Five (V) of Cups –
Loss, Grief, Anger
Impermanence, Unhappy Change, Loss, Grief, Trauma, Bereft, Despair, Mourning, Sadness, Deep Sorrow, Heart Broken, Inconsolable, Broken Spirit, Unstable, Painful Time, Remorse, Regret, Shame, Guilt, Self-Blame, Emotional Baggage, Wallowing, Withdrawn, Focusing on Past, Focusing on Loss, Defeat, Deflated, Separation, Divorce, Goodbyes, Abandonment, Losing Out, Loneliness, Isolation, Alienation, Exile, Readjustment, All not Lost, Support, Deep Anger, Deep Disappointment, Strong Emotions, What Ifs, If Onlys, Crying Over Spilt Milk, Inheritance, Legacy,
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Card Imagery Description
The passive and inactive energy of the Four has passed and with it any stability the man may have found sitting under the tree. Something has happened, something has changed but who is responsible for all this? In Card Four we left the Figure disgruntled, disgusted and fed up under a tree. Something was wrong then but at that stage it was only brewing. In Card Four he seemed obsessed with Three Cups that stood in front of him. He had either no interest or was unaware of the Fourth Cup that was offered to him. What was going through his mind at the time? What had he heard? What had he discovered? What had he done? What was so special or so annoying about those Three Cups? Why was the Fourth Cup ignored? Something had changed the jolly and happy atmosphere of the Two and Three of Cups. Back then he had appeared to have found what he was looking for and everyone seemed so happy for him. However, in The Four all that seemed to change for he appeared to be very disillusioned or disappointed with his lot. If we were wondering whether he would ever get up from under the tree or not, we now know that he did because certain changes have come to pass. The question is, did he get up himself and take action or was he forced up by the actions of others?
In The Five of Cups we see a dark cloaked Figure with bowed head and shoulders hunched. He stands with his back to us, his body totally collapsed in on him. His heavy black cloak immerses him in grief, sadness and despair. Note the westerly direction the Figure is facing for this symbolises that he is focussed on the past. On the ground in front of him and also facing West are three overturned Cups with their contents spilled. The red pools beneath two of the Cups may simply be wine or symbolically represent blood. The third pool of green, representing Earth, symbolises the loss of stability or possibly something of a tangible or physical nature. Green is also is the primary colour of the Heart Chakra which keeps us balanced and at one with the world. In the Ace of Cups we first got a glimpse of the potential of the Cup with its overflowing contents of love, peace, joy and happiness but now, the Cup (Chakra) has been broken or damaged (the overturned Cup) its contents left to seep away into the ground. The Heart is now empty and grows cold. Loss and sadness may feel unbearable.
One thing is for sure and that is the Figure in this Five has certainly lost his emotional stability. As he pulls his black cloak tightly around him he becomes one with his sadness, grief and suffering. Behind him and facing East stand Two Cups suggesting that all is not lost. Although he has experienced loss and terrible change in his life, something of value still remains. These Cups bridge the gap between the past and the future but he is either unaware of their presence or is not interested in what they have to offer. He is bereft and just wants his Three Cups back. These Two Standing Cups may be opportunities or friends and family offering support and help. These Cups may also offer a chance to heal but they are cold comfort to him right now and of no consolation. At this moment in time, the Figure, is clothed in the black darkness of his situation, his depression and negativity. He is not interested in being drawn out or coaxed away from his sorrow and indeed may get angry with those who try to, even if their heart is in the right place. How could they understand pain like his as he closes his world in around him, aware of precious little else as his grief grows enormously around him. He just wants to be left alone to focus on his loss.
The Two remaining Cups will stay and stand by him regardless of whether he wants them or not and be ready to catch him should he stumble or fall. Eager to take him forward into the future they will patiently sit it out with him in his dysfunctional present until he is ready. These Two Cups are wise and know that no matter how bad he feels now, that this time too will pass and the pain will become easier to bear. Indeed it may go away altogether. The Figure in the Five of Cups has some way to go yet before he will be open to such understanding or acceptance.
