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The Meaning of
the "Five of Cups" Tarot Card

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

The Meaning of the "Five of Cups"
Tarot Card


The Symbolism of the Five of Cups

One of the more depressing images in the Minor Arcana is the Five of Cups card.

Standing under a grey, overcast sky, a lone figure contemplates three spilled cups on the ground in front of him. Two full cups stand behind him, but he takes no notice of these.

The figure looks downwards, his face buried in dark robes and misery. No effort is made to pick up the spilled cups. The figure stands motionless, transfixed by the loss.

A lone figure contemplates three spilled cups on the ground in front of him. Two full cups stand behind him, but he takes no notice of these.

An old castle rises in the background, along with a stone bridge which arcs over a rushing river. While there are green fields in the distance, the ground under the figure's feet looks sandy and lifeless.

A final detail to notice is that the liquid which has spilled from the cups is two different colors: Red and green. These colors may symbolize blood and sickness — or health and disease.

NOTE: Is the Five of Cups a man or a woman? Overall, the Suit of Cups is generally thought of as being a female suit. The lone figure represented in the Five of Cups card however, is often regarded as being male. But since there are very few distinguishing characteristics, the gender-identity of the solitary figure is open to your interpretation.


How to Interpret the Five of Cups

The imagery in the Five of Cups card might look depressing, but there's a positive message that can be extracted from the dark symbolism. The Five of Cups is less about misfortune, and more about our perception of misfortune.

As with the figure in the Four of Cups card, the figure in the Five of Cups ignores what surrounds him.

Even though three of the cups in the card have been spilled, two cups remain full. The full cups however, remain unseen by the depressed figure who wallows in misery and can only think about the spilled cups. Yes, the cards indicate a loss or a setback. But it's not the end of the world.

The Five of Cups is often a gentle reminder that what is perceived as a loss, or what is perceived as an obstacle — may not be nearly as bad as we think.

The Five of Cups is often a gentle reminder that what is perceived as a loss, or what is perceived as an obstacle — may not be nearly as bad as we think.

Perhaps someone is dwelling too long on emotions, or has been paralyzed because of a situation. While the loss may be acute and deeply felt, there is still so much that is good that is going unnoticed.

If we live too much in the realm of the emotional rather than the physical - we may lose focus on our immediate surroundings.

It's time to turn around and contemplate the unspilled cups we still have.


The Five of Cups Inverted

While the upright position of the Five of Cups represents a loss which is perceived to be worse than it is. The reversed position has two subtely different meanings.

When the Five of Cups appears reversed in a meaning, it may mean that we are in denial about a loss occuring. 3 of our cups have spilled but we cannot accept the loss this represents.

When the Five of Cups appears reversed in a meaning, it may mean that we are in denial about a loss occuring.

Often when we experience loss, we take on a gamblers' mindset — hoping to get back our loss somehow, instead of accepting the reality of our mistakes and learning from them.

Another possible meaning of the reversed Five of Cups is that it indicates a loss — either in the past or in the future — which goes unnoticed. This may be a loss of a physical item or a loss of value or status, that we have not yet noticed or accounted for.

The cups have already spilled but the figure is to overcome with emotion to internalize and accept that they are gone.

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