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Five of Cups Meaning – Smith-Waite Centennial

The Five of Cups casts a long shadow in today's reading with its notes of grief and defeat. But is the meaning of this tarot card really all bad?

Below, we take a close look at the imagery and symbolism of the Five of Cups.  Then we wrap up with our one-card free reading for the day. And while it's a tough card to face in the upright position, you might see some silver linings in this daily tarot pull.

Five of Cups Rider-Waite-Smith tarot card pictured on a blue-black background. Readers will find a detailed image description for this card in the body text of this article.

The Five of Cups card in the Smith-Waite Centennial tarot deck

In Rider-Waite-Smith tarot cards like the one pictured above, the Five of Cups depicts a figure shrouded in a black cloak. They stand by a river amid green hills, with a bridge and building in the distance. But their attention focuses completely on three spilled Cups at their feet. Puddles of red and green seem to have spilled from these three Cups, seeping into the sandy ground.

Behind this figure, there are two more Cups that the protagonist doesn't appear to be paying any attention to. These two Cups, unlike the first three, are still standing. And there's no sign of spillage behind the figure, suggesting that these two Cups' content remain intact.

Above this scene stretches a drab grey sky. And like so many of Pamela Colman Smith's fully illustrated tarot cards, the colour of the sky here emphasizes the wider meaning of the card itself. The overcast mood of dejection echoes in the figure's posture, for example. They're obscuring their face in the folds of their mournful cloak, which also hides their arms and their entire outfit except for their boots. The differing colours of the spilled liquids, meanwhile, may represent different aspects of the protagonist's life that they were deeply attached to.

The Five of Cups' unambiguous meaning of grief and sorrow

Of course, in the tarot, Cups are the suit of the emotions, relationships, and deep feelings. So it's not so surprising to see emotionally intense scenes in this suit! Consider, for example, the vivid wonder and even overwhelm depicted in the Seven of Cups card. However, the Five of Cups is one of the more explicitly negative tarot cards. Its meaning of grief and sorrow is so unambiguous that it isn't often a tough card to decipher. (We'll contrast this card's meaning with the overtly similar but conceptually quite different Eight of Cups when it comes up in our daily reading series!)

Meanwhile, in the upright position, today's Five of Cups suggests that you're feeling particularly sensitive right now about some things that you've lost in your life. These losses might include broken relationships, loved ones who have died, or abilities you once possessed that you just don't have anymore. And in fact, those varying spilled colours in the card itself suggest that you're likely grappling with a combination of different losses today. And however loosely related these different causes for grief or sorrow might be, the Five of Cups card means that they're coming together for you to represent an overarching feeling of loss, bereavement, and deep emotional pain.

Two important reminders from today's Card of the Day free reading

The dark meaning of the Five of Cups is particularly clear compared to some other tarot cards' less obvious interpretations, yes. But today's reading hinges on two takeaways that aren't themselves very negative.

The first message from the Five of Cups is simple. Give yourself space to grieve! It's so important to take some time to slow down and process your feelings. And in today's breakneck world, we're not always given the chance to switch gears. But your feelings matter. Taking the time to think about exactly what you've lost and why that loss pains you is an important part of understanding where you're at so that you can begin to heal.

Now, the second message from today's tarot card may seem less obvious. But it's a reminder that despite your painful losses, you still have important treasures in your life. These intact opportunities or blessings are represented by the two Cups behind the figure's feet. Today's tarot card gently reminds you that, while it's okay to grieve what you've lost, you must try to remember those pillars of your life that still fulfil you emotionally. These remaining strengths are likely enriching relationships, but they can also take the form of any aspect of your life that you connect with on a deep emotional level.

So, how can you honour your pain and the difficulty that change brings us all without dimming your connection to the bounty that life still affords you? Our Five of Cups asks you to think on this question today.