When he is ready, the Bridge in the background will be his safe passage back to life and stability as it bridges the gap between the past and the future. At present, the Bridge appears to be far away in the background indicating how far away this Figure is from emotional and physical stability. Like the Two Cups that stand firm behind him, he is not yet aware of the existence of the Bridge but when he is ready, will lift his head and make his way slowly to it. The River that flows beside him and under the Bridge symbolises the current stream of events and his emotions. The current appears to be strong and this is reflected in the overwhelming strength of emotion he is feeling at present. However, Water in itself is cleansing by nature so if he allows his painful emotions to flow and outwardly express them rather than repress them he will feel much lighter within. He must let his tears and words flow forth. Even if his tears are of anger, regret or shame they must be released if he is ever to stand a chance of finding stable ground once more. This may involve letting the past go, forgiving someone, asking forgiveness of another or indeed forgiving himself. By the time he is ready to take the journey back to normal life again, it may all be water under the Bridge.
The Castle in the far background sits on a hill surrounded by trees. The Castle or fortress is strong and represents security and protection for this distraught Figure. Far away from its comforting and stabilising thick walls, the Figure appears exposed and vulnerable. He may have run from this Castle and all it holds, alienating himself from everything and everyone he once knew and cared about. He may now regret it and at present cannot think of a way to put it right. He may also feel very relieved to have finally left the Castle even though he feels overwhelmed by what he has done. The Castle may have felt more like a prison to him than a place of comfort and sanctuary. On the other hand, he may have been driven out, thrown out, banished or exiled from the Castle because of something he has said or done. One way or another, he may feel that he has burned his bridges behind him. This may be exactly what he wanted and intended, escape, but then again he may be full of regret and would give anything to just turn the clock back.
Even if he did intend to burn his bridges and leave all behind, it does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering the emotional fall-out or is upset about all the pain and suffering he has caused to others. Just because he was the instigator of it does not mean that he not affected by it. At the end of the day, be it for better or worse, one way or another, his life has changed. He has suffered a death of some kind. All deaths, whether consciously/subconsciously welcome or not will bring a period of mourning. This may be hard for some to understand and as human nature goes we will readily alienate, shun or attempt to destroy those who have had the audacity to be the catalyst for change in our lives, especially if the change has brought upheaval and upset to us.
Take for example, a Querant who came to me some years back. After 30 years of an empty, cold, loveless marriage he left his wife once all the children had been reared, finished college and the mortgage paid off. He had waited and sacrificed all those years because he did not want to upset his children. It took a lot of courage to break the news to his wife of three decades, his grown children and also his family who were used to a certain family set-up for a long time. The Querant had not met anyone else, there was no other woman involved, he was just lonely, miserable and very unhappy. He could not face more of the same as he grew old so he decided to do something about it. He admitted that he did not love his wife, that he probably never did and that he had only stayed out of duty.
Obviously the news caused an explosive reaction from not only his wife and grown children but also his family. No one wanted anything to change. His married friends backed off him for fear that they may be tainted by such lunacy or have to face up to their own marital shortcomings. The general view was that “you make your bed and you lie in it” . He did ask them about where his own happiness came into things but no one really cared about that and some told him he was delusional about happiness and accused him of being selfish and having a mid-life crisis. They told him to go away with his wife on a long holiday, re-decorate the house and then just get on with it. That of course suited everyone else but not my Querant who wanted more from life than “just getting on with it” . He felt that he and his happiness were important too. He realised that he had spent his whole life catering for the happiness of everyone else, putting his own happiness last on the list each time. Regardless of all the threats made against him, his children vowing never to have anything to do with him again and his family telling him that he would no longer be welcome, he decided to leave anyway under a hail of abuse, wrath and condemnation.
