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The Four 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 Four of Cups is about seeking contemplation. You need to be alone with your thoughts. Separating yourself from all the noise will give you clarity on your issues.

The Four of Cups is about seeking contemplation. You need to be alone with your thoughts. Separating yourself from all the noise will give you clarity on your issues.

The Four of Cups in Tarot

When this card appears in a reading, it means you need to take a break in order to learn how to manage your emotions better. It also likely means that you need to stop putting yourself into social situations for awhile.

The Suit of Cups represents the element of water. Water concerns itself with relationships, intuition, emotions, and matters of the heart. This element is meant to be supportive, but it can at times be ferocious.

The element of water is represented by Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces in Western astrology. Water is the last element of the zodiac, following fire, earth, and then air. Essentially, water ends the cycle and helps begin a new cycle.

As for Tarot, the Four of Cups appears following the more social Two of Cups and Three of Cups. The Four of Cups in both the upright and reversed positions represents meditation, reevaluation, and withdrawal.

The Reversed position puts more agency on the Four of Cups. It urgently requests that you step to the side and be with your thoughts and emotions. Ignoring this call to step aside will result in more injury or tension.

Card Alignments


Meditation, contemplation, apathy, reevaluation, alone time, relaxation, serenity, quietness, peace, distant, finding calm, resisting interactions, daydreams, studying.


Retreat, withdrawal, isolation, listening to your gut, hiding from others, missing appointments and events, canceling engagements, avoiding others, skeptical of others.

The Four of Cups encourages you to be comfortable with yourself. Don't always chase after new opportunities. Evaluate your goals and the future you want.

The Four of Cups encourages you to be comfortable with yourself. Don't always chase after new opportunities. Evaluate your goals and the future you want.

Card Description

The card shows a young man sitting under a tree with his arms crossed over his chest. He appears to be deep in contemplation and is separated from the noisiness of the world. The young man has entered a state of calm while in nature.

The young man is so engrossed in his daydreams that he doesn't notice an outstretched arm offering him a cup. Three cups stand at his feet—he doesn't notice these either. The man isn't opening himself up to new opportunities. Instead he is taking a break from the world, taking time to reflect before interacting with the world.

This kind of deep contemplation could give him more clarity on his life. He is setting himself up to make better decisions by refusing to rush from one project to the next.

Upright Four of Cups

When this card appears, new opportunities and invitations are flowing to you, but you are pushing them to the side. You are not in a position to say "yes," and these might not be the most advantageous options for you. You want a better fit. You also want to be in a better position to handle new opportunities.

You may feel like your plate is already full, so there isn't space to accept something new. Instead of rushing to make judgments, you're relying on your discernment. You want to make the best possible decision for yourself.

It takes courage to say "no" to new projects. You have to trust that just because you say "no" now that it won't prevent other new projects down the line. It is best to decline projects that you feel don't match up with your goals and the future you desire.

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Read More From Exemplore

The Four of Cups is about turning your energy internally. You're trying to get in touch with yourself and your interests. This is the only way you can realign yourself to a new phase of life.

Your career or relationships are not atrophying just because you have to say "no" or because you're facing more rejection than usual. No matter what path you take there will be downward trends and upward trends. Be comfortable accepting rejection and you'll find your way to an upward trend again. Don't let your ego throw a temper tantrum because it isn't getting all the acceptance it wants.

Contemplation should be used at this time to:

  • Ground yourself with realistic expectations.
  • Reconsider your goals and what you really want.
  • Update your mission statement.
  • Deal with any mental friction you might be experiencing.
  • Daydream and get back in touch with your imagination.

This card translates to: "Not now, but maybe later." You're needing to step back, not take charge of a situation.

The man on the card doesn't accept the offers before him, but he also doesn't outright reject them. He is waiting for a sign. He is weighing his pros and cons. He is checking in with his emotions and spirit.

Bored, Dissatisfied, and Apathetic

The Four of Cups often appears when you're bored. You're experiencing dissatisfaction. You can't be bothered about most things. You're burnt out.

You don't want life to feel dull. Sometimes we lose our motivation. It's okay to occasionally find things around you pointless, but you should reflect and re-energize so you don't stay in an apathetic state.

Sometimes when we feel bored it's because we're disconnected from our emotional self and inner truth. We've lost touch with our values. When you lose touch with your values it can be hard to find the purpose in things. You won't want to contribute your thoughts and feelings if you can't find a point in things.

Now is a great time to distance yourself from distractions. Stop relying on social media; it's tricking you. People don't show their true selves online. You don't need the news 24-7. You don't need to hear about other people's stories all the time. You're distracting yourself with other people's stories. You're not paying attention to your own internal voice. You're not sure what your inner voice actually sounds like.

It may be scary to turn off the distractions and finally listen to your mind. You might lash out and have issues with negative self-talk. You should address this and try to reroute your thoughts, so you can be more positive.

Therapists work directly with this issue, so don't be afraid to setup an appointment. A therapist is a mental health trainer: they'll help you get into better shape if you follow their wisdom.

