The good news about the Four of Cups is that you hold the key within you; you are the solution to your own problems. The bad news is that you are currently overlooking that key, and are failing to see the world around you as abundant and beautiful.
When the Four of Cups comes up in a Tarot reading, it is often a sign of pessimism and a negative focus. It suggests that you are looking at what you don’t have rather than at what you have, or might have, if you just place your energy and focus in the right place. Becoming fully aware of our own potential and of the blessings in our lives can be a gradual process, an awakening. The upright Four of Cups challenges you to take a pro-active approach to your awakening. Ultimately, only you are responsible for your happiness and successes. You may not have them right now, but you can create them. The Four of Cups tells you that you don’t lack potential, or talents. What you lack is a firm belief in yourself and in your ability to create the life you desire.
What the Cups mean in Tarot
The Tarot’s Minor Arcana (meaning ‘lesser mysteries’) consists of four suits, one representing each of the four elements. There is the suit of Swords for air, the suit of Pentacles for earth, the suit of Wands for fire and the suit of Cups for water.
Water is linked to mystery, imagination, creative potential, psychic ability, emotional intelligence, depth of feeling, empathy, compassion and the vast, largely undefined territory of the subconscious mind. The Cups cards speak of our emotions, and address our creative and psychic potential. They may also refer to romantic relationships, or other emotional bonds.
Numerological number 4 in Tarot
According to numerology, the number 4 is the number of balance, stability, security, and firm boundaries. Just like a house typically has four corners and a chair needs four legs to stand on, the number 4 ensures that we have stable ground under our feet and adds structure to our lives.
The meaning of the numerological number four tells us a lot about the Four of Cups Tarot card, before we even begin to look at its imagery. The Four of Cups depicts a scene of stability and comfort – but also of boredom and discontentment. To thrive, we need a certain amount of stability, but we also need expansion, novelty and risk. The latter qualities are completely absent form the Four of Cups, and provides us with a significant clue as to what might shake up the stagnant energy of this card.
Four of Cups Tarot card description
Depictions of the Four of Cups card differ between Tarot decks, but most include versions of the symbols and details found in the classic Rider-Waite Tarot. Because the Rider-Waite version of the card is the best known, its s the one we will be taking a closer look at here.
The primary figure in the Four of Cups Tarot card is the young man sitting under a tree, his arms crossed. He is dressed in green, red and blue, suggesting a dynamic and multi-layered personality. However, he is looking down, seemingly recoiling in self-absorption. If he were to look up for just a moment, he would notice the abundance, the blessings and the potential all around him.
The golden chalices
Three cups are standing in the grass near the youth, but he is not noticing them.
A fourth cup is hovering in the air right in front of the young man’s nose, but with his eyes downcast, he just isn’t seeing it. The cup is presented by the hand of divinity, emerging from a cloud. The symbolism couldn’t be more clear; the universe is offering the man divine inspiration and guidance, but he is either refusing it or is unable to see or accept it.
The landscape surrounding the young man is green and lush, replete with rolling hills, growing trees and a clear blue sky. The man wants for nothing, and that may be part of his problem. If the landscape was barren, the threat of starvation and the possibility for proving himself may spur him on start working with his innate potential to create something; to make something grow and blossom. But because he is comfortable and well looked after, he is lacking the impetus. Nothing challenges him, and at the moment captured in the card, he is not challenging himself.
Four of Cups Tarot card meanings
The Four of Cups card contains a plethora of meaning and significance. Here are the key and primary Four of Cups Tarot card meanings.
Apathy, inaction, stagnation
When it appears in its upright position, the Four of Cups card is a clear sign of apathy, stagnation, a general failure to move forward.
Nothing in your life is truly out of order – you don’t exactly hate it at your job or in your romantic relationship, your family or your social life. Everything is kind of okay, humming along on an even emotional keel, without either good or bad surprises. You are comfortable, but feeling bored. You may not be desperately unhappy, but you are not really satisfied either. Something vital peppers to be missing, but because you are comfortable, you can’t put your finger on what it is. All you know is that you are feeling stuck and demotivated.
Self-absorbed apathy has taken over, and you are not really interested in changing your situation. It seems inconvenient to do so. Still, deep within, you long to experience joy, and excitement again.
Missing or refusing opportunities
When the upright Four of Cups comes up in Tarot readings, it indicates missed opportunities and an inability to make the most of the good things about your situation.
The Four of Cups Tarot card suggests that you have an abundance of potential within you, as well as a wealth of opportunity all around you.
Sometimes, the Four of Cups Tarot card is a sign of being lost in daydream reveries, fantasising about how wonderful your future is going to be. You are putting so much of your energy into imaginings that you are failing to empower and appreciate your current reality – thereby denying yourself any chance of attaining the future you dream of.
The upright Four of Cups Tarot card can suggest a negative focus and pessimistic disposition -sometimes, it can even hint at depression. Instead of looking at what you have, or what you might create or attain if focus your mind, your potential and energy, you are focused entirely on what you perceive to be missing from your life. Your negativity might become a vicious cycle, destroying your emotional balance.
One potentially positive meaning of the Four of Cups is self-reflection, meditation, the ability to focus inward to discover your true desires, values and goals.
Reversed Four of Cups Tarot card meanings
When the Four of Cups card appears in its reversed position, its generaly negative connotations are flipped on their head. Here are the primary meanings of the reversed Four of Cups.
Action and agency
The reversed Four of Cups indicates taking action, being pro-active in overcoming your insecurities and indecision, and moving forward, overcoming stagnation
Seizing or looking for opportunities
The Four of Cups reversed indicates a great ability to recognise and seize new opportunities when they present themselves to you. Here, you are completely aware of the fortunate position you are in, and of the possibilities and opportunities that are available to you, or may become available to you, if only you care and dare to show up and claim them.
Positive focus, pro-active attitude
The Four of Cups reversed hints at a positive and pro-active attitude, a true appreciation of the blessings you have in your life – as well as a sense of positive expectancy when it comes to the ones you don’t have yet, but intend to reach and enjoy in the future.
Four of Cups Tarot card interpretations
The Four of Cups card is like a multi-layered, multi-faceted prism. Which aspect of its meaning stands out in a Tarot reading depends on a number of factors, primarily on any important card combinations in the spread, as well as the individual reader’s interpretation. Here are some examples of what the Four of Cups could mean in different contexts.
What the Four of Cups means in a love Tarot reading
You feel uninspired and are lacking interest in your relationship or in your romantic life. Your self-absorption may lead to a bad breakup as your partner no doubt feels neglected and under-appreciated.
You are sensing a great romantic potential and are actively pursuing it.
What the Four of Cups means in a career Tarot reading
You are feeling dissatisfied, uninspired and apathetic at work. It is time to expand your horizons, your skillsets, and to set and pursue some new goals that will challenge and inspire you to grow.
The Four of Cups reversed can have a very positive career meaning. You are pursuing your interests and seizing opportunities as they present themselves.