Six of Cups – Memory Custodians

The Six of Cups is a card that is said to take us back to the happy memories from our past, whether as a child, teenager or young adult. We may simply be revisiting those memories in our mind, or we may travel back to your childhood home or reconnect with your childhood friends.

A depiction of the six of cups that would have little relevance to a dispossessed Indigenous person.

The Six of Cups often depicts fairy tale cottages and smiling siblings and parents to invite you to get in touch with your inner child and experience the fun, freedom and innocence that comes with being a young child again. If you happen to be a part of mainstream society, bought up in a safe and loving environment, this may well resonate.

However, if you were not so lucky, grew up in a war torn country, grew up in a totally dysfunctional environment, or were unfortunate enough to be a part of the Stolen Generation in Australia, such a depiction of the six of cups is unlikely to hold as many feel good memories.

Whoever you are, whatever your background, whatever your experience of growing up, it is important that you have the opportunity to have a voice and tell your story as you remember it. We each need to be a custodian of memory and of truth telling. The Six of Cups can activate important memoir and biographical writing. It is a card made for story tellers.

Shirley Purdie

Shirley Purdie, was born on Mabel Downs Station, Western Australia. She grew up there whilst her mother Madigan Thomas was working alongside the stockmen. At just 14, Shirley began work as a domestic on pastoral stations.

Her story is a part of a history of exploitation that persisted for decades. Until the 1970s, the state government effectively rented Aboriginal people to stations as free labourers – to be fed and clothed instead of being paid – or withheld most of their income in trust accounts.

The stories Purdie tells of her childhood at Gilbun are peppered with memories of station life, indentured labour, massacres and the dispossession that took place during the pioneer days of the Kimberley. However her work also explores and celebrates sites and narratives associated with the country of her mother and father and is characterised by a bold use of richly textured ochre. She features significant places such as Baloowa, Jirragin and Gilban which lie on country now taken in by Violet Valley and Mabel Downs cattle stations.

Shirley Purdie, a strong law and culture woman, and important ceremonial singer and dancer in the community, is also a senior artist with the community-owned Warmun Art Centre. She is especially precious within her community because, as well as being a major artist she is a senior cultural leader and custodian, a teacher of dreaming stories (Ngarranggarni), and an accomplished storyteller.

An alternative to a traditional Six of Cups, or cards to be placed alongside the Six of Cups are these More Than Memory Cards by Shirley Purdie. Each of the 36 panels shares a story about kinship, familial obligations, the environment and the role of art, song, dance and spirituality in ceremony and culture. Ngalim-Ngalimbooroo Ngagenybe, 2018 Shirley Purdie. © Shirley Purdie/Copyright Agency, 2022
  • Be inspired by Shirley Purdie and make a deck using images that will help you recall memories of people, space and place.

Dipping into a Well of Remembrance

MNEMOSYNE was the Titan goddess of memory and remembrance and the inventress of language and words. As a Titan daughter of Ouranos (Uranus, Heaven), Mnemosyne was also a goddess of time. She represented the rote memorisation required to preserve the stories of history and the sagas of myth before the introduction of writing. In this role she was the mother of the Mousai (Muses) who were originally patron goddesses of poets of the oral tradition.

Mnemosyne is the Greek goddess of memory and knowledge, as well as one of the keepers of the waters in Hades. Praying to Mnemosyne would grant you memories of your past life or help you remember the ancient rites as the highest acolytes in a cult. If you are wanting to work to preserve memories you might choose to work with Mnemosyne.

The Tarot cards Old Memories promotes itself as the way to open a secret meaning encrypted in your thoughts, and suggests that this deck of cards will help to open memories. Personally it is my experience that most decks have this power.

Lisa Papez has a whole series of Tarot Memoirs on her YouTube Channel which will help inspire you and Autobiography as a Tarot Practice is worth reading.