Five of Cups
The Five of Cups is full of despair. In this card we see a figure, gender unknown, weeping over 3 cups that are overturned. They are empty. This is the "crying over spilled milk" card. This is not a card of mere disappointment, although that is usually present, but a card of genuine heartfelt loss. The deep sorrow, pain and despair felt by this card is very real. This is not to say that the event in question is life or death, however, the pain one feels from it, is. This is the kind of disappointment that causes one to break down and cry with a feeling of deep pain, sadness or grief.
Many times this card will come up in relationship questions, to symbolize a painful separation or breakup. This card does not symbolize the legalities of a divorce, the details that must be sorted, it symbolizes the inner pain one feels over the loss of the relationship. The loss can be real or perceived, sometimes, what we lose, is the potential of something. Maybe you over idealized your troubled relationship into some romanticized situation, or you knew it was troubled, but truly believed it had potential. In these situations, you didn't necessarily lose a great relationship, but it felt like you did, the pain was just as real. You lost what you desperately wanted and perceived to be very important to you. Of course it could be loss over a relationship that you felt WAS a good relationship, but the other person was ready to move on. This is a lesson that you have learned all that you were to from this person in this lifetime, and they from you.
This painful loss could be in any area, thought because of the deep psychological nature of the pain, it doesn't likely indicate the loss of say, a job, unless the job was extremely important and fulfilling to you for personal reasons. This card generally symbolizes the loss of something of great personal importance to you, whether a person, a pet, your longtime home, ect. This can indicate the loss of a meaningful friendship, and in some cases, it can indicate bereavement.
As a number 5, it indicates challenges or change, as do all of the fives, on our journey. At the midpoint of the suit of emotions, it represents the crossroads, where we emerge from the stagnation of the four, to face our painful emotions, before continuing on our evolutionary emotional journey to wholeness. It has been said, "This too, shall pass." This is the challenge of the 5 of Cups, acceptance. The ability to let go and move on, as both of these things are extremely difficult when you are the figure, cloaked in black, mourning, in this card. You are stuck in powerful bitter feelings of pain, regret, disappointment, loss and grief and while it feels absolutely impossible to let it go, it feels even more challenging to move on. Yet this is what you must eventually do.
This is indicated by the two, still upright, cups in the foreground of the card. These cards are full of hope and promise. If only the figure were not too fixated on the three overturned Cups, weeping over all that he or she has lost, if only this sad figure would turn around and recognize that they still have something left. That there is still something in those two cups to be redeemed. What window has opened, from the door that has closed? Where is the silver lining? When you are ready, you can pick up the Cups and head in the direction of the bridge in the distance, where you will cross the fast moving river of emotion, back to stability, as indicated by the castle. You can acknowledge the pain and loss, learn what you can from it, and move on. Cross the bridge.
Five of Cups Reversed
When the Five of Cups comes up reversed, you are on your way to healing. You are beginning to move past the trauma, you now recognize the two full Cups behind you, and head towards a new future, Cups in hand. As you head towards the bridge and castle in the background of the card, you are on the road to recovery. The two cups you are carrying with you, this could be friends that are giving you support, a partner that is helping you move forward, or showing love and caring for your remaining pets, adding a new one, after a period of mourning the loss of a beloved longtime furry friend. You are able to look at what has happened in the past, and while you still feel sadness and pain, you are able to recognize the need to move forward, and you begin to let others in to help you.
Occasionally this card comes up reversed to indicate that you have been stuck in your pain for too long. We all go through sad times and experience periods of loss. It is important to take the time to truly grieve and mourn what was lost, however, it is possible to become fixated and stuck in your grief for so long, that the rest of your life, and the life of those around you, especially those you live with, become negatively impacted, not by the incident itself, but from the negative reclusive state brought about by long periods of emotional stagnation.
Because of the solitary figure in a long cloak, the figure can be reminiscent of the Hermit, and can show that you are stuck in your isolation and loneliness to the point that the rest of your life is put on an indefinite hold.
You must also be careful to be sure that you are indeed acknowledging the pain of your circumstance, and find a way to work through it towards acceptance. This card in the reverse can also signify a denial of emotions, ignoring the pain, assuring everyone that you are "just fine", while privately suffering. You may even be trying to convince yourself, keeping yourself so busy, you don't have any time to be alone with your thoughts, your sadness, or your grief. Pushing it aside unacknowledged does no good for you, or those around you, only creating repressed feelings that are sure to resurface later.
Generally this card indicates healing and recovery. You likely will know if you are stuck too long in your grief, as their will be other indicators in the cards, and in your life, of stagnation. The same is true of trying to move on too quickly. The heart always knows, so when you see this card, take heart, you are on your way to recovery.