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.
Minor Arcana card: the four of Cups
In stark contrast with the happy and joyful iconography of the two and three of cups, a single figure is drawn on the RWS tarot deck version of the four of Cups. A young man is sitting legs crossed, alone, next to a tree. Three chalices are displayed before him on the floor, and a fourth one hovers right before him, offered out of thin air by an ethereal hand appearing from a little cloud. Neither the initial set of choices or the unexpected fourth option provided seem to satisfy the young man, arms crossed in refusal and withdrawal
The positive elements of the Four of Cups
The suit of cups is meant to represent the emotional side of life. There is nothing much to say about the positive elements of the four of cups, which is one of the few clearly negative cards to be found within the tarot deck.
Here, the minor arcana card channels more negative emotions like boredom and ennui. A lack of motivation and interest had stuck the young man in the picture in a dead end, impossible to choose between three similar options standing before him, and even the magical arrival of another solution out of nowhere does not seem to be enough to coax him out of this withdrawal from the world.
In a professional context, this card could hint at a serious lack of inspiration that might cause frustrations and delays in the workflow process. Even worse, it could herald a time of clinical depression and apathy after losing faith in the world at large or for any other reason.
The negative elements of the Four of Cups
Rather than inverting the traditional meaning of the four of cups, a reversed four of cups in a tarot reading even further accentuates the various downsides and negative elements of the most basic meaning of the card. The feeling of depression might go much deeper and require professional help or antidepressants. Left unchecked, a reversed four of cups might take the subject of the reading into a downward spiral that could lead to several potentially harmful consequences. Indeed, a reversed four of cups is usually the best card to represent suicidal tendencies among the various arcana in the tarot.
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Four of Cups and love
Unsurprisingly, there are no positive ways to read the presence of a four of cups during a tarot reading session focusing on love. The “least bad” interpretation might be a sign of a feeling of routine and boredom spreading like cancer within an already established romantic relationship for the Querent. Another interpretation might be to see the Querent equally paralyzed by the inability to make a choice among the four options standing before them. Stuck in a love triangle (or an even larger configuration), the Querent seems unable to make a decision, probably for lack of deep emotional connection and commitment like the one that could be found previously in the two of cups tarot meaning.
Final thoughts on the Four of Cups
The various binary elements and contrasts found on a regular basis through the suit of cups even take a “meta” approach here, as the structure of minor arcana meanings follows one of the most positive cards in the entire suit with one of the most negative and depressing cards in the entire tarot deck.
Like a broken man who lost himself by losing his mind and ability to make informed decisions, the four of cups takes the Querent on a downward spiral of depression and dark thoughts that might lead to self-harm or worse. This is definitely a serious warning sign that should not be taken lightly by the tarot reader, especially if the Querent seems particularly weak or prone to outside influence during the session. As always, other cards in the tarot spread used for the reading should provide some insight about the nature of this depression, and hopefully offer some advice on what could be done to make your everyday life better.
Depression, boredom, stagnation, resisting any change and living in the past.
Reversed: Deeper depression, Self-harm, suicidal tendencies.