How to Deal with the 5 of Cups in a Reading

Tarot cards and, more recently, oracle cards are outstanding tools for psychological and spiritual work.  Each year they become more and more a part of the common vernacular and readily available in mass-market venues, especially the online retailer, Amazon. The number of decks available in and out of print is mind-boggling, easily in the thousands, especially if you go do a search for decks on eBay. 

Once shrouded in mystery and a “tool of people with questionable character, dark intentions, or acolytes of heathen beliefs”, tarot and oracle cards are enjoying widespread, if still hesitant acceptance.  In this article, I will write about one of the most challenging cards to draw, the 5 of Cups.

78 Archetypes to Awareness

When people seek me out for a reading, they will often ask me, “what are tarot cards and how do they work?”  Over time I have developed a consistent response, which is, “each tarot card represents a common archetype of the human experience.  All 78 cards are happening in your life right now, in one way or another.  When you sit down and draw cards for a reading, you are ‘bringing to light or awareness’ specific archetypes for you to think about in the moment.”

Life is a constant ebb and flow of positive and negative experiences, in varying degrees of intensity.  The Two of Coins or Two of Pentacles represents daily change, the normal flow of energy moving to make things happen in life.  The Death card represents a dramatic transformation through a profound ending, which will create space for a significant new beginning.

The cards of the Minor Arcana represent the processes we experience with our emotions (Cups), our thoughts (Swords), material actions (Coins/Pentacles), and our creative or spiritual actions (Wands).  The cards of the Major Arcana represent major life energies and events: The Fool is the experience of life itself, The Magician represents the most significant decisions we make in our life journey, The High Priestess represents the hard lessons we have to go through to grow spiritually, and so on.

The 5 of Cups Card

One of the most difficult cards in the deck is the 5 of Cups, which represents disappointment, loss, and setbacks.  We all face or cause moments of disappointment.  An important person in our life turns out to be lying to us; a lover we thought we would grow old with decides to leave.  We fail to meet another person’s expectations.  Often the 5 of Cups shows three or four cups spilled over and one or two remaining upright.

Depending on our life circumstances this card shows us an emotional loss or frustration; however, we need to pay as much attention to the upright cup(s) as we do the spilled ones.  When the 5 of Cups appears, we must face our sadness, but continue moving forward.  We are not supposed to wallow in the 5 of Cups.  Like all energies in life, there is a range of expressions and many different degrees of intensity, as well as nuances that help us understand this card and why it shows up.

It is possible that the card represents a fresh disappointment or an experience deep in our past being brought to light now.  Having the card appear may be just what is needed to address and release the disappointment so you can grow emotionally.  You will need to let go of the spilled cups and “pick up” the upright cup(s).

Below are some examples of the 5 of Cups from various decks:

5 of cups visuals

Receiving The 5 of Cups in Your Reading

No two ways around it, this card is not easy to face; most cup cards represent the positive energy that comes from having a healthy emotional center.  The cycle of the cups reads something like this: new feeling (1), connection (2), celebration (3), contemplation (4), disappointment (5), trust (6), motivation (7), letting go (8), individual happiness (9), and happiness in union (10).

If you receive this card in your reading, do your best to wait to hear and process the interpretation.  It is okay to be concerned since this card is about a disappointing moment or person in your life.  Unfortunately, the hard part of the card is knowing it is meant to be a message that is helpful to you in some way now. 

Like the Tower, 5 of Wands, and 8 of Cups cards, this card is one that immediately forces you to face not only negative feelings but the cause of the negative feelings, which could be something immediate or deep in your past.  Understanding the origin of the negative feelings and realizing there are processes and therapies to help you escape them will give you a chance to move in a positive direction.

Reading the 5 of Cups Card for A Client

If you happen to be a professional or practicing reader, who reads cards for others, then you want to train yourself to be ready to address this card in a helpful way for the client.  Most people who have just the vaguest of notions about Tarot cards will usually say, “I just don’t want to draw negative cards”.  Often, when I am reading in public, I will select a deck that has the essence of the card without images that will overwhelm a first-time client.

Consider the difference between the 5 of Cups from the Haindl Tarot, which shows five cups in disarray, with just the keyword “disappointment” and the one from the Crow’s Magick Tarot, which shows five cups surrounding a view of the solar system.  The Haindl tarot card shows the emotional disarray caused by disappointment.  The Crow’s Magic card requires knowledge of the creator’s explanation, which is not visually accessible with this artwork.

If a client tells you that they do not immediately know what the card refers to in their life currently, then you need to ask them where they recall a disappointment from their past.  Is there a trigger event that happened recently? If there is no immediate disappointment issue or situation, then now might be the best time to work on a past disappointment with renewed focus to heal? 

The 5 of Cups, like any negative card, calls our attention to the significant and serious moments of our lives; and the better and more willing we are to face this card or the others like it, the better we will enjoy and appreciate our life journey.

Philip Young, PhD

I am a spiritual adviser located in Cary, North Carolina. I earned my PhD in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1996 and had a career in academics until 2007, when I retired to become a stay-at-home father. In 2013 I “hung out my shingle” starting my business Black Unykorn Enterprises, LLC. I provide spiritual guidance using different tools: astrology, tarot/oracle cards, numerology, and past life regression (using muscle testing). With a home office, Zoom, WeChat, and WhatsApp, I work with local clients in person and distance clients from around the world. You can read about my practice and contact me through my website: https://www.blackunykorn.com.

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