Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.
— Kahlil Gibran
Now as we in the Northern Hemisphere stand upon the threshold of Winter, embraced by the darkest of nights, we are visited this week by the Five of Cups. This is a card that is both mysterious and sorrowful. A figure in black mourning is slightly turned away from us, face hidden in grief, gazing at the three spilled cups. While the sky is gray, the river is clear and relatively smooth, and there are two cups remaining. Once the figure turns around, they will also see the bridge that crosses the stream.
The Fives of the Tarot are concerned with strife and sometimes suffering. And of course, Cups are emotions, love, dreams and intuition. One of the few Tarot cards in the R-W-S deck whose main figure seems deliberately androgynous, this is a reminder that bitterness of loss, regret, and grief is universal to all.
Perhaps the three spilled Cups are the celebratory Three of Cups, now dashed. But then, the friendship and heart-connection meaning of the Two of Cups may be represented in the standing cups behind the figure. Could it be that, unbeknownst to the grieving one, there is support nearby from friends or a lover?
Perhaps he or she has deliberately overturned the cups of love or happiness. Or has it been due to carelessness that the loss has occurred? The river of emotion, the unconscious, and cleansing flows nearby. It will bring healing, once the Hermit-like figure turns to discover the remaining Cups and the bridge that crosses it. Once having crossed the bridge, shelter and home await.
The Wheel of the Year is turning now to the longest night. Death and the bitter cold have seized the power, and everywhere we see the evidence of Demeter’s grieving. There is nothing to do but surrender.
Still, though, like the Five of Cups, we are at the moment of turning, when we shall see that within the bleak heart of the darkest night, there lies the precise moment when the light will be reborn. This is the great truth: all is not lost.
This is a card about pausing to face loss, and taking the time you need for acceptance. While you are suffering, who “has your back?” What wine of life still remains, waiting for you to notice its presence?
If you have suffered disappointment or heartbreak, be honest about it, but do not hold onto regret. While you may need to grieve, there is life still, and it points the way towards your journey of healing and hope. Say your goodbyes, knowing that while you do, the seeds for tomorrow’s rebirth remain.
At last, it is time for you to turn away from sorrow, and in so doing, discover that there have been gifts waiting for your notice, only a hair’s breadth away from you. You only need to accept them and move forward again.