The Meaning of the Five of Cups

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The Meaning of the Five of Cups

At a Glance

The Five of Cups represents loss and the grief one feels for it. It can be a sign of coming changes and potential growth that accompany loss.

If You Drew This Card…

Tarot cards can contain a multitude of meanings that can apply to your life in varying degrees. The truest interpretation of the following messages can be the one that resonates the most and offers the best guidance for the future.

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  • The man shown on this card is staring at overturned cups before him, while ignoring the cups that are still upright. Are you so consumed with your loss that you are overlooking the positives in your life?
  • Are you having trouble letting go of a disappointment? This card tells you that it is important to acknowledge your pain but also to start moving on from it.
  • Regret for a mistake can be helpful, allowing you to learn from experience. Is your regret a source of discouragement that is holding you back from moving forward?


  • When you accept the irrevocability of loss, you gain the strength to keep going. Are you looking for the strength to begin to heal?
  • Our emotions can make it hard to understand that, sometimes, saying goodbye is for the best. Will you gain the clarity you need to work through your grief?
  • Whether you are looking for forgiveness in yourself or in others, finding it is important. Are you in search of resolution for a difficult situation?

Interpreting the Symbols

  • The Figure : This figure, wearing a dark cloak, stands with its head bowed, looking down at three cups on the ground. Its attitude and dress depict extreme grief, emptiness, transition, and the unknown.
  • The Overturned Cups : The cups represent prosperity, both spiritual and material. They are overturned and their contents are spilled out, symbolizing loss.
  • The Upright Cups : These two cups behind the figure’s back are still full, but he is not looking at them. Opportunity is out there, but the pain of loss makes us oblivious to its presence.
  • The Bridge : The bridge depicted in the background is a sign of stability, but it is far away. You have what you need to survive and delve into the next phase of your life.
  • Black : Emptiness, the unknown, and the scary beginning phase of a new experience or project.
  • River : Continuously flowing, the full spectrum of emotions are experienced and can be contained within you. Impermanence of any one emotion.
  • Castle : A situation in your past that you have or are overcoming. A future experience that will come to fulfillment within you.

Charmaine’s Take

The Five of Cups is all about loss. It is not, however, merely a discouraging warning. The symbolism of this card calls to mind the positive potential inherent in any loss, no matter how devastating.

The overturned cups on the ground show us the good things they hold pouring out onto the ground. This can warn of impending loss, whether financial or emotional. You may be about to lose something important to you or say goodbye to someone in your life. At this time, you need to acknowledge your pain. The figure on this card is bowed in grief and dressed in black. His head is turned downward, focusing on the empty cups in front of him. He is completely absorbed in his pain.

However, the card also presents us with several positive symbols. Those are the two standing cups behind the figure, as well as the bridge and the castle in the distance. They tell us that, even though the pain of loss may be overwhelming, not all is lost. There are still good things in the world for you: prosperity, stability, security. There will come a time when you will be able to turn away from the broken cups and see the potential for renewal. You may have to work hard to get to that moment, but it is out there, waiting for you.

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