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The Five of Cups in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in astrology, Myers Briggs, and pop culture with expertise in relationships and dating.

The Five of Cups is about grief, loss, and sorrow. You've lost three of your cups, but behind you there are still two more. It is time to get in touch with your emotions and to give yourself self-care.

The Five of Cups is about grief, loss, and sorrow. You've lost three of your cups, but behind you there are still two more. It is time to get in touch with your emotions and to give yourself self-care.

The Five of Cups in Tarot

The Five of Cups card is about grief and indicates that you probably need a hug. You've been through something rough, or you're about to go through something rough.

Some takeaways before you read about this card: it can be heavy to process your emotions, especially ones related to grief. Give yourself space to grieve, and eventually you need to give yourself permission to enjoy life again. This card is one of the most challenging in Tarot.

This card predicts that you've experienced some loss and are in mourning. You feel tossed out like spoiled food. This isn't the greatest time for you.

Card Description

The character on the card faces three cups; all three have been knocked over. Their contents have spilled onto the ground, and the person is focusing on this loss. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are still two full cups behind him. He may have experienced a gutting loss, but there is still hope. This means that you still have good resources and support despite your current situation. You haven't lost everything. Don't lie and pretend that you have lost everything.

This card indicates emotional dejection. You're disappointed over past events—the cups have already spilled, they're not about to spill. There is no need to cry over spilled milk! You're also failing to see the good in the situation. You need to appreciate the two cups that are still standing.

A river flows in front of the character, and a bridge leads to a safe destination. Once you can stop focusing on the cups that have fallen, you can reintegrate back into the world. Pick up the two cups behind you and follow the bridge.

Consider your perspective. Do you focus too much on what you've lost? Or do you know how to turn around and focus on what you can do right?

Consider your perspective. Do you focus too much on what you've lost? Or do you know how to turn around and focus on what you can do right?

The Card's Root: Dealing With Sadness

This is an upsetting card to receive, and the card reader should be sensitive to the person who inquired for the reading. The card indicates that the person has gone through something major. They've lost something close to their heart, possibly through a breakup or death. They could also be sad because their child grew up and is now going to college.

Whatever we hold dear in our hearts, it will be terrible to see it fail or break. No one wants their dreams to go unfulfilled. No one wants to be separated from those dear things they hold in the highest regard.

If someone gravitates to this card, they may have something on their chest that they need to share, but they're having a hard time finding the words. This is where someone who is empathetic can help shed light and offer support.

More often than not, people get a Tarot reading because they're in a problematic situation, and they don't have anyone close to them to confide in. The next most common reasons for seeking a Tarot card reading are: 1) they're curious, or 2) they are looking for some entertainment.

The Five of Cups is not an entertaining card. It's about the grief we all go through in our lifetimes. We live in a mortal world, which means things are fallible and nothing lasts forever. There will be times that we experience deep loss. We live in an illogical world; it isn't complete and it is full of suffering.

It's important to grieve the loss of the three fallen cups, but this isn't a place where you want to stay forever. Do not fall prey to grief's lies.

Card Alignments

Upright

Regret, failure, disappointment, grief, loss, sadness, pessimistic, uncertainty, tragedy, heartache, despondent, longing, despair, rejection, misery, loneliness, depression.

Reversed

Personal setbacks, beginning to see the light, shifting gears, recovering from trauma, going through a purification process, gradual progress, self-forgiveness, moving on.

The Five of Cups is an uncomfortable card for most people. It reveals that emotionally you've been through some rough stuff. This can be hard to process and even communicate.

The Five of Cups is an uncomfortable card for most people. It reveals that emotionally you've been through some rough stuff. This can be hard to process and even communicate.

Upright Five of Cups

Let's look back at the traditional card: a man in a black cloak looks down at three cups that have been knocked to their sides. These are symbols for his disappointments and failures . . . at least what he perceives as failures.

The man looks above these things. He isn't crouching on his knees. He isn't holding these things close to examine them. And he definitely doesn't see his failures above him. He stands at a distance, draped in darkness, and he is slouching over.

The character's ego is still very strong. He sees his failures, setbacks, and the like as beneath him. He is struggling to process his pain because he puts distance between it. He wants to observe his troubles rather than outright confront them.

Try to have some empathy for this character. He might find it too painful to deal with the fallen cups, so it is better to look at them from a safe distance. It's hard to think about difficult times in our lives, and we often want to gloss over them. But we shouldn't as there are lessons to be learned. There are experiences that cause you to be more mature.

As a child, you may have cried over spilled milk or a broken toy. You may have gotten sad by anything that made you feel left out or alone. Ideally, you mature out of these things. The things you found hard as a child should be simpler than the burdens you face as an adult.

