In the four of cups we see a young man sitting beneath a tree, arms and legs folded. Three cups are laid out in front of him. A fourth is offered by a hand, emerging from a cloud.
The similarity between the ace of cups and the four of cups is evident in the hand offering the cup to the young man. The similarity can be explained by the Tree of Life and the spheres. Aces belong to the divine, twos are creation and threes are realization.
At this point, we have three reference points from which to accurately locate any other point. That first triangle completes creation, from the divine down to materialization. Fours then, are a sort of mirror of the aces, or the divine but on a more personal level.
Just as Aces (Kether in the Tree of Life) are a symbol of divine energy, ideas, the creative spark that first begat everything, fours represent a time in our lives when we need to reflect on where we are. It is no surprise therefore that the young man is depicted meditating, in deep thought. He has already traveled some way along the path, represented by the three cups before him. Now there is an opportunity for further growth and ideas. Thus the hand emerges from the cloud offering him the fourth cup of opportunity.
There is further meaning in the card that the young man is so engrossed in his meditation that he ignores the three cups before him and the fourth offered to him. The three cups laid out before him could represent his emotions or the emotions of others. They could represent the material concerns of this life. The young man ignores them all, instead directing his attention inwards and upwards. This explanation connects us back to the meaning of the fours, growth and condensation that derives from the divine.
In readings, the four of cups denotes that we should review where we are and consider where we are going. We may be offered an opportunity or one will materialize for us. But to recognize it, we should spend some time reflecting on our current position and what we really want to achieve.
Cups in the Tarot are all about emotions and there are elements of the card that relate to emotions in different ways. That the young man is alone and meditating suggests that we may need a time out to gather our thoughts. Rest and a step back from the action will do us the world of good. The offered cup urges us to recognize opportunities when they arise and in whatever field they arise – emotional, spiritual or material.
Reversed: The four of cups reversed suggests that we need to make time for ourselves. We may be rushing around being the busy fool and ignoring our spiritual and emotional needs. The card warns us to connect with ourselves, make some space and to review our progress and plans.
There is another way of looking at this card reversed. The young man is so engrossed in his own world that he has not seen the cup offered to him. We may be blind to opportunities that present themselves. We should open our eyes and look for opportunity. In a way, the four of cups reversed urges us to leave the safety and solitude of sitting under a tree. To complete our journey we need to continue along our path, we need to unfold our arms, stand up and walk. Only then can we grasp the cup offered to us.
That cups represent emotions means we may be ignoring our feelings or the feelings of those around us. We should not be so blind or self absorbed that we are unaware of the feelings of loved ones. We should seek to ensure that we fill both our and their emotional needs and not cut ourselves off from feeling.