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The Eight of Cups in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

The Eight of Cups is about recognizing your disappointments and walking away from situations that don't fulfill you emotionally. The card is heavily associated with breakups.

The Eight of Cups is about recognizing your disappointments and walking away from situations that don't fulfill you emotionally. The card is heavily associated with breakups.

Eight of Cups in Tarot

The Eight of Cups indicates changes in relationships. You're likely breaking away from people and things that no longer serve you. You're releasing them rather than holding onto them. This will be for the betterment of both you and the other person or people.

Consider a relationship like holding a rope together. At some point, the rope manifested spikes. Holding onto the spiky rope will destroy your hands. Let it go.

Here is the bright side: we turn away from those we love in order to find new and deeper meaning in life. We may have to say goodbye to a cherished co-worker because we got a new job. You may have to breakup with your high school sweetheart because you both sense you're headed in different directions.

Ultimately, you are gaining perspective. You're maturing and finding wisdom, and you need to continue following the path that brings you to this enlightened perspective. By investing in what makes you curious, you'll ensure that you're content with your future.

Simply put, the Eight of Cups symbolizes disillusionment and abandonment of things that are no longer emotionally fulfilling to you.

Eight of Cups is about recognizing that if you walk away from a bad situation you can align yourself with a better future.

Eight of Cups is about recognizing that if you walk away from a bad situation you can align yourself with a better future.

Card Alignments

Upright

Disappointment, emotionally changing, gaining perspective, breaking up, parting of ways, unsustainable practices, curiosity, future investment, abandonment, withdrawal, escapism.

Reversed

Trying one more time, indecision, aimless drifting, walking away, flaky, half-in and half-out, turbulence, difficulty breaking up, lack of clarity, aloof, unclear subconscious, dreary.

Card Description

A man in a cloak walks away from eight cups. The cups are arranged on the ground, and some are stacked on top of each other. The cups are stacked in a way that it looks like some are missing. In Tarot, ten is the number of completion. Eight and nine are breaking point numbers: this essentially means that what's needed to reach fulfillment isn't there.

Since the Suit of Cups represents water—the element of relationships, emotions, and intuition—we can discern that the card is about unfulfilled emotions.

The man has turned his back on the cups in order to disconnect from his dissatisfaction. He has freed himself to look elsewhere for personal growth. The Eight of Cups is often about breakups.

A Breakup Card

Sometimes people break up because things are not going well. Deal breakers have been realized. Other times, people break up because things have become stagnant. The relationship can't be sustained because it refuses to grow. This card could come up for a long-distance relationship whereby neither party is willing to move closer. You eventually have to close the gap or break up.

The man on the card is headed into the mountains where he will face new challenges. He will have to deal with the rockiness of a breakup. Even under the best of intentions, most breakups aren't clean. They come with aftershocks.

The nearby river symbolizes his emotions. He is trying to get in touch with himself and recognizes that he was going against the flow.

What's worse? He likely knew the relationship wasn't going to pan out before he even got into it, but he went along with it anyway. Why? Probably because he didn't want to be alone.

The breakup or change is necessary for the man's long-term happiness. It would be foolish to stay with something that can't be sustained. He had to Marie Kondo his relationship: he held it and asked whether it sparked joy. It didn't.

The moon, which represents feminine energy and the sign of Cancer, illuminates his path. He leaves in the middle of the night, so others don't notice him. This man may have abandoned you suddenly. This can cause feelings of despair because there wasn't proper closure.

People need closure. They need to wrap up things before they move on with their lives to the next thing. The hardest breakups come without closure, just like the hardest grief comes without closure. For example, it's hard when people suddenly die. It is a blessing to get to be with someone in their final moments on their death bed.

The Eight of Cups reveals where you are unsatisfied in your emotions. Things you once loved no longer serve or support you.

The Eight of Cups reveals where you are unsatisfied in your emotions. Things you once loved no longer serve or support you.

Upright Eight of Cups

The Eight of Cups isn't just about moving on and a lack of emotional fulfillment. It's about disappointment. Things were almost right, but ultimately they weren't 100% right. You had hopes that this would be the one! The right person to marry. The right job. The right place to live. The right course of study. But things didn't turn out that way.

The highest you could go with this person or job was the Eight of Cups. It wasn't meant to go all the way to the Ten of Cups. This is very disappointing. You may have really liked your girlfriend, but in the end you knew it wasn't going to evolve into marriage. You liked that job but it had no room for growth. Your managers didn't have a vision for you.

What's good about this card: you have the wisdom to cut your losses and go. You're not sitting there staring at Eight Cups stacked awkwardly together. You're leaving them. You know that by leaving you're investing in a better future. You have faith that by leaving you'll attract something better.

It's best not to hold onto things that don't work. Would you keep a fridge that didn't keep your food cold? No, you would replace it. Sometimes things are that clear and cut: it's not working, it can't be fixed, let it go.

Sometimes the disappointment comes from having emotionally invested deeply into something. When we invest more and more into something we get upset when we have to cut our losses. You want there to be a payoff, but there isn't one. Think of it like gambling. You can get into a hole if you keep bidding on something in hopes that eventually you'll win. You have to know when to walk away. Continuing to invest without a return is a really bad idea.

Seek Closure, Not Abandonment

Leaving without saying goodbye isn't recommended. Don't burn your bridges unless you absolutely must do so. The character in the card is doing what modern people would call ghosting. You suddenly cut off all communication without an explanation. It's like going on a date, acting happy, and then never talking to your date again. Sometimes that is a necessary tactic. Other times it is the very definition of rude.

