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UPRIGHT: Regret, failure, disappointment, pessimism.
REVERSED: Personal setbacks, self-forgiveness, moving on.
The Five of Cups shows a man in a long black cloak looking down on three cups that have been knocked over – symbolic of his disappointments and failures. Behind him stand two cups representing new opportunities and potential, but because he is so fixed on his losses (the over-turned cups), he misses the opportunities available to him.
In the background, a bridge crosses a large, flowing river and leads to the security of the castle or home on the opposite side of the riverbank – if only he can move on from the over-turned cups. The bridge is a message to 'find a way through'.
NOTE: The Tarot card meaning description is based on the Rider Waite cards.
The Five of Cups often appears in a Tarot reading when a situation hasn’t turned out the way you expected, and you are sad, regretful, and disappointed. Instead of moving on with your life, you are choosing to wallow in your self-pity. All you can focus on right now is what went wrong and how you failed. Sure, feel the feels, but set yourself a time limit for your self-pity and then pull yourself together and move on.
The Five of Cups suggests you’re stuck in the past and can’t let go. Old wounds and bitter memories flood your mind as you think about what happened. You may blame yourself or believe you’re a victim of life’s circumstances. These negative emotions are holding you back from your fullest potential – release them so you can move on and create positive change.
Forgiveness is vital with the Five of Cups, both of yourself and others. If someone has disappointed you, find it within your heart to forgive that person, releasing yourself from the disappointment. And if you are frustrated with yourself, know that you did the best you could under the circumstances and have now learned from your mistakes.
Remember, too, that hindsight is much clearer than foresight and wisdom in the present moment comes from the mistakes of the past. Reflect on what led you to this point and understand what valuable lessons you can take from the experience. Even when things go pear-shaped, you can always take away something positive by reflecting on the lessons learned.
The Five of Cups shows you that, even though things aren’t going your way, new opportunities and possibilities are waiting for you – but only when you are ready. It’s time to shift your mindset and focus on what can go right from this point onwards. Be open to the brighter side of life and know many blessings are in disguise right now. Instead of giving in to a ‘glass is half empty’ perspective, look at it as the ‘glass is half full’.
The reversed Five of Cups suggests that you have recently suffered a personal setback or disappointment. You may worry that you are a ‘failure’ and don’t want to let others know you’ve taken the wrong path. Or you may not be ready to admit it to others and are choosing to keep your feelings to yourself instead. However, now might be the time to open up. People around you may not see how much pain you're in right now, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or talk with someone you trust; you may find it lessens the emotional pain. You’ll find that by sharing your feelings with others, you’ll realise that you can overcome this temporary setback.
If you feel guilty or ashamed about what happened, blaming yourself for the mistakes you made, the reversed Five of Cups encourages you to forgive yourself and move on. Know that you did the best you could. This may be the perfect opportunity for you to practice the Hawaiian forgiveness ritual, Ho’oponopono, where you say sorry, ask for forgiveness, express gratitude and move into love.
When this card turns up in a Tarot reading, you are realising the full implications of the past, and you appreciate the lessons learned from the experience. You may even recognise the value of the painful experience in the broader scheme of things.
The Five of Cups reversed serves as a reminder that you cannot undo the past – what has happened, has happened. It is now time to let go of what no longer serves you emotionally, and open to the new opportunities available to you. You are discovering how to be open and take risks again, especially those of the heart. If you have suffered setbacks, you will find that you will be more hopeful about the future and engage with the exciting, creative side of life again.