The Six of Cups is the sixth Minor Arcana card in the tarot deck’s suit of Cups and transports us to an idyllic past, symbolizing the emotions and memories associated with one’s childhood. This card evokes themes of safety, love, innocence, and nostalgia. It speaks to the ways that we relate to the passing of time and to the sense that our bonds of love and friendship leave indelible imprints on our memories.

The Six of Cups is associated with the element of water and the second decan of the astrological zodiac sign Scorpio (10-19 degrees), and the Sun is its ruling planet. The Sun card in the Major Arcana also depicts a child reveling in innocent play within the safety of an enclosed garden, illuminating the relationship between childhood, innocence, and purity found in both cards.

Six of Cups Keywords

Upright Keywords

Reversed Keywords

nostalgia, security, idealizing the past, transience, opening the heart

fixation on the past, re-parenting oneself, seeing through the idealization of the past 

Description of the Six of Cups Tarot Card

The Six of Cups card represents recapturing part of what was lost in the Five of Cups, which describes the experience of grief and heartbreak that fractured the inner emotional world. The Six emerges as a portal for reconnecting to one’s inner child and to a time before we experienced pain, regret, rejection, or leaving home. That this card follows the Five reminds us that it’s possible to truly appreciate life’s sweetness only when we have contrasting experiences of pain and loss.

In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, two small beings meet within an enclosed garden as the boy offers the girl a cup brimming with flowers. The house and village that surround them speak to a feeling of being safely enclosed and securely protected from harm in a village where they are free to play and roam.

The cups, which form a barricade around them, echo the feeling of being protected and surrounded by the beauty and the safety of home. A golden light washes over the scene, imbuing the card with a feeling of nostalgia and peacefulness, imparting the sense that our memories become sweeter and hazier with the passing of time.

The six cups each contain a single white flower, indicating they’ve been freshly cut and, therefore, are transient and ephemeral experiences of beauty. Similarly, we each will pass on, but what we leave behind or give to others is symbolized by the cup—the happy memories of our love and the beauty of our friendships.

Six of Cups Upright Meaning

The Six of Cups upright signifies nostalgia and a time of reunion with one’s childhood memories. You may be reminiscing on your role as a parent or a child, thoughts of an old friend or childhood friends, past loves, your upbringing, or feelings of warmth and safety connected to your childhood. This walk down memory lane may be cut with a bittersweet awareness that you cannot ever return to this time, and you feel a visceral sense of life’s transience with a mix of longing and appreciation for your present position and new beginnings.

When the Six of Cups appears upright in a tarot spread, it may be a signal to connect to the part of yourself that is unafraid to share your heart openly with others, despite the known risks. It is an encouragement to share your gifts of love and friendship and seize moments of opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation for those you love.

With this card can also come an awareness that through memory’s mirror, old memories of past events can become softened and idealized, the afterglow of nostalgia wiping away the sharpness of painful experiences. If you’re feeling stuck around making a change of some kind, this card may suggest that releasing your idealized vision of the past will help you engage with the task of the present.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

In a love tarot reading, the Six of Cups upright is an encouragement to embody a child-like willingness to share one’s heart freely without strings attached and to have the courage to share the valuable gift of your love and affection. Like the flowers in the vase, the moment will not last forever, so it is a reminder to seize the day.

The Six of Cups upright can also speak to a desire to recapture an aspect of your childhood (real or longed for) within your romantic relationship. You may be seeking the feeling of comfort, safety, and security that you either did or did not feel in your youth or with a childhood sweetheart. This may be an encouragement to reflect on the ways that your experiences in early life inform your current motivations in partnership.

Love/relationships upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

sharing one’s heart freely, openness, desire for comfort and safety, reflecting on childhood

reconnecting to child-like joy and play, generosity, open-heartedness

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

The Six of Cups upright can signify a desire to reconnect to what brought you joy as a youth. You may be consumed with the demands of adulthood and all its attendant responsibilities or overly focused on achievement and external metrics of success. This card is a reminder to also make space for your inner child, who longs for play and freedom of expression.

The Six of Cups also represents that you can find success in your work when you approach it with a spirit of love and generosity. To increase the flow of abundance in your work, consider what you can give away for free or share with others from your heart. Approaching your work with a spirit of open-heartedness will attract others to you and build feelings of trust and a desire for reciprocity.

Six of Cups Reversed Meaning

In the reversed position, the tarot meaning of the Six of Cups represents difficulty accessing the joy, freedom, and security that you felt in the past with close friends or past lovers. It may feel hard to access this child-like part of you that once felt unafraid to share yourself with others. You may feel the desire to peel back the layers of accumulated social and cultural conditioning to access your pure and uninhibited inner self.

The reversed Six of Cups can also speak to a complicated relationship to one’s upbringing and the sense that you did not receive the nurturing or permission for freedom of expression that you needed. You may be getting in touch with a desire to re-parent yourself and to hold yourself with the tenderness, love, and compassion that you needed as a child or young adult.

The Six of Cups reversed can also signify a fixation on the past or on your childhood. You may be stalled from moving forward in some aspect of your life because you are caught up in a narrative about the past that is preventing you from growing and maturing. This card may be an encouragement to see through your idealization of the past in order to reckon with the reality of the present.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

The Six of Cups reversed can signify that your romantic relationship is experiencing the ripple effects of tension from unresolved childhood pain or wounding from a past love. If there are lingering issues from the past that are influencing your current dynamic, you may benefit from reflecting on how your unmet childhood needs are impacting your current relationship. Your inner child may need love, attention, and care in order to heal.

The reversed Six of Cups can also speak to a feeling of being stuck in the past and unable to move forward with a new relationship. You may be idealizing a previous relationship and are unfairly comparing each new connection to this romanticized ideal. This card is an encouragement to release unhelpful attachments to the past so that you may invite new relationships into your life.

Love/relationships reversed keywords

Career/finance reversed keywords

unresolved childhood pain, inner child healing, stuck in the past, idealizing past relationships

creative blocks, overly focused on the end goal, need for play and experimentation, releasing the past

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

In a career reading, the Six of Cups reversed suggests that you may be experiencing creative blocks or frustrations. You may be inhibiting your creativity and your ability to experiment and discover new solutions by focusing solely on the end goal. In order to reconnect to your creative flow, you may benefit from creating a metaphorical walled garden for your creative spirit to play and create inside of.

The reversed Six of Cups may indicate that you are having trouble moving forward in your work because of idealized attachments to the past. Whether you are focusing on past losses or past gains, your fixation on the years gone by is preventing you from taking important steps in the present. When you release your outworn attachments, you can invite new opportunities for growth into your work.