The Eight of Cups can also signal that you're trying to leave a situation or avoid emotional damage. You're distancing yourself from current emotional issues. You're pretending they don't exist. You're repressing issues rather than resolving them. You prefer to pretend everything is okay. All of this will come back to haunt you.

It would be better to knock over the cups rather than leave them sitting there partially stacked. You will have real closure if you address the cups and knock them over rather than leave them sitting there waiting. Dump out the contents. Process your emotions. Then go your separate ways.

In order to protect your future:

  • Consider what brings you joy.
  • Go on a journey that you feel is spiritually good for you.
  • Separate from material items and pleasures that no longer serve you. Don't stay with things that hold you back.
  • Look at your situation in financial terms. Are you getting the right return? Is the investment worthwhile? What do you gain from this? Do you find it taxing? What value does it bring to the table? Thinking like this can help you put things into more logical terms that are easier to address.
  • If you feel like your life is constantly going toward an Eight of Cups like moment then consider how you can break the cycle. You need to address what's preventing you from having emotional fulfillment.
  • Think more carefully about what you want out of a relationship before you get into a new one.
  • Come up with a new mission statement for yourself. You need to better understand your goals and values.
The Eight of Cups can also be about your relationship with yourself. You may have become stagnant or numb to your own feelings. You need change.

The Eight of Cups can also be about your relationship with yourself. You may have become stagnant or numb to your own feelings. You need change.

Reversed Eight of Cups

I think this is a worse card to receive than the Upright Eight of Cups. In this position, you know deep down that you should be breaking up and changing course, but you don't have the strength and willpower to do it.

You're half-in and half-out. You're hot and cold. You're not committed to the relationship or job, but you're not leaving it either. You're lukewarm. You know what's currently taking place is ill-fit, but you're scared to leave. You don't have a plan for how to leave.

It's hard to walk away from a disappointing situation. You don't want to do the homework of looking at your emotions and figuring out what you really need. You may in a way still be fighting for the relationship. You still have hope that things can improve.

This card encourages you to get in touch with your intuition. You should feel in your gut whether you need to stick around for awhile and have faith. . . or if it's a lost cause. You're having indecision because you're not in touch with your intuition. You need time to think by yourself. You need to be with your thoughts and more so your feelings.

If the card is paired with more passive cards, it could be a sign that you should stay longer. This could include cards with the number four, the Hanged Man, or Temperance.

If the card is paired with more active cards, like the Eight of Wands or Judgement, this could be a signal that pursuing a new path is a better fit for you. Remember: at the end of the day you get to decide what's best for you. Cards are simply cards.

Try listening to your heart. What makes your heart feel good? What movies and music give you a sense of ecstasy? You need to get in tune with your feelings and separate from the feelings of others.

The Reversed Eight of Cups is more about dissatisfaction than disappointment. In fact, you're preferring to stay in a state of dissatisfaction to prevent having to deal with disappointment. You should stop fearing disappointment, because once you can approach it you'll likely start to resolve your issues. You are potentially standing in your own way.

By opening yourself up to disappointment you are opening yourself up to progress and personal growth. You won't be able to walk away from the cups until you feel disappointed enough to travel elsewhere for a better future.

About Me and My Views on Tarot

I like Tarot cards because they're packed with symbols and mythology. I have a master's in creative writing, so things that have a lot of story to them get my attention.

I see Tarot as a linguistic tool to navigate through challenging concepts. I think they're a fascinating window into Medieval and Renaissance era concepts. Tarot is heavily based in European concepts and Christianity.

I write about Tarot cards to break down symbols. I am interested in how each card tells a different story. All 78 cards are based on archetypes. They're about experiences people have. I think these cards are intended to help people talk about difficult things. Studying the cards can be therapeutic.

I don't consider myself a witch. I don't know anything about altars, crystals, and the like. I wouldn't mind studying these things to tell you what they mean from a research perspective. I think anthropology and history are super cool and help us learn about other people's practices and cultures. We should learn about these things to become more empathetic and conscientious.

I say this so you know that when I look at Tarot it's different than some people who might use them for readings. I have zero knowledge on calling on a spirit or something like that. I don't play with those kind of boundaries. So when I talk about Tarot it's not from a seance perspective. I read the cards plainly by looking at the symbols on the cards.

I think our subconscious will direct us to certain images to try to help us gain a greater understanding of our problems. I think there are reasons for why we're attracted to certain things and why certain things tempt us. Just because something tempts us doesn't mean it's what we will go after.

I think if you consult with someone who claims they're a psychic you should be really careful. Make sure the person on the other side is empathetic and is trying to help counsel you on something. They may even refer you to a therapist. Some people are just looking for your money. These people will use a pack of cards as a method to scam you. So be careful. Stay sharp. Watch your wallet and your heart.

I think of Tarot as a neutral tool. I don't think the cards belong to any particular faith or practice. Just like prayer, baptism, and speaking in tongues doesn't belong to one particular religion or tradition.

The cards were first a game. They are the basis for Poker cards. Tarot is also the Fool's journey, which is the basis for the Hero's journey in literature. Tarot is pretty similar to several popular fantasy games. It has an interesting reputation, but at the end of the day—it's a tool. You get to decide how to use it and with what motivation.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

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