Your Relationship With Grief

Process your grief and don't just sweep it under the rug. Know that grief will grow with you and change. When you process your grief, you can then protect the two cups standing behind you. The upright cups represent your potential and future.

Take a moment to fixate on the losses, but don't stay fixated on those overturned cups for too long. Don't forget about the two cups that are still standing.

Once the cloaked figure is ready to go, he should turn around and pick up the cups and leave this scene by taking the bridge. He needs to go down that path to the security of the castle or home on the opposite side of the riverbank.

You don't need to stay in the woods and be contemplative forever. That is supposed to be a temporary holding cell to process your issues. That is the meditative forest of the Four of Cups. You need to go home where you feel welcome.

Things Won't Always Go Your Way

The Five of Cups comes into play when a situation occurred that didn't go in your favor. Things are not going the way you expected, and because of this you are sad, regretful, and disappointed. You're struggling to find ground.

This card encourages people to move forward with their life rather than wallow in self-pity. Turn self-pity into self-care. If you can make that alchemical change of pity into care you will be a better steward to yourself.

We all have to learn how to self-parent ourselves: part of that process is learning what are the right coping mechanisms to have in place.

Stop replaying your failures over and over. It's time to highlight what you did right and what you can do right in the future. Pessimism can and will bury you. Feel the feels and then set yourself free. You are worthy of liberation.

The Five of Cups also suggests you are stuck in the past and can't let go. You dwell on your bad memories or have a hard time focusing on anything but the bad. You keep blaming yourself for small grievances (and big ones too). If this sounds like you, know that there are ways out of this mess:

  • Start taking therapy sessions to address your negative self talk.
  • Journal your thoughts, especially the ones you repeat. Try to see what are the root causes of your negativity.
  • Take incremental steps to improve your wellness and surroundings.
  • Look for a better support system. You should be in a community that cares about you and is there for you.

Forgiveness Is King

Forgiveness is the solution to the Five of Cups. If someone has disappointed you, find it within your heart to forgive them. Release yourself from disappointment. Consider if your expectations were too high or if your expectations were based in materialism. Give seven times more grace than you would anger.

If you're frustrated with yourself, try to set yourself free. Acknowledge that you're human. Try to come to an understanding that you did the best you could. Sometimes people do everything right but things go wrong anyway. Focus more on how you handle yourself than the setbacks: if you can show grace with failure then you will prove that you have matured.

Hindsight is also a great teacher. You may need more space and time between you and your failures. This may help you to properly see them. Keep in mind the character on the card has already separated from their failures by a degree: they're standing away from the problems rather than clutching them. They're getting ready to turn to the two cups.

When you are ready for new opportunities, they'll be there to greet you. The cups behind you are on pause and on your terms. When you're ready to shift your focus, you'll stop looking at what is in front of you. You'll stop focusing on the frustrations and simply look at what you have in stock.

This card is all about shifting your gaze. Don't limit your perspective. There are more solutions to your problems than you realize. You can make adjustments. You're not locked into a particular path: you have more at your fingertips than you realize.

The Reversed Five of Cups is hopeful. You're beginning to see the light. You're allowing yourself to recover. You're trying to make your liberation a priority.

The Reversed Five of Cups is hopeful. You're beginning to see the light. You're allowing yourself to recover. You're trying to make your liberation a priority.

Reversed Five of Cups

The Reversed Five of Cups suggests that you have recently suffered a personal setback. You are worried you are a failure, but you need to stop telling yourself this lie. Stop defining yourself and others by mistakes.

You may not be ready to admit it to others, but you're having a hard time seeing yourself in a positive light. You need to open up about this to people. Find your trusted confidante.

People might not see how much pain you are in. They may not be on the same wavelength as you. In order to address this, open up and start talking. Communication is key to solving your issues.

Sharing your troubles with someone you trust should help alleviate some of your symptoms and could help you get on a better track. It could also help you realize that your troubles are temporary and that you can get out of your mess.

The Reversed Five of Cups indicates you are realizing the full implications of your past. You can now appreciate the lessons you've learned. You might recognize the value of painful experiences and can even look at them with gratitude.

You cannot undo the past, but you can still invest in your future. Don't be afraid to try something new because of your past misfortunes. It's okay if you stumble and need to crawl for awhile before you start walking, running, and skipping again.

It is now time to let go of what no longer serves you emotionally. Open yourself to new opportunities. Discover how to be open and take risks again. You are allowed to recover.

The final takeaway: don't dismiss hope. Try to find hope. Abandoning hope is the first step into hell.

Whether you believe in a physical hell or not, you can absolutely put yourself into a mental hell. You don't need to needlessly suffer. Set yourself free, like a bird flying in the sky. The chains around your neck are looser than you think. Seek therapy and support from your community, especially if you feel like you've trapped yourself into a corner.

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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