I first came to know my Querant at this stage in 1999 when a friend of his (one of three that stood by him) booked him in for a healing and a Tarot Consultation. This particular Querant came to me weekly for about 6 weeks. He was broken and terribly haggard looking when I first met him. His body was stooped over and he complained of a nervous stomach. Now many of you might think that this was a sign of his regret and shame for ending his marriage but that was not the case. When asked, he was very confident that he had done the right thing and wondered now why he had not done it a long time ago. His problem was not that he had left his marriage but that he was emotionally distressed because of the pain and upset he had caused everyone, including the neighbours and his work colleagues who had got caught up in the whole circus at the very end. He had never wanted to hurt anyone but there was no other way out for him. He had thought of all the different ways he could have made it easier on everyone but it was not possible. He had chosen to be happy and to live, whereas if he had gone with the general consensus of opinion, they would have him just ‘put up and shut up’, business as normal as such so that their own little worlds and ideas of happiness would not be disturbed.
On top of regret for the upset he had caused everyone when he chose life and happiness instead of their option, he was also angry that his own happiness had meant so little to them that they were prepared to let him sacrifice it for their own good. It took him those six weeks to emotionally , psychologically and physically stabilise and when he did, he was standing taller and had lost the look of self-disgust and shame from his face. On one of his last visits he told me that he now realised he had been holding himself responsible for everyone’s happiness for years and that was not possible anymore. His children were grown adults with children of their own and he had been a good father, better than most. They had to be responsible for their own happiness now and not look for it externally or constantly through him. They had their own lives to live and so did he. The same applied to his family, they had to make their own happiness too.
His wife, he said, would have to discover that for herself as living with a man who was not happy to be with her would only bring her down. No one can make you love someone you don’t want to love or no longer love regardless of whether there is a marriage contract and wedding bands. My Querant had reached the stage where he now saw his Bridge beckoning to him and was eager to make his way across it and begin his new life. He had gone through the painful death of his old life, mourned all the loss and change that it wreaked and now stabilised, was ready to leave the past behind and turn to the potential of all the future had to offer. He no longer felt selfish for he realised that the truth was he had been selfless for too long. He crossed his Bridge and built his own castle where hopefully he is living happily ever after today. The story of the Five of Cups was very appropriate in this situation.
As we look at the Three Cups strewn on the ground we must also look at the possibility that the Figure in a fit of rage and anger hurled and smashed them to the ground. Emotions may have been running high at the time, angry words spoken, drink may have been consumed but now in the light of day, the damage is clearly evident and there is no getting away from it. He may have uncovered lies, deceit or infidelity and has reacted impulsively. However, he may have jumped to conclusions and made a drama out of nothing. The Figure may stay there forever, willing the Three Cups to stand upright again but it is too late. Their contents will vanish, drip by drip until they are no more. He may be experiencing the harsh consequences of his actions and he can now repent at leisure with all his what ifs and if onlys. What goes around has come around and now he must reflect on his responsibility for this sorry mess.
The Five of Cups often appears in Readings when the Querant has gone through a very traumatic time or after a bereavement. We traditionally wear black to funerals and so this poor Figure in the card may be mourning the loss of a loved one and all that was associated with them. The Figure and the Symbolism in The Five of Cups demonstrates the different stages of grieving; Shock, disbelief, Sorrow, Anger, Withdrawal, Shutting Down, Slow acceptance, Recovery and a New Normal. The Two Remaining Upright Cups have long-standing associations with inheritances and legacies so it can suggest being left something in a will.
Irrevocable loss is often suggested by this Five and the sense that nothing will ever be the same again. The Five of Cups teaches us the lesson of Impermanence. Life never stays as it is. Good times come and go and so do people. The Cups experience loss emotionally and find it hard to pull themselves out of it. The Heart is both a gift and a curse at times. When we are emotionally happy, our heart soars and it is the most wonderful thing in the world but when we are terribly hurt or distressed our heart sears with pain and we feel like it is being ripped from our chest. We must all learn to accept loss as part of life yet we flail and rail against it. We must trust that once we are prepared to let go, the Universe will replace our loss with something of worth and real value. That is easier said than done. Like the Two remaining Cups, there is always something worth living for, all something left to fight for. We must learn from our loss and grow. Pain is inevitable but long-term suffering is optional. There is a time for mourning and there is a time for moving on.
