If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.
Henry David Thoreau
I will be the first to admit, as this card gleamed and beckoned to me this sunny morning, my heart sank when I turned it over. Yes, I confess. I was disappointed to have a return visit from one of our recent string of challengers. This week, it’s the Five of Cups again.
Clearly, we are navigating difficult waters.
If you would like to refresh your familiarity with my views about this card of dashed dreams and loss, please visit here.
But today is a holiday that we here in the U.S. commemorate, in honor of our military personnel who have died while serving our country (making this card especially apt).
Although in theory this is an anniversary in which we offer grief and gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice, it has also become the unofficial first day of Summer, and features paralleling fêtes of somber cemetery rites alongside backyard barbecues and vacation fun.
In either case, since many of you may be traveling or busy this week, I thought it would be entertaining to offer the more compact interpretation that was my introduction to the Tarot.
Forty seven years ago, the only book on Tarot I could scrounge up (besides the profoundly unhelpful Little White Booklet that came in the pack) was by the iconic Eden Gray. I never even saw Arthur Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot until the late 1980s, long after discovering others.
Probably this was just as well.
I daresay there are MANY of us old-timers that learned our Tarot A-B-C’s under her tutelage. Perhaps you will enjoy seeing how foundational her interpretations have been to my own, but also how far afield from her somewhat stark, fateful tone I have moved since my earliest beginnings (thanks to decades of practice and countless other brilliant teachers, scholars, and mentors).
Quoting from my original book that, like my deck, I have kept all these years, I hope you’ll find this interesting.
This is how Tarot looked and felt in the early 1970s when I got started.
Five of Cups
The wine of life has been spilled on the ground, and a man in a black cloak looks on in despair. Behind him remain two full cups, but he does not heed them.
In the distance flows the stream of the subconscious, and beyond that a bridge leads to a remote castle.
Here we have the emotions of the Cups, together with the Number Five, which betokens despair and agony over some great loss.
Sorrow. Loss of a loved one. A marriage seems on the point of breaking up. The wine of life has been bitter, and the Seeker refuses to turn and see the cups behind him still full of promise.
Disillusionment, vain regret — but with something still remaining.
Eden Gray, Mastering the Tarot: Basic Lessons in an Ancient, Mystical Art © 1971