8 of Cups

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There are no purely positive or negative cards in the Tarot, but the Eight of Cups is decidedly on the more negative end of the spectrum. The card presents us with a scene of disappointment and withdrawal; a figure is walking away from the eight golden chalices he has worked so hard to gather. Now, they no longer seem to bring him any joy – or he has deemed that they are not worth the effort- and he is walking away, leaving them in the past.

The Eight of Cups Minor Arcana card often comes up in Tarot readings when you are feeling disappointed, disillusioned, and are on the brink of giving up and abandon your passion project, your relationship or a particular dream or hope you have been carrying in your heart, but whose flame now seems to have become extinguished. The Eight of Cups deals with heavy, dark and difficult emotions – and yet the card contains a glimmer of hope, as even the darker Tarot cards do. There’s a point at which any toxic relationship, unfulfilling career, fruitless pursuit or untenable situation becomes unbearable.

The Eight of Cups reversed might indicate that you are abandoning the project a little too soon, that one more try might be worth it, but it can also convey a sense of hopelessness and aimless indecision as you are tired of staying, but terrified of leaving. You will have to look to any significant card combinations in the surrounding spread to gage which shade of the card’s meaning is relevant.

What the Cups mean in Tarot

The Tarot’s Minor Arcana is divided into four suits – each represents one of the four elements that make up the natural world. The suit of Swords deals with air, the Pentacles with earth, the Wands with fire and the Cups with water.

Water is linked to feeling and emotion, notions of romance and compassion, intuition and creativity, and in a wider sense, to the vast and mostly uncharted realm of the subconscious mind.

A Minor Arcana Tarot card example of the water element in perfect balance and harmony is the Queen of Cups. Seated on her throne, the Queen of the element is holding an ornate golden cup in her hands. Her gaze is fastened on it with appreciation and recognition; her imagination, intuition and emotional strength are the foundation of her kingdom.

A Major Arcana Tarot card example of the water element in balance is Temperance. Here, we see an angel pouring water between two golden cups, an alchemical process that will lead to emotional and creative equilibrium.

Numerological number 8 in Tarot

It is interesting to look at the significance of the numerological number 8 as it relates to the 8 of Cups Tarot card.

According to numerology, the number 8 represents infinity. Consisting of two interlinked, unbroken loop, the number 8 reminds us of the universal law of the transmutation of energy, which dictates that nothing is ever lost or destroyed, it only changes form. The laws of physics tell us the same, when ice turns into water, which in turn turns into mist, then clouds, then rain.

The number 8 also represents abundance, wealth, growth, transformation and success. These are exactly the qualities that seem to be missing or lost when we look at the 8 of Cups Tarot card. The key takeaway here is the the number 8, at its core, is one of abundance, wealth, success and fruition, and even in the gloom of the 8 of Cups, all of these positive qualities exist in a state of potential.

Eight of Cups Tarot card description

Depictions of the Eight of Cups Tarot card are bound to differ from deck to deck, but most versions include the following symbols and details. Let us take a closer look.

The man

The Eight of Cups shows a man walking with his back turned to the viewer and disappearing into the card’s background. He is wearing a red tunic and red shoes, hinting at his inherent passion and drive. He may not be in touch wit these qualities within himself right now, but they exist within him, waiting to be tapped into again.

The man is learning on his staff and is hunched over, as if a strong wind is blowing adversity in his face. The figure seems elusive and distant.

The eight cups

Eight golden chalices are stacked high in the card’s foreground. Because their owner has abandoned them, they become the card’s primary visual focus.

The cups represent emotional fulfilment, creative potential, romance, playfulness, happiness and other joyous things. This immediately begs the question: Why would anyone abandon them like this, instead of treasure them?

The landscape

The landscape in the Eight of Cups Tarot card is rather dark and hostile. Illuminated only by the moon, the landscape consists of a rocky, barren plain leadings to a mountainous region in the distance. In the Tarot, mountains can both symbolise spiritual attainment, and indicate that a steep and difficult path lies ahead.

Large puddles of water, presenting the man’s wounded and unresolved emotions, make his path even more difficult. A stream of water already septettes the man from the cups he has left behind, hinting at the emotional cost he is paying by walking away.

Keep in mind that, painful as it is in the moment, walking away may the man’s only shot at long-term happiness. Rather than staying behind, clinging to the relics of his golden chalices in a barren and inhospitable landscape, the man is tearing himself away, sacrificing what he has built, and is moving on in pursuit of healing and renewal.

