The 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.
In 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.
What could be more positive than The Star? It 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.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
Illustrations by Steven Bright