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The Meaning of
the "Eight of Cups" Tarot Card

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What is the inverted meaning of
the "Eight of Cups"?

The Meaning of the "Eight of Cups"
Tarot Card


The Symbolism of the Eight of Cups:

A dejected man walks away from an unfinished stack of cups. The man strides-off into the moonlit night, slouching into a rocky and forbidding landscape. He walks with a long walking stick and wears loose fitting rags.

The moon, a symbol of dreams, passes in front of the Sun, a symbol of energy and life. But even as the Moon shines down over rocky crags, She closes her eyes to his situation. Neither Moon, nor Sun bear witness to what is happening to the man below.

On the stack there are eight cups, but one cup appears to be missing. Could the man have it in his hand? Did he take something with him? Or did he not have enough to complete what he set out to accomplish?

Perhaps he took one cup with him to start over again. Or perhaps he realized he needs nothing at all.

NOTE: As with the Five of Cups, the gender of the individual is not clear in this card. It is often assumed to be a man, but since so little identifying detail is given, the gender of the figure is open to your interpretation.

NOTE: An interesting theory with the Eight of Cups is that the figure's tattered clothes and the long walking staff are clues left for us by the artist: This image may represent the beginning of the story for the figure in the Hermit card. Is this the moment the Hermit walks away?


How to Interpret the Eight of Cups

The Eight of Cups represents dissatisfaction, and the concept of moving on from unfulfilling situations. The figure in the card has abandoned something, leaving it unfinished, and has gone off in search of something more satisfying.

When something is missing from any situation, leaving may be the last and best option.

The reasons for leaving any situation are often complex and interconnected, but somewhere a tipping-point is reached where the reasons for leaving seem to outweigh the reasons for staying.

As we can see in the card, the lone figure does not stride off confidently or proudly. Instead he looks exhausted and disheveled as if he has been fighting a long battle with his own spirit. The light of the Sun no longer reaches him. And even his dreams seem disconnected as the Moon shuts her eyes.

We are being asked what matters most to us: What brings us happiness? What are our lines in the sand? Under what circumstances do we walk away from something?

When the Eight of Cups appears in a reading, we are being asked what matters most to us: What brings us happiness? What are our lines in the sand? Under what circumstances do we walk away from something?

The card is not in and of itself a suggestion that one should stay or leave. But rather, it asks us to do some soul searching to understand our own commitments, why we made them in the first place, and what our core values are.

Perhaps the card brings about a reaffirmation. Perhaps it raises questions that need to be raised.

NOTE: Remember that this card doesn't necessarily refer to something major (although it might). The Eight of Cups often references something simple or mundane like a subscription, or a fitness club membership. It could reference a group of friends or a social organization. It could indicate a personal hobby or a project at work. Or it could reference a school or a religious organization. If you're not sure what the card is referencing, look to surrounding cards for details or draw a clarifying card for more information.


The Eight of Cups Inverted

The reversed Eight of Cups is a subtle card when it appears. As with the upright orientation, the card deals with the general concept of dissatisfaction and leaving. Also like the upright orientation, the card asks us to evaluate what makes us happy or sad. But there is usually a deeper meaning at work here:

The inverted Eight of Cups suggests that leaving may not be necessary. Perhaps there are other larger factors that will change — making the question of staying or leaving irrelevant.

For whatever reason, the reversed position suggests that a current dissatisfying situation may be changing of its own accord.

The appearance of the Eight of Clubs reversed may indicate that something more fundamental may be about to change. For whatever reason, the reversed position suggests that a current dissatisfying situation may be changing of its own accord.

A self-correction of some kind may be at hand — and your own decision to stay or quit may be less important than you believe it to be.


Common Symbols Found On the Eight of Cups Card

Tarot cards often use a symbolic or iconographic language to visually communicate additional information about how the card should be interpreted. The Eight of Cups contains at least four common, repeating Tarot symbols. Each of these symbols can add additional dimensions of interpretation to the card.

The symbols which appear on the Eight of Cups card are:

  • Moons

    Moons symbolism appears on the Eight of Cups card:

    Aside from The Moon Tarot card where one would expect to find Moon symbolism, the symbol of the Moon appears on a few other cards in the Tarot deck. The Moon is a symbol of intuition, psychic ability and the influence of emotions. The Moon is also symbolic of cycles of all kinds, and asks us to consider the cycles which make up the Universe.

    NOTE: The Moon high above on the Eight of Cups card is interesting because it seems to show the Moon in two different phases: A full moon and a crescent moon. This paired representation reminds us of time, and the importance of cycles. The doubled moon-phase in the Eight of Cups may also point to a deeper enigma within the Tarot: Could it be that this hunched figure clad in tattered clothes and walking with a wooden staff, is actually a younger representation of the old man shown in the Hermit Tarot card? Could this be moment he abandoned society? Is the doubled moon phase hinting at this cycle?

    Read more about the symbolism of "Moons" in Tarot  

  • Mountains

    Mountains symbolism appears on the Eight of Cups card:

    Mountains are one of the most ubiquitous symbols which appear in the classic Rider Waite Tarot. On most cards where they appear, mountains indicate challenges which need to be passed, and hurdles which need to be overcome. Depending on the Tarot card where mountains appear, these challenges may either represent future circumstances which lie in wait along the current path, or they may remind us of past challenges and contests which have already been encountered prior to arriving at this time.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Mountains" in Tarot  

  • Water

    Water symbolism appears on the Eight of Cups card:

    In Tarot imagery, water appears in multiple forms — ranging from rain, to small pools, to winding rivers and streams, to wide oceans and seas. While each of these representations of water may carry a more specific meaning, water in broad strokes represents emotion, nourishment and intuition. In the Tarot deck, water is more common in the Minor Arcana cards, and is more often (but not only) associated with the Suit of Cups.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Water" in Tarot  

  • Night

    Night symbolism appears on the Eight of Cups card:

    Just as visibility is better in the day than it is in the nighttime, Tarot cards which feature a nighttime scene typically share a a feeling of mystery or the unknown. The degree of darkness in "nighttime" Tarot cards can vary significantly. Some "night" cards depict pitch-black scenes, while others depict an evening setting or a setting illuminated by the light of the Moon.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Night" in Tarot  

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