Five of Cups


A solitary figure wearing a long black cloak appears to be in a state of mourning. Before this person are three cups that have been knocked over and their contents spilled. Behind, two cups are standing upright. In the distance, a river flows through a broad valley, and a bridge spanning the river leads to a castle on the horizon.

As we discussed in our review of the Four, a productive use of meditation is to prepare ourselves for the disappointments that we will inevitably experience at various points in our lives, and the Five warns us of what can happen if we fail to consider this. This is the card of the insufferable mourner, a person whose grief has literally blinded himself or herself (we can’t tell if this figure is male or female, and it doesn’t really matter) to the realities of the wider world. If he or she would simply look in another direction, s/he would see the two cups still standing upright, and s/he would see the bridge that can reconnect him/her to the comforting felicities of hearth and home. “No use crying over spilt milk,” the old saying goes, and in this instance, it’s absolutely correct. What’s done is done, and while we all have a right to mourn after experiencing a loss, we can’t let sorrow govern our emotional life forever.

Meanings of this card can include: Refusal to let go of sorrow, self-pity, narcissism and vanity, blinding oneself to the richness of life, or emotional paralysis; but also letting go of sorrow, acceptance of the inevitable, thankfulness for what one has, or the way home rediscovered. There is, after all, a time to mourn and a time to laugh—and once we have released our sorrows and opened our eyes, the process of healing can begin.

Dante DiMatteo

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