Protecting Yourself

Look back at the card. The man crosses his arms over his chest to protect himself. He is closing himself off from the external world because he has had enough of it. He wants to avoid getting hurt.

It's okay to take a break. Give yourself time recuperate. Give yourself permission to heal. Eventually, you'll want to leave your contemplative hideout, but only when you feel strong enough to do so.

There will be good opportunities waiting for you on the other side. You can always put things on pause. The right opportunity will come to you at the right time and when you feel prepared.

You get to decide when you will be available to new possibilities. No one gets to decide this for you.

Dealing With Loss

It's also a good idea to go into a state of contemplation after a breakup or a job loss. You may need to work on cutting off loose ends. Process the breakup before you start dating again, otherwise you'll try to process the breakup while you're in a new relationship.

Process your job loss before taking on a new job. This is harder to do because you can't pause your bills. You need to process your job loss and ask yourself if there was anything you could have done differently. Make sure while you're in your new job that you give yourself time to contemplate.

The Four of Cups is about finding rest. You need to give yourself time to heal. Constantly being on the go leads to confusion.

The Four of Cups is about finding rest. You need to give yourself time to heal. Constantly being on the go leads to confusion.

Reversed Four of Cups

A reversed Four of Cups suggests that you are in serious need of introspection and withdrawal. If you don't retreat to your inner world, it will takeover your life. You'll struggle with concentration: you might feel like you have a bad case of brain fog.

Others may want to spend time with you, but you're not up for socializing. You would prefer to stay home. Read a book. Take a hot bath. Go to bed by 9:00pm.

You don't want to shut off your friends entirely. If you appear disinterested in them for too long, they'll likely move on from you. Let them know you want to have a night for yourself, but you would be interested in doing something in the future. Offer an idea for a potential future hangout if you have a good idea.

Let them know you'll reach out to them once you're ready to emerge from your cocoon. Be honest with them. Don't just say no. Tell them you're burnt out, it's been a long week, you're having trouble concentrating, or you haven't had a good night's sleep in ages. Actually giving details will be more meaningful to your friends. It also helps establish trust. If you just say no, then they're left to draw up their own conclusions.

Here are some important notes when communicating with friends that you need alone time:

  • Avoid abruptly canceling plans. Plan your alone time, rather than doing it sporadically. Canceling plans frequently will cause friends to depend on you less.
  • Work on your issues. If you're giving the same excuse over and over it means you're not making progress on your issues.
  • Be conscientious about your charisma. Think before you speak or text.
  • Never cancel on people so you can instead go do something that seems more fun to you. Your friends' feelings will get hurt if you cancel on them to hang out with someone else.

If you're feeling that you need to stay home and withdraw then don't force yourself to go out. You may end up lashing out on people. You may get annoyed by everything, and you may annoy others.

When you're ready, start to re-integrate with the world around you. You can't stay a hermit forever. It's just a temporary holding cell. Appreciate your time off and make the most of it.

Introversion and Extroversion

Those with a higher preference for introversion should seek more alone time. Too much social engagement becomes grating to introverts who want to get back to their ideas and inner world. Introverts have rich inner lives, and they're protective of it. They get energized by their alone time whereas extroverts thrive off social connection.

We don't all have the same social preferences. Some people need more time by themselves. Others need more time around others; they get bent out of shape when alone for long stretches.

The world at large is more catered toward socialization and extroversion. It can be hard for introverts to find their much wanted quiet space. They can grow tired of workplace gossip and parties. Introverts want to keep growing their skills. They have a high appreciation for their individuality.

Extroverts learn around others. They want to be in the thick of the action. They can be talkative, demonstrative, and have a propensity for attention. Extroverts do well to learn things in class settings. They develop skills in the company of others; introverts prefer to develop their skills in a toned down environment.

Use your time in introspection to check in with how you feel. The Four of Cups is about emotions, so you should really get in touch with what makes you feel sad, angry, happy, excited, worried, and the like. The Four of Cups indicates you might not really know how you feel, so you should take a timeout.

Stick to Deadlines

Before you enter a quiet period in your life, make sure you are aware of any deadlines. You don't want to miss any important dates due to checking out on the external world. If you have to get a project done, you should still uphold that commitment.

The Reversed Four of Cups indicates you have sour feelings toward the world. You feel disillusioned, disappointed, or apprehensive. You feel like you've been up against too many challenges.

Your problems won't just go away because you took a timeout. You will eventually need to bring your attention to those issues. You're taking a break to get a better handle on your mind and to seek clarity. You're doing this so you can make an informed decision, not an impulsive one.

If you try to avoid your problems entirely, they will manifest in other ways. You have to get to the root of the problem, not just pluck around it.

Guarding Yourself

The Four of Cups means you are reluctant to open up to people. You may avoid dating because you got your heart hurt, and you're not ready to try again.

You want to be balanced in how you address your internal alone time vs. your external social world. If you do too much of one or the other, your life will experience complications. Live a balanced life, not an indulgent one.

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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