In Focus: 5 of Cups

Cups 05 small 2The 5 of Cups is one of the most sombre-looking cards in the tarot deck. In this version (not unlike most others), a man sits beside a river. With his head bowed, he watches the water pass by him, concentrating on what he has lost. Cups have spilled and emptied at his feet.

There is a real sense of disappointment and regret in this guy’s body-language. If he lifted his head, he’d see that there is a bridge to his right, with a new town of exciting possibilities waiting at the end of it. There are also two cups behind him, suggesting that not all is lost, but he doesn’t see them. Maybe, in his grief, he doesn’t want to. It’s not entirely surprising. We’ve all been there.

In a reading, the 5 of Cups signifies loss and disappointment. It suggests a loss of opportunity, but quite possibly, this is only from the viewpoint of the person who is being read for. They cannot see the silver-lining.

5cups3swordsIn this combination, things look pretty bad, don’t they? The 3 of Swords confirms a breakup or separation of some kind. It alerts us to the situation which has caused the grief shown in the 5 of Cups. 

Rather than the stabbed heart shown in traditional versions of the 3 of Swords, this one shows a band-aid covering the heart of a young man: blood trickles from the wound. Heartbreak should not be underestimated, for it can feel as physical to some as if someone had ripped their heart from their body. A client who has drawn cards like this requires sensitivity and time in a reading.

5 Cups StarNot all combinations are as disastrous though. When a good card accompanies a difficult card like this, there could be light at the end of a dark and painful tunnel.

What could be more positive than The StarIt is this card which suggests hope and inspiration for the future. The woman sits beneath the branch, naked. She is born-again after troublesome times. Not knowing how to rebuild her life, she communes with the bird. The bird tells her of a distant city, which can be glimpsed in the distance, beneath the light of the star.

When we are hidden beneath grief, worry, or depression, it is not easy to know which way to turn next. This combination suggests we take one small step and then another. Even if we can not see the lost city or the benefit of our baby-steps at this time, these cards (like the bird) remind us to not give up and ask us to believe in a better day.

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© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014

Illustrations by Steven Bright

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8 thoughts on “In Focus: 5 of Cups

  1. Oh, these cards are all great – so expressive! As you’ve said, the silhouettes allow us to imagine the facial expressions. Still, the body language also speaks reams 🙂

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    • I am so pleased that you like them so much, Chloe. It means a lot. This was the very first one I created, about a couple of years ago. It sat in a file on my Mac all of that time.

      Sometimes, less is more. Their simplicity makes them readable but also open to so many interpretations and situations.

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  2. The Five of Cups seems an appropriate card to discuss with the unexpected death of Robin Williams. I am sure he could not see the bridge behind him when he decided to take his life. This is one card I always hate to draw!

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    • Yes, I can see that. And I doubt I will ever look at this card without thinking of him from now on. Maybe that bridge is what we need to think about and show clients when they are ‘feeling’ as thought there are no options.

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  3. I love how you tell your story around the cards and tie them together especially with the last two. I can remember that star feeling so well. I love how she is sitting on the bare ground, not knowing where to go or what to do next

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    • Thanks Ellen! The Star kind of opened up as I was making it. It was always a card I had trouble with so I felt I really needed to get it right. It makes a lot of sense to me now and I like the healing pink colour.

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  4. The juxtaposition of the river is almost Jungian. The cups are but a drop lost or added, compared to the river—the stream of eternal conscience….nothing stays the same, the river seems to tell us.
    The bird in the Star card is also quite inspired. In the Marseille tarot, there is a raven perched on in the tree behind the woman-it symbolizes steadfastness, as the raven only mates with one other raven in it’s whole life….

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    • Thanks Nathalie. The bird really speaks to me.

      I have always found The Star the most difficult to get my head around, so needed some key features which I could work with in my own version.

      Beautiful description of the water in the 5 of Cups!

      I shall post my version of the 6 of Cups tomorrow. It is one of my favourites from these cards this far.

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