The Five of Cups Tarot Card


Some cards in the Tarot deck have to be the ones to break the bad news. But ask most Tarot card readers if they rue seeing the Five of Cups appear in a reading and most will not see it is an upsetting event. When this card appears, most people receiving the Tarot reading are already aware of their sorrow. This card often simply confirms that things are not going too well.


Under an empty gray sky and a deserted landscape, a cloaked figure turns away, hiding his or her face. The black cloak obscures everything but this person’s boots and the back of his or her hair, with just a slight part of the side of the face exposed, although no features can be made out. That the person pictured in it is hiding the face in a sort of shame indicates that the person receiving this card may have been complicit in a tragedy. The biggest tragedy of this card just might be the guilt factor.

The bleak landscape features a brook running by to the viewe’s left. In the distance a simple stone bridge crosses it, and the outskirts of a town are beyond. At the figure’s feet are five cups. Three of them are lying on their sides and the contents of them are spilled out, wasted. Behind this sorrowful person stand two upright Cups.

Deeper Meanings

There is a lot going on in the card that is overt, and yet quite a bit of the imagery is a subtle push for optimism. Obviously the black cloak and gray sky, the spilled cups and the overall isolation of the figure ensure that this card is about heartache, loss, sorrow, isolation and mourning. And yet the card gives its recipients hope amidst the gloom. There are still two cups standing. This indicates a hope for the future. The river is a symbol of all things moving on. The bridge and town mean that there will be other times and places for life to go on, far away from the current misery.


Each Tarot reading features cards spread out in one of three positions: the past, present or future. Where a card lands describes the time in your life when events occurred that match the feelings and meaning of the card. When the Five of Cups lands in the past position, it points to some old trauma as the core foundation of your current situation. If you had a bad breakup with a lover last year, that would explain why this card was in the Past position. If you had a childhood with great losses no child should have to endure, the Five of Cups will show that who you are now comes from resolving this pain.

If the Five of Cups is in the present position, you are probably in the middle of a tough time. A separation that you do not want to occur may be happening with a lover. A recent death of a good friend or relative brings this card up. Depression, foreclosure of a loved property, divorce, a good friend and you fighting… all of these are situations expressed by the Tarot with the Five of Cups. If there is nothing in your present life that you can remotely relate to in this card and it is in the present position, the Tarot deck could be warning you of an impending spate of bad news. Many Tarot readers complain that people who see this card appear in the Present position remain in denial about a tragedy that is occurring or seems inevitable.

The symbols of hope that are on the periphery of this card’s illustrated scene are important to note if you get this card in the Future position. Preparing for a tragedy before it occurs will likely make it all the more bearable. In the Future position, this card could be telling you to look more closely at the things in your life that would break your heart were drastic change to occur.


While this card makes the excitement of a Tarot reading turn into a feeling of dread or at the very least, disappointment, the cards that are nearest to it can often describe the situation being addressed by the Five of Cups.

If there are a lot of other Cups cards in your reading, your emotional responses are at the core of your current situation. If there are many Wands surrounding this card you may be wallowing in self-pity instead of finding a creative outlet. A Tarot reading that features the suit of Pentacles and the Five of Cups indicates that financial pressures are driving you to feel sorry for yourself. Too many Swords in Tarot cards around the Five of Cups mean that your current depression or sorrow is based more in arguments and disagreements than it is in a truly tragic occurrence affecting you.

Paired with the Lovers card, look for a breakup to be devastating. You might be planning on dumping a lover and didn’t realize that he might take it so hard. Will you be the person cloaking a face in shame or are you the one who kicked over the Cups and spilled their contents? Cups are the Tarot’s symbol of emotions; a spilled cup really is something to cry over.

The Emperor or Empress paired with the Five of Cups indicates the death of a parent or some other separation. Many young people who are financially dependent on their parents see such combinations in their Tarot readings around the time word comes from mom and dad that the days of paying all the bills are over.

Some Major Arcana cards can take away much of this card’s gloom. The Sun appearing with this card is the Tarot’s way of telling you that there is a great opportunity waiting to help you turn the corner. Strength is a Tarot card that allows you the individual resolve to make a tragedy a growth period of time. You may not be able to control the flow of bad news, but you can control your response to it.

Cards in the Major Arcana that combine well with the Five of Wands are The Star, The Moon and The Sun. These cards reinforce that you should enjoy the frivolities of life and find a way to incorporate them into your definition of a full and successful existence.

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