The Five of Cups is the fifth tarot card in the Minor Arcana suit of Cups and represents the grief that follows an experience of loss. This card asks us to sit with difficult feelings of sorrow, disappointment, and heartache and to reflect on the ways in which endings illuminate what is of true importance in our lives.

The Five of Cups card is associated with the element of water and the first decan of the astrological zodiac sign Scorpio (0-9 degrees) and is ruled by the planet Mars. The Major Arcana card associated with Mars—The Tower—sheds light on the nature of this card as a response to an unexpected event that shakes the foundations of one’s emotional life.

Five of Cups Keywords

Upright Keywords

Reversed Keywords

loss, grief, heartache, need to shift awareness

opening up to others, emerging from a period of grief, stuck in the past, fixated on a narrative 

Description of the Five of Cups Tarot Card

The emotional dissatisfaction that is pictured in the Four of Cups evolves in the Five of Cups into a scene of grief over what’s been lost. Perhaps the figure in the  Four of Cups decided that the three cups he was contemplating would not bring him true emotional fulfillment, and in the Five, he releases them—but not without a heavy heart.

In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, a figure in a black cloak—signifying mourning—hangs his head in despair as he gazes at his three overturned cups. Much like him, they have been emptied out, their contents now pooling in a runny mess on the ground. Absorbed in grief, he appears not to notice the two cups behind him, which still remain upright.

The upright cups symbolize the emotional connections and ties he still has in his life, which he will rediscover in the following card. For now, he must feel the fullness of his emotions and reflect on the meaning of loss. He will come to know that surviving painful experiences strengthens him from within, and the sharpness of his suffering will make life’s joys that much sweeter.

In the background, a river flows between rolling green hills, which highlights the importance of allowing his emotions to flow through him. The house across the river suggests that, metaphorically, he cannot return home and that he must accept the changes taking place. The bridge in the distance promises that he will eventually be able to gain perspective on his experiences and move beyond them.

Five of Cups Upright Meaning

This card represents a necessary period of grieving old hurts, feeling the fullness of any regrets, and diving deep into the inner well of sorrow so that these emotions can be felt and released through an experience of catharsis. The process of purging these emotions and thoughts brings a feeling of purification and emotional renewal.

When the Five of Cups is an upright card, it can signify a range of experiences that correlate with loss and the ache that accompanies missing what we once had. This card suggests a longing for the past and for the former experiences of soul connection depicted in the Two and Three of Cups.

As you reflect on the past and the ways that the situation went wrong or deteriorated, try to shift your focus from blame to forgiveness. The more you focus on who’s at fault, whether that’s yourself or another person, the more you keep yourself stuck in repeating painful emotional loops. Try to cultivate compassion for yourself and others and find your way to forgiveness, which can help to release you from this situation.

The upright Five of Cups can also signify that you’re overly focused on the past, and this tendency to ruminate on what’s been lost is preventing you from seeing the gifts that are still available to you. Your perspective may be keeping you hostage to the past, and if you can shift your awareness, you can open yourself up to the opportunities and blessings that await you in the present.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

In a love tarot reading, the Five of Cups upright can signify that you’ve recently experienced heartbreak and that you’re feeling the range of emotions that accompanies this experience: sadness, longing, regret, anger, and the sharp pangs of hunger for what’s been lost. This card is an encouragement to allow yourself to feel the range of your emotions in order to move through them and come out on the other side.

The upright Five of Cups can also represent the invitation to shift your perspective away from ruminating on what’s happened in the past to the present moment. You may be keeping yourself stuck by fixating on what’s been lost and by re-living the painful situation. This card suggests that there are opportunities for connection and healing around you if you open yourself up to them.

Love/relationships upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

heartbreak, longing, fixating on the past, shifting awareness to the present

disappointment, learning from failure, rebuilding relationships

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

The Five of Cups upright suggests that you’ve recently experienced a financial loss, or a disappointment or failure related to your work, and are grieving this setback. You may be reviewing the situation with a heavy heart as you grapple with having to shift and adapt to where you find yourself now.

Reflect on what you can learn from this situation in order to move forward with renewed hope.

The upright Five of Cups can also indicate that you’re missing out on opportunities in your current environment because you’re overly focused on a perceived loss or disappointment. It suggests reaching out to others, including former business partners, to rebuild relationships that you may have been neglecting in order to connect to new opportunities for growth, connection, and abundance.

Five of Cups Reversed Meaning

The Five of Cups in the reversed position of a tarot spread may indicate that you’re emerging from a period of grief, isolation, sorrow, or health issues. You may have been through a heartbreak or loss which prompted you to explore the depths of your most negative emotions, and you are now ready to integrate the lessons from this experience to improve your mental health and life in general. With this shift in perspective, you are able to recognize the gifts that were hidden in the pain and release yourself from it.

When this card appears reversed, it may be important to open up to others about how you’re feeling. You may feel like you’re drowning in sorrow and, on top of that, are feeling guilty or ashamed of lingering pain from old wounds and don’t want to burden others with them. This card suggests that opening up to those you trust, being vulnerable, and sharing your true feelings will help to release you from being stuck inside them.

The reversed Five of Cups can also indicate that you are fixating on or wallowing in the past and on what’s been lost and are finding it difficult to move forward. You may have become so entrenched in your narrative of what happened that you are not acknowledging the role that your self-pity continues to play in the situation. It may also be that you’re not allowing forgiveness into your heart, which is keeping you stuck.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

When the Five of Cups appears reversed, you may be coming out on the other side of an experience of heartbreak or the loss of a loved one. You may have experienced loss, rejection, or the dissolution of a past relationship and have moved through the stages of grief that accompanied this painful experience. With time, you’ve gained valuable perspective on the relationship, which you can use to inform your decisions going forward.

The reversed Five of Cups can also suggest that you are unable to move forward from a painful situation in the past because you are under the powerful illusion that you will never regain what you’ve lost. This card is an encouragement to accept this ending and trust that you will experience love again. When you acknowledge that love always comes with the risk of loss, you can find the courage to open your heart again.

Love/relationships reversed keywords

Career/finance reversed keywords

coming out on the other side of heartbreak, valuable lessons, stuck in the past, accepting the risk of loss in love

accepting failure, learning lessons, fixated on past failures, a need to recognize possibilities

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

The reversed Five of Cups suggests that you’ve experienced a disappointment or failure in your work in the past and are coming to a place of acceptance around what happened. You recognize that just because a project didn’t deliver the results you expected doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth doing. You are able to take the lessons you’ve learned from this experience and apply them to future endeavors.

The Five of Cups reversed can also signify that you’re fixated on a previous failure or disappointment and are unable to move forward. You may benefit from shifting your perspective to realize that you still have opportunities that you can take advantage of if you recognize that they are waiting for you. When you do, you can open yourself up to new possibilities, growth, and development in your work.