into the other styles because they find them intimidating.
In 2018 I decided to do an in-depth focus on the Thoth, and I fell in love. There's an energy to them that freed me from the pictorial keys of the RWS based decks, those fixed images as portrayed by the artist's interpretation of the meanings of the cards. However, each card has a key word that gives it a fixed meaning, so you're still locked into a vision created by the Golden Dawn, and it's very hard to see past those for alternative meanings.
Both of the systems based on the Golden Dawn are great if you want a paint by numbers way of reading the tarot. You know, this card means this unless it's reversed or in shadow, then it means that, period, not much alteration from it. The 3 of Cups is a great example as it means joy or abundance, and is seen as a gathering with friends to celebrate. Of course, the shadow is the opposite of this. But can it mean more?
I chose to move to studying the Tarot de Marseille (TdM) system in depth for 2019, and if I thought I loved the Thoth (and don't get me wrong, I still do, it's a gorgeous deck), then when I actually started to learn how to read the Tarot de Marseille the way it was originally read for centuries before Etteilla and Court de Gebelin got ahold of it, then the Golden Dawn, I was totally Gobsmacked. I found full freedom from the interpretations of others being imprinted upon the images of the deck, and the ability to find unique meanings based on the question and the rest of the cards. I had found my way back to cartomancy, this time with tarot.
So, why is this important to me? Because now when I see the 3 of Cups in a reading I can look at the cards around it and the question and I can see cheating, or a break up, or one person controlling others, or someone breaking off from a group to find their own way. I can see both joy and sorrow much more easily, as well as a myriad of other possibilities. Maybe things are stacked together, or something has broken off of its main part. There's just so much more that can be seen here than in the other two systems.
I admit that it was intimidating in the beginning, and the journey hasn't been easy. I've read many books this year and I took the Tarot de Marseille Foundation and Advanced course offered by Camelia Elias. I've worked exclusively with the TdM for all of 2019, both personally and professionally, and I'm finally starting to feel like I've got it down rather well.
If you're thinking of learning to read the Marseille style decks, then I highly recommend giving it a try, and approaching it like you're new to tarot. Forget all that you think you know, and let go of all that you think you need to learn, and start reading and playing. The best books to start with in my experience are Untold Tarot by Caitlín Matthews and Marseille Tarot by Camelia Elias, and I do recommend her course as well as her other books, but I'd start with these two books first because hands down they're better than any of the others that are often recommended.