The Spiritual Meaning of the Five of Cups Tarot Card

The Spiritual Meaning of the Five of Cups Tarot Card

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The Five of Cups instructs us to explore our relationship to trauma and how we process. Learn more about the spiritual meaning of this tarot card.

The Five of Cups tarot card usually shows a cloaked figure looking down at three cups that have been spilled. Two cups remain upright just behind this person where they can’t be seen. In the distance is a bridge across water, some faraway land that must be crossed.

The Five of Cups and La Llorona

In the Tarot of the Divine deck by Yoshi Yoshitani, the Five of Cups is represented by La Llorona, a mythical ghost from Mexican folklore whose name means “The Wailing Woman.” She wanders near bodies of water, cursed to weep eternally after committing a terrible act: She is said to have drowned her children, because they were born out of wedlock, because there wasn’t enough food, or for some other mysterious reason.

Her story is sometimes told as a cautionary tale or a warning to stay away from the water. There’s also something relatable about her, some part of us that may feel as if it is eternally wailing near the water, grieving some terrible loss.

The Five of Cups and Trauma

When this card shows up in a spread, I am always called to think about trauma. The concept of this card is that the figure is focused on the cups that have spilled, unable to see that there are still two cups upright just behind her. Trauma can feel like that: Some terrible event or experience can make us feel that our lives are a series of upturned cups, empty and despairing, hopeless.

My favorite definition of trauma is “any unhealed wound”—it’s not always something big and dramatic. It’s as likely to be something that didn’t happen as something that did. It’s something that doesn’t fit with our worldview, something that scrambles our everyday functioning. It’s something that needs attention and healing.

Hope After Trauma: Lessons From the Five of Cups

When we’ve experienced trauma in any way, our nervous systems are often so attuned to this terrible experience that we feel as if we are always unsafe. We may feel that whatever happened was our fault and that we deserve to wander forever with no purpose but spilling our tears. In some cases, we avoid even thinking about what happened; a deep-seated, often unconscious fear within us that if we admit our feelings and begin to cry we will never stop, becoming La Llorona herself. For some of us, hope feels dangerous. We must not turn around and consider the cups that are still full.

The bridge in the distance, however, implies that there is, indeed, hope. That we have a choice to process whatever it was we went through so that we can cross over to the other side. In my experience in working with trauma, once something really devastating has happened, there is no such thing as “going back” to the way they were before. At some point in our healing process, we must grieve the person we once were and trust that, when we cross that bridge, life can still be okay. In fact, life can be better.

The truth about recovering from trauma (and those two full cups) is that we often gain beautiful insights and skills from the process of healing. This is a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth. We can gain improved communication skills, we can work out old beliefs that don’t serve us anymore, and we can find new ways of understanding the world. We can often gain empathy for other people, especially when they’ve been through something, too. We can see parts of the world as precious and find immense gratitude for the life, joy, and connection that we do get to experience.

If the Five of Cups has appeared for you, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if something in your past is still holding onto you. Is there something you haven’t fully grieved or acknowledged in your life? Or are you the one holding onto something a little too tightly? Perhaps it’s time to turn around and find out what’s waiting for you in those two full cups.

Here are ten ways to use tarot in your everyday life.

The Spiritual Meaning of the Five of Cups Tarot Card

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