I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.
Gandalf’s farewell, Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
As we in the Northern Hemisphere feel the fading of the Samhain doorway, and we enter the time-between-time that will carry us to the darkest of the dark at Yule, we are visited for the third time this year by the Five of Cups.
As has been noted before, we see an androgynous figure cloaked in black mourning, slightly turned away from us, face hidden in grief, gazing at three spilled cups.
While the sky is a non-committal gray, the river nearby is clear and relatively smooth. There are rolling hills and two cups remaining.
You will remember that the Cups suit corresponds to the element of Water, and therefore addresses all matters of the heart, our emotions, our dreams, and our intuition.
In our September Triangle Tarot & Friends Meetup, our resident artist, mathematician, and Tarot wizard, Dana Dreaming Spirit Bear, gave a very insightful presentation on the Fives of the Tarot.
As he noted, based on the artistic composition and continuity of the images that Pixie Smith so intentionally created, it is clear that the stasis of the Fours gives way to the catalytic energy of the Fives, in which pain or discomfort serves to push us towards change.
So if this is a story of the Four of Cups transitioning to the unhappy Five, it would appear that the three cups that were under the tree are now dashed.
Once the suffering figure of the Five has come to a full comprehension of his (or her) grief, they are ready to be prompted by their distress to move on to the Six.
Thus, once they turn around, he or she will see the two remaining cups, as well as the bridge that crