The Five of Cups represents grief, remorse, pain, loss or shame. The mourning figure in a long black robe is overcome with sorrow and can no more easily contain his tears than he can replace the sprawling water back into the overturned cups. The image of the black robed man immediately reminds us of funeral priests or people in mourning.
Sometimes this card represents true, inescapable sorrow and the darkest depths of sadness, including loss of loved ones, a break-up, a bad mistake, depression, remorse, shame, guilt or having to make tragic decisions. On the other hand, the card may represent a disproportionate or overly-dramatic reaction to a situation which can easily be remedied, or at least partially restored. While there are three cups knocked over at the feet of the black-robed figure, there are two behind him which are still perfectly full and upright. Indeed, there is even a river flowing by in the background which, if he would only pull himself together, the mourner could easily walk to and refill the empty cups. Yet the figure remains with his eyes closed and back turned to the cups which he still possesses, and instead remains focused on the ones that he lost. In one sense, he is “crying over spilled milk”.
It is of course a matter of your temperament and particular circumstances which determines whether the grief pictured on Five of Cups is proportionate or not. Maybe it is a feeling that you can change or an attitude that you can leave behind, or maybe you need to pass through a period of grief and give yourself time to heal. Either way, the card has a simple message: what’s done is done. You can’t change the past. Whether this sorrow is the result of a veritable tragedy, or whether you are simply dwelling excessively on feelings of regret and remorse about trivial matters, you have to accept that it’s already behind you, and all you can do now is change the future. The sun will rise again tomorrow, whether you are up early and ready to go or or you are hiding under the covers until dark. We cannot always have an enormous effect on the physical reality of our circumstances, but we do always have the power to choose what we give our focus and attention to. Internalize whatever grief and sorrow is within you now, and honor your emotions; when you feel ready, shift your gaze to the things that you still do have the power to change and improve.
The Five of Cups card is connected to Mars (Tower) in Scorpio (Death).
Card meanings upright:
When the Five of Cups card is reversed, it may indicate that you are experiencing disappointment in love or other emotional matters in your life. You may be feeling drained when it comes to relationships, and feeling heartbroken and incapable of love. Be careful during this time, as you could be in danger of being taken advantage of or abused by others.
Card meanings reversed:
When the Four of Cups card is reversed, it can indicate that you are feeling unsettled and may be having difficulty recognizing the opportunities in your life. This card can also signify unhealthy cravings or temptations appearing in your life. If you are feeling emotionally empty, now is a good time to meditate, connect with yourself, and listen to your intuition.