Five (V) of Cups
There is no getting away from it but The Five of Cups brings sorrow, loss, grief and suffering. Its very presence indicates that have suffered a crushing blow on an emotional level. Its position in the Reading dictates whether it is current or in the past. However, if in the past and either recent or distant its ripples will still have the ability to cause emotional tremors.
Intense dark emotions govern you at present. Life has certainly turned upside down for you and your carpet has literally been ripped from under your feet. You may feel inconsolable, and caught up in a tidal wave of emotion may very well see no hope for the future. Indeed, the pain experienced now, can be very raw indeed. You have lost something of great emotional value to you, had it taken away or have had to let it go. Defeated and deflated you feel may dreadfully disillusioned about life and all that you have worked towards.
Your deep sadness or loss may cause you to turn inwards in an attempt to make sense of what has happened. You may have cut yourself off from life and all you know and are familiar with. Friends and family may not be able to reach the lonely place you exist in. This is a natural process of grief and indeed trying to hurry or deny this time can result in internalising the pain which can cause chronic emotional, mental and physical problems for you in the future. You may not understand this in your present state of mind and will certainly not appreciate being told that this dreadful time will pass and with it, the heavy pain and sadness, for all is not lost when the Five of Cups appears in your reading.
You may think that your life is over and that it will never get any better but you have more going for you than you realise. When the mists of grief and sadness lift, you will realise this and will become aware of the blessings you do have. These blessings, represented by the Two Standing Cups may be friends, family, a new relationship, opportunities or inner potential not yet realised. Then, like the Figure in the card your blessings will lead you back across the bridge to stability. You will then be able to move forward with your new life and find a new normal. The Five of Cups often brings irrevocable change and therefore it may not be possible to go back to where you were at that place in time before the Three Cups were knocked over. That is in the past now and you have been stuck there with it too long allowing your life and feelings to become narrowed and very limiting. Your focus must now be on the future and the belief that you still have one worth living for.
The Five of Cups also brings remorse, guilt and self-blame. What is it that you have done that you now terribly regret? If only you could turn back the clock, if only you hadn’t said what you said, done what you did then you could put it all back the way it was. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. Strong emotions obviously influenced your actions and in the cold light of day you can take stock of the damage you have caused. People may shun you, friends turn away from you and family disown you. You may feel like a low-lifer and want to throw yourself in the river but things are not as bad as you think they are. Remember those Two Cups. The worst thing you can do right now is to wallow in your misery and slink away. Face up to the upset you have caused and although you will not be able to totally right the wrong you might be able to put this sorry mess behind you. Ask for forgiveness of those you have hurt and show them you mean it. In time this whole sorry incident may become water under the bridge.
Then again, you may be making a drama out of nothing or prolonging a drama just to get attention. Just be aware that although friends stand by you at the moment and want to hold your hand, they will tire of this eventually and back off. Do you really want to become the archetypal victim or martyr to those around you? Everyone has their own problems and you are not the only one suffering. There is also no point in crying over spilt milk or locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Acknowledge any mistakes or poor decisions you have made instead of wishing for what might have been.
If you have recently lost someone through bereavement, then the remaining standing Cups can stand for an inheritance or legacy, as something of value has been left behind. You may be experiencing regret on top of your grief if you have not parted on good terms, felt that you had neglected your relationship with them or took them for granted. Arguments and angry words may have been spoken and now the opportunity to apologise will never come to be for it is too late. You may also have been physically responsible for their death through carelessness or anger. There may be feelings of shame or self-blame and a feeling that it is all your fault. You cannot turn back the clock so you will have to find a way to deal with it otherwise it will eat you up inside. This card brings the depths of despair in its wake.
In a relationship spread the Five of Cups can represent the end of a relationship. The happy couple of the Two of Cups and the Celebrations of the Three of Cups for their engagement or marriage may have turned terribly sour. The One you loved may have changed or then again you may never have really known them or preferred to view them through rose-tinted glasses. Rose tinted glasses only have a certain shelf-life before they become crystal clear and show up all sorts of nasty things not viewed before. There may have been deceit, infidelity or just plain old falling out of love with you. You may feel terribly betrayed and disillusioned with the one you have put all your trust in.
