The Eight of Cups is the 8th tarot card in the Minor Arcana suit of Cups and represents the desire to abandon a previously cherished dream or life path and seek fulfillment in something new and undiscovered. This card asks us to face our fear of the unknown and embrace change with an open heart.

The Eight of Cups is associated with the element of water and the first decan of the astrological zodiac sign Pisces (0-9 degrees); it is ruled by the planet Saturn. The combination of Saturn and Pisces evokes the theme of maturation (Saturn) that is a result of leaving the known behind in search of a deeper truth (Pisces). Saturn’s association with boundaries and limits is depicted as the watery edges of Pisces’ domain, the sea.

Where the key meanings of the Major Arcana focus on life’s overarching themes and events, Minor Arcana cards like the Eight of Cups explore and reveal the more subtle changes impacting one’s day-to-day life and near future. The Eight of Cups also bears similarities with its sibling cards the Eight of Wands, Eight of Pentacles, and Eight of Swords, in that all four deal with themes of commitment and taking action.

Eight of Cups Keywords

Upright Keywords

Reversed Keywords

facing fear of the unknown, facing one’s shadow, journeys, walking away

fear of change, remaining in an unfulfilling situation, anxiety, attachment to the superficial, denial

Description of the Eight of Cups Tarot Card

In the preceding card of the Seven of Cups, we were faced with questions about desire and what brings lasting happiness. Following this confrontation with illusions and fantasy, the Eight of Cups emerges as a card of sober decisiveness to leave behind what does not bring a sense of deep emotional fulfillment.

In the classic Rider Waite tarot deck, the eight cups in the foreground of this card are arranged so that one appears to be missing on the top row, which gives us a clue as to why the figure in red appears to be walking away. The cups, which are arranged like trophies, represent meaningful accomplishments and life experiences, and yet the implied absence of one cup suggests that something important is missing.

His sense that something is missing is what motivates him to leave behind his past in search of the new. Cloaked in a red robe and boots, symbolizing boldness and courage, he sets off on his quest with his staff in hand, which will help him traverse difficult territory. Under the watchful eye of the Moon, symbolizing the light of his unconscious wisdom, he sets out to forge his own path.

He finds himself at the boundary of land and water, where the two form tide pools at the ocean’s edge. Tide pools are rugged environments where the ocean’s tiniest creatures survive by adhering to the rocks, their glue protecting them against the waves that threaten to destabilize them. This connection illustrates the tension between the desire to stay put and the need to allow oneself to be carried by larger currents away from one’s home.

Eight of Cups Upright Meaning

When the Eight of Cups appears upright in a tarot reading, you may be called to face your fear of the unknown and set off on a quest of discovery. You may not know why you are being called to leave some aspect of your known life behind, but you may feel it as an undeniable tug that comes from within.

This card can also appear when you know with certainty that you are ready to leave a situation behind. You may be grappling with the fear of change, fear of letting go, and the fear of not knowing what lies ahead. The light of your inner knowing will guide you forward as you find the courage to walk away from what no longer brings you a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment.

The upright Eight of Cups suggests that you’ve outgrown your current situation and are driven by the sense that there’s something else out there for you, something that fits your expanding sense of self and can accommodate your growth. This process may bring you face to face with your fears, doubts, and shadows as you learn to trust your inner knowing.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

The Eight of Cups upright signifies that you may feel called to leave behind a relationship that no longer brings a sense of emotional fulfillment. You may be reflecting on your true needs and coming to the realization that you desire a deeper sense of intimacy or connection with your partner. This card is a reminder that you don’t need to know your next destination in order to walk away.

Alternatively, this card can suggest the need for solitude and inner exploration within the context of an otherwise healthy relationship. You may have been ignoring or suppressing your unconscious instincts or intuition and must find a way to connect with your inner spirit in order to restore a feeling of harmony and wholeness within.

Love/relationships upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

walking away, desiring deeper intimacy, need for solitude, inner exploration

outgrowing a position, leaving a job, starting a new venture, exploring the authentic self in work

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

The Eight of Cups upright can signify that you have outgrown your current job or position and that you feel called to explore other options. You may feel that your current work no longer brings you the emotional satisfaction or sense of fulfillment that it once did, and you feel the desire to take a risk and start a new venture.

The upright Eight of Cups may signify that you have been making decisions about your work from a desire to live up to the expectations of others. You may have accumulated an impressive amount of work experience, accomplishments, and success, but now feel that you desire to do different work that is more in alignment with your authentic self.

Eight of Cups Reversed Meaning

The reversed Eight of Cups can signify that you’re remaining in an uncomfortable but familiar situation rather than exploring an unknown but potentially much more satisfying opportunity. Fear of the unknown and fear of change may be keeping you stuck in a situation that no longer brings deep satisfaction or fulfillment, and this feeling of stagnation is weighing heavily on you.

You may be feeling anxiety, fear, and doubt as you consider making an important change. These feelings signal that you are stepping outside of your comfort zone, which will allow you to grow and develop beyond what your current situation allows.

The reversed Eight of Cups can also signify that you are tuning out the voice of your inner self, and this suppression is creating persistent feelings of melancholy or depression. You could be prioritizing a superficial goal, bad situation, or escapism at the expense of your growth and evolution. This card is an encouragement to listen to the voice of your intuition in order to come back into alignment with your truth.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

In a love reading, the reversed Eight of Cups suggests that you may be staying in an unfulfilling relationship due to a fear of the unknown or of being alone, or as a result of past abandonment issues. You may be feeling called to take some time for self-exploration, but your logical mind is at odds with this deeper aspect of self that calls you inward. This card encourages you to make time for solitude and self-reflection in order to hear the urgings of your deep self and find your true happiness.

The Eight of Cups reversed may also signify that you’re pursuing a new relationship based on superficial or emotionally unsatisfying criteria. You may be searching for a partner who looks good on paper at the expense of your authentic needs and desires. This card asks if you’re ignoring an important aspect of emotional intimacy as you search for a partner who checks all of your boxes.

Love/relationships reversed keywords

Career/finance reversed keywords

fear of being alone, fear of the unknown, making time for solitude, superficial criteria for a relationship

feeling stuck, discomfort, stagnation, chasing empty markers of success

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

The Eight of Cups in the reversed position suggests you may be staying in an unfulfilling job or career path because you fear being cast adrift into the abyss of the unknown. You may feel that you’re no longer emotionally connected to your work, but this fear is keeping you stuck, and you’re feeling the tension of this discomfort. This card reminds you that you can draw on your courage to explore new horizons.

The reversed Eight of Cups can also signify that you’re chasing external markers of success and accomplishment that don’t satisfy your need for meaningful work. You may have achieved much success and financial security but feel a sense of emptiness as you reflect on what it means to you now. The fulfillment you seek can be found when you tune out external distractions and demands and focus on what your heart needs.