(The above image is a copy of The Five of Cups card in a standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck. The 5 symbols pointed out above are explained below.)
The Five of Cups is a card of testing. In the card, three cups have fallen while two cups remain standing. The card asks us if we should be more upset about the fallen cups or more grateful for the standing cups. The Five of Cups is thus a pectoral representation of the age old question: is a cup of water half full or half empty.
For more information about The Five of Cups card, check out A. E. Waite’s description here.
Point 1 – FIGURE
Unlike the lone figure in the Four of Cups, who was in repose, the lone figure in the Five of Cups is in grief. He has his head bent downward and wears a black coat of mourning. The reason behind his melancholy is unclear. A popular interpretation is that the figure is sad at the barrier of the river, unaware of the bridge to the right of the card.
Point 2 – FALLEN CUPS
At the feet of the figure are three fallen cups. These cups feed into the melancholy nature of the images. They represent the figure’s past failures. Because there are more fallen cups than standing cups, the figure might be harping on the past without giving much thought to the present.
Point 3 – STANDING CUPS
In juxtaposition with the fallen cups, the two standing cups represent the present opportunities that the figure has. Much like the floating cup in the previous card, these two cups are present yet unseen; in order to move forward, the figure needs to break from the past and acknowledge the gifts around him.
Point 4 – RIVER
In front of the lone figure there roars a flowing river. Much like the Three of Wands, water in this instance acts as a separation. Constantly changing, the river gives the figure a sense of anxiety over his authority. The roadblock this river creates feeds into the themes of the three fallen cups.
Point 5 – BRIDGE
In juxtaposition with the river, the bridge in the far right of the card represents the figure’s hidden ability to overcome the roadblock. In this way, the bridge parallels the standing cups. The solutions to all of the figure’s problems exist near him; all he needs to do is to look for them.
An Upright Five of Cups often illustrates disappointment and regret. Maybe things didn’t go the way you wanted them to. Maybe you are hung up on something in the past. Whatever the case maybe, in order to move on you have to recognize the things you have in the present. A life stuck in the past is a stagnant life. Be like the river and flow forward regardless of the obstacles you face.
While an Upright Five of Cups suggests a past wrong done to you, a Reverse Five of Cups suggests a past wrong done from you. We all make mistakes. That’s part of being human. While it’s healthy to reflect on your past failures so that you don’t do them again, it is unhealthy to keep harping on them. You have to forgive yourself if you want to progress on your road to enlightenment.
For more Tarot Card Meanings, check out our blog here.
About the author: John Taylor is a content writer and freelancer through the company Upwork.com. You may view his freelancing profile here. He has a B. A. in English, with a specialty in technical writing, from Texas A&M University and a M. A. in English from the University of Glasgow. You may view his previous articles about Tarot here and his LinkedIn profile here.