Then again, it may be you who has broken the link and now wants out. Maybe you have met someone else and feel the dreadful weight of responsibility for bringing such sadness and upset to your partner or spouse. Separation or divorce may be on the cards and possibly children involved in the sorry mess. The Five of Cups can also suggest that you have a habit of focusing on the past and what you have lost instead of looking to what you have. Your heart may still be connected to a past relationship rather than the one you are currently in. The Two Standing Cups suggest that while you are thinking about your old flame and what might have been, you are ignoring the wonderful opportunities and blessings of your current one. He or she wants to make a new life with you on the far side of the bridge, but to do that it involves you wanting to cross it with them.
The Five of Cups represents bereavement so there may be the loss of a partner, spouse or loved one. It may be time to say goodbye to something or someone you once held dear. If you have been separated or bereaved, there may be the possibility of other relationships around you. However, due to the pain and loss you are unaware of them at present. In time you will raise your head and cast off the black cloak. The Two remaining Cups usually represent something of value left behind so whoever it is will wait for you and respect your time of grief.
If you are finding it hard to come to terms with a death, the this Five can suggest bereavement counselling may be beneficial for you at this time. You may find it impossible to talk to those who have not experienced a loss like yours so joining a bereavement group will bring you into contact with other people in your situation. You may feel less alone and isolated by spending time with like-minded people. However, while it is consoling and comforting to know that you are not the only one who has lost someone dear, you should not become dependent on this group and become too immersed in grief and sorrow as this will only feed your own. You must cross that bridge back to mainstream life at some stage.
Career related, job loss or financial ruin leaves you staggering and unable to cope. If in business, it may have collapsed. You may have suffered a crushing defeat to a competitor and feel that there is no hope and no point in continuing on. business Partners or staff may have betrayed you or jumped ship as soon as the going got tough. You are bound to feel very despondent and depressed if you have put your heart and soul into this project but don’t let it destroy you. All hope is not lost as something can still be salvaged out of this apparent disaster. You still have something you can build from. You also have people around you who want to help so try to let them in. Recovery might be slow, but in time, you may look back on this distressing situation as a blessing in disguise.
The Five of Cups can also suggest bereavement counselling as a career.
Moving On, Re-Joining Life, Emotional Reawakening, Emotional Strength, Accepting/Seeking Support, Forgiveness, Letting Bygones be Bygones, Water Under the Bridge, Focusing on Future, Being Open to Change, Re-union, Inheritance Challenged or Worthless, Black Sheep, Prolonged Grief, Internalising Grief, Stuck in Past/Rut, Denial, Refusing to Move On, Unable to Forgive, Victim Mentality, Deep Depression,
When the Five of Cups Reverses, it is an indication that enough time has been spent in grieving or mourning your loss. Like the Figure in the Reversed Five of Cups, you suddenly become aware of the Two Standing Cups which stir you into emotional engagement once more. Holding a Cup in each hand to regain stability you slowly make your way to the bridge interested to see what might be on the other side of it. It is now time to move on and you are ready to rejoin life.
The Five of Cups Reversed, is a positive indication that you have dealt with your pain and have come to some kind of acceptance or resignation. After much time spent staring at the fallen Cups and wishing them upright once more you finally realise that that ship has sailed and no amount of wishful thinking on your part will change it. It is time to clean up the spilt milk, wine or blood and discard of the broken Cups. They are broken beyond mend and you can look forward to replacing them with new ones. Give much consideration when choosing your new Cups for you will want them to be made of stronger stuff than the last ones.
The Five of Cups Reversed also represents that time when it would be wise to allow friends and family to support you. During your dark days of depression and gloom they have been there for you but felt powerless to help. We all need someone to lean on from time to time and even though this has happened to you it does not mean that those around you have not been effected by it too. Everyone may be hurting and all may need healing. Try not to isolate yourself from those who love you. If you have been exiled from the family and shunned by friends due to your words or deeds, then a thaw may have set in. Those effected may be ready to forgive or at least meet you halfway. This may involve everyone having to put the past behind them and let bygones be bygones.
When the Five of Cups Reverses, it is time to let go the past and turn towards the future. This may involve you also having to forgive and forget. On the other hand you may be unable to or refuse to move on from your pain and sorrow, especially if you deny your loss. With this Reversed Five comes the tendency to feel the victim or martyr as a result of your experience or experiences in life. Negativity attracts more negativity so if you see yourself as the Mother of Sorrows, then, so shall you be, and life will mimic your beliefs. Your big black cloak becomes your second skin and a dark cloud hovers above you constantly. You are a misery to be around and leach all joy from the atmosphere. However you may be putting on a brave front to all but secretly dying inside. Wanting to protect others, especially children, from witnessing your grief or sadness, you may internalise it while maintaining a business as normal attitude. Deep depression may be manifesting.
The Reversal of the Five of Cups can bring concerns regarding inheritances. There may be little left to inherit or there may be others who lay claim to it. This card also deals with ancestral matters. After the death of a loved one some interesting stories may come to light. You may discover that you have a brother or sister you never met or that the person you always thought of as your mother or father is actually your aunt or uncle or even your older sister or brother. If you are exploring your family history you may discover some infamous ancestors. The Television Programme, ‘Who do You Think You are?’, always uncovers some surprises or scandal for the shocked participant. You may feel an outsider in your family and feel you do not fit in. If you were separated from your parents or separated from your child at birth this card reversed may indicate the search for each other or eventual reunion. The surrounding cards would have to support this theory or interpretation along with validation from the Querant otherwise it is a dangerous area to speculate about.
In relationships the time for mourning and beating yourself up is over. Your heart has healed sufficiently for you to take a chance on life or love once more. You are slowly becoming consciously aware of the Two Cups Standing behind you and are curious to find out more. Someone special may have been waiting in the background for you all this time. You may be socialising once more and accepting invitations, eager to have fun and enjoy yourself. The Black Cloak has gone and you see colour around you once more. Life beckons and you have a renewed interest in your appearance, hairstyle and clothes.
The Black Cloak of your past experiences has weighed you down for long enough and blocked your potential for happiness. The Five of Cups Reversed can indicate an emotional release or maturing as you forgive and forget the past allowing a deeper relationship to develop with an existing or new partner.
However, if you have been separated or divorced, you may not be able to move on, determined to keep the pain of abandonment fresh and raw. This can result in you becoming emotionally dysfunctional and unavailable. Behaving like the archetypal victim or martyr, you think you are the only person that this has ever happened to. Friends slowly back off, tired of hearing the same old sob stories about what he or she did or said. You are stuck in the past and in a rut. Your bridge is very far away indeed because you deliberately move away from it rather than towards it. Any attempts by others to lead you to it are blocked by your refusal of acceptance. You are alone in the world only if you choose to be. Time to get a life again and leave the past behind. Time to forgive and let go. It’s all water under the bridge at this stage and no one but you gives a damn anymore so stop wasting your time and energy on it. Stop dwelling on past failures and count your many blessings for you may have gained more than you lost.
In business, the initial staggering blow has worn off and you set about seeing what can be salvaged out of the situation. Once you have allowed your emotions to settle, you may discover that things are not as bad as you first thought. You discover that all is not lost and your business can still be viable. On the other hand, you decide to cut your losses and move on. Taking only what you can carry, the Two Cups, you head off to the bridge at a sprint, eager to start over with fresh ideas and plans. After shedding the weight of worries from your shoulders you feel lighter and more positive about the future.
*When we next visit the Cups in Card (VI) Six it will be interesting to see how well they have managed to move on and the leave the past behind. If and when they cross the bridge, where will they go and what will they do?
The 78 Cards – Detailed Study Version (Card Description, Keywords, Upright & Reversed Meanings)
The 78 Cards – Shortened Version (Keywords, Upright & Reversed Meanings)