Eight of Cups Tarot Card

As a reminder, the suit of cups is driven by feminine energy and channels the power of emotions and feelings in every shape and form. Scholars and academics have connected the suit of cups to the classical element of water, and most of the cards from that suit embody the symbolic attributes of this element, one way or another.

Keywords associated with the Eight of Cups Card

Upright: emotional release, letting go, and moving on

Reversed: resisting letting go, or conversely … running away, taking the easy way out, and shutting oneself out

Traditional Representation and Description of the Eight of Cups Card

8 of cups Rider Waite tarot
Source: Wikimedia

A man of dejected aspect is deserting the cups of his felicity, enterprise, undertaking, or previous concern. Divinatory Meanings: The card speaks for itself on the surface, but other readings are entirely antithetical—giving joy, mildness, timidity, honor, modesty. Reversed: Great joy, happiness, feasting. (Rider Waite Booklet)

Modern Representations of the Eight of Cups Card

The Eight of Cups offers yet another glimpse into the darkest recesses of human emotions. More specifically, it is a clear example of basic fight or flight responses when put under emotional duress and pain. Here the Querent must deal with rejection of some kind, and the temptation to just turn their back to the world and run away must be strong, but this is a slippery slope that ends with them withdrawn and alone in their own imaginary world.

As always for the most distressing arcana drawn during a reading, this should be seen as a dire warning to be heeded, using the tarot as a beacon shining a light of hope that might be useful in finding a way out, literally and figuratively.

8 of Cups Mythic Tarot

The Mythic Tarot (1986/2008)

8 of Cups Haindl Tarot

The Haindl Tarot (1990)

8 of Water Letting Go Osho Zen Tarot

Osho Zen Tarot (1995)

8 of Cups Law of Attraction Tarot

Law of Attraction Tarot (2011)

8 of Cups Spellcaster Tarot

Spellcaster Tarot (2016)

8 of Cups Ostara Tarot

Ostara Tarot (2017)

Upright Meaning of the Eight of Cups Card

The Eight of Cups illustration in the original Rider Waite Smith tarot deck is heavy with symbolism, with a heavier use of black lines and dark elements than in other arcana of that tarot deck.

The main protagonist of this minor arcana card only occupies a small part of the overall image, as he is seen walking away from the foreground using a walking stick on a path that almost seems painful. The eight cups are neatly displayed at the forefront of the image, three of them balanced on top of the other five.

The overall outlook is grim and gloomy, happening under the calm and watchful eye of the Moon in the night sky.

Like several other cards from the suit of cups, it is hard to define any kind of truly positive element in this minor arcana. This can easily be explained because as mentioned early on, the suit of cups represents the whole spectrum of human emotions, and there is usually a kind of balance between positive and negative feelings.

Here, the core meaning of the Eight of Cups card is overwhelming unhappiness and discontent. Just like the character moving away from the spotlight and into the shadows. The goal is to find a way out of a seemingly doomed situation, and therefore the character on the illustration has to leave.

In a Question about Love and Relationship

When the Eight of Cups is drawn in a love tarot reading, is usually comes to highlight the negative consequences of a former love or affair that has turned sour. It might happen after a particularly rough breakup, or simply after having endured a kind of rejection coming from unrequited love.

Regardless, in that context, this minor arcana usually represents the kind of emotional pain and anguish felt by the spurned lover. This highlights a need for self-reconstruction, learning to handle and process that emotional pain in order to become functional again. It hurts, and it takes time, but it can and must be done.

In a Question about Career and Work

Career encompasses school and education, if that is your current stage; work that is necessary, but not what you would consider a career path; and your actual career path.  Regardless of your current stage of development, the Eight of Cups lets you know that whatever the emotional investment, the value is no longer there and it is time to move on.

If you are a student and this is your card, then you may have to realize that you are on the wrong path regarding your studies and you need to move on from what you thought you wanted.  And, more profoundly, you may even realize that being in school is not for you and you need to leave academics entirely.

If you are doing work that is necessary, but not a career, then you probably know, on an emotional level, that the work no longer fulfills you in any way.  It is time to look for new work or go back to school for a new career.  There is nothing left in your emotional tank for the work you are currently doing.

If you are in your career, then the Eight of Cups could be considered the perfect card for retirement.  If you are not able to retire from your career, then this card indicates you should make it a priority; or realize you need a new career path, because it is time to walk away from your current one.

Reversed Meaning of the Eight of Cups Card

The already negative meaning of the Eight of Cups is even further enhanced when it appears reversed in a reading. The raw unhappiness has become so strong that self-preservation overtakes any other reaction, and any pretense of leaving to find solutions to current problems is blown away by an almost primal need to leave, period.

In a Question about Love and Relationship

Reversed, this card suggests holding on to a relationship well past the time the emotions for your partner left you.  You did build something meaningful (8 cups worth), but the value has long since passed and you have been going through the motions for far too long.

In a Question about Career and Work

When this card appears reversed in a question about school, work, or career, then you know that you have been trapped in an unhappy situation for far too long.  While getting out will take great effort, you need to make a change to “save your soul” or be stuck in an emotional black hole regarding study, work, or career.

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About Author

Philip Young, PhD, is a spiritual adviser located in Cary, North Carolina. He provides spiritual guidance using different tools: astrology, tarot/oracle cards, numerology, and past life regression (using muscle testing).