In the five of cups we see a figure looking forlorn and depressed. He (or she) is looking at the ground and wears a long black cloak. Five cups surround him. Three are knocked over, their contents spilled on the ground. A river flows in front of him with a bridge visible in the distance. In the far off, we can clearly see a house or village.
Their are many conflicting messages contained in the five of cups. Hope, loss, despair and inner turmoil are all clear themes, lesser ones being travel and courage.
The figure stands forlorn in the middle of the card, almost as if mourning the loss of three of his cups. They lie to his left, their contents spilled out along the ground. The card may portend a loss of some sort but thankfully, it does not mean all is lost. The two cups to the figure”s right are still standing, still full.
There is a warning in the card that we may not recognise what we have so consumed are we by the loss of three cups. The figure has his back to the two cups, seemingly gazing or obsessed with the three fallen ones. The five of cups urges us to look around and see what we still have when we encounter a loss. Particularly in the sphere of material possessions or money, we should not be ignorant to mourn a loss when we still have two cups to our name.
Cups are of course symbols of the emotions. In relationships readings, we may have lost a loved one or our relationship may have ended and we are still in grieving for that loss. The five of cups gives us that space to mourn. It is a natural thing and everybody mourns the passing of loved ones and old relationships. But we still need to lift our heads and look around. Life goes on and when we do that, we find two more cups waiting for us.
There is also some symbolism of travel within the card. The bridge over the river leading to a home or village indicates movement or travel in the future. Perhaps we need a break to get away. The change of scenery may help lift us from grieving our loss. This takes courage. To leave the loss of the three spilled cups behind us and move on in life takes inner strength and a determination that we will not allow our loss to define the remainder of our journey in this life. Travel, in the sense of moving on and dealing with a loss, is the central theme of this card.
Reversed: The warnings of the five of cups are amplified when it shows up reversed. The card warns us that we have become obsessed with a loss. We are either unable or unwilling to look around us at what we have left. We cannot see the future or even a better present, instead looking backwards and going over and over what may have been. Forget the three cups! It is a temporary loss in our journey and a lesson learned. Move forward with the two remaining cups and soon we”ll find the three of cups replenished again.
Reversed, the five of cups hints that we may have cut ourselves off from our community – that may mean friends, family or lovers. The figure stands on the other side of a river, away from the home or village in the distance. It would be easy to return to his or her community, but instead (s)he chooses to mourn alone.