Sometimes, the only way is to detach oneself from a negative situation or unfulfilling relationship.

Eight of Cups Tarot card meanings

When the Eight of Cups card appears in its upright position in Tarot readings, it is not exactly a positive omen. Nevertheless, the card can bring comfort and reassurance when you are dealing with a tough situation where difficult decisions will have to be made to secure your future happiness.

Here are the key upright Eight of Cups Tarot card meanings.

Disappointment

One of the primary meanings of the Eight of Cups card is disappointment.

Whether we are talking about an unhappy relationship, a bad situation at work, a financial or health related setback, or any other disappointing situation, there is a deep sense of despondency and distress.

Cutting your losses

On a more positive note, the Eight of Cups can indicate that you have finally reached the end of your tether in a toxic relationship or an unfulfilling job and are finding the power and courage within yourself to make the important decisions you need to make, tad to ultimately cut your losses and walk away.

You are realizing that your current, bad relationship is not the only relationship that is possible for you. There are other potential partners out there, and new opportunities to experience love and forge connection. There are better jobs, too, and people who will honour, respect and encourage you rather than put you down. The Eight of Cups can be a card of not settling for less than what you are worth or less than what you deserve.

Emotional withdrawal

The Eight of Cups can indicate emotional withdrawal, disengaging from people and pursuits that used to light you up. If this is the case, consider what has changed. Is it that your passions and interests have shifted, or is it that you have silently given up on this particular friendship, relationship or dream? Dig out the underlying truth and examine it.

Abandonment

The upright Eight of Cups can sometimes suggest abandonment issues, a sense of being left behind or pushed away. You may have developed a trauma around abandonment all the way back in your childhood, or perhaps in a more recent romantic relationship. Either way, you are left feeling paranoid that and anxious that the people in your life could withdraw their love and support of you at any moment – as a result, you may be fearful of truly investing and immersing yourself in various relationships, forgetting that true happiness entails a certain level of risk and daring to be vulnerable and trusting.

Reversed Eight of Cups Tarot card meanings

When the Eight of Cups reversed comes up in Tarot readings, its meanings become distorted, inverted or exacerbated. Here are the primary reversed Eight of Cups Tarot card meanings.

Trying one more time, giving it one last shot

Whereas the upright Eight of Cups suggests that you are more than ready to throw the towel in the ring and walk away, the Eight of Cups reversed indicates that you may be willing – and that it may well be worth it – to try one more time, to give your cheating boyfriend or girlfriend one last chance, to take one more shot at starting your own business.

Inability to cut the cord

Conversely, the Eight of Cups reversed can also mean that you are simply unable to recognise that your higher purpose is best taught elsewhere, and as result you keep beating the same dead horse over and over again. You may be trapped in a toxic relationship dynamic or some other vicious cycle – which could include addiction – that you are simply unable to break at this time, even if you know it is bad for you.

Indecision, aimlessness

The Eight of Cups reversed can hint at aimlessness and indecision. You might have too much time on your hands, or more than enough money to live well without having to create or build anything. Whatever the cause, your indecision and lack of motivation are causing you to drift aimlessly, without emotionally connecting to anyone or anything on a deeper level.

Hopelessness

Pushed to its every extreme, the Eight of Cups reversed can point to hopelessness. Whether a string of bad luck or a particularly severe case of low self esteem have brought you here, it is time for you to do some soul searching to rediscover you light, your courage and a path to a brighter future.

Eight of Cups Tarot card interpretations

Every Tarot card is a prism of meaning. Which facet of its significance becomes relevant in any one Tarot reading is context dependant, meaning it relies on the individual Tarot reader’s interpretation, on the focus of the reading, and on any important card combinations in the spread.

Here are a few examples of how the Eight of Cups might be interpreted in the context of different readings.

What the Eight of Cups suggests in a love Tarot reading

Upright

You may be struggling to overcome abandonment issues and may feel compelled to withdraw emotionally at the first sign of a potential letdown.

Reversed

You have let your own issues get completely in the way of experiencing love and connection. Past pain may be poisoning your present, or a shattered self esteem may be keeping you from breaking free of a loveless relationship.

What the Eight of Cups means in a career Tarot reading

Upright

You have just about had it with your current job or business venture. You are feeling discouraged and are ready to call it quits.

Reversed

You are feeling deeply emotionally and creatively unfulfilled and aimless in your career. Work on your personal healing and self-understanding. Trust that a better career path awaits you, if only you dare to listen to your feelings and open your eyes to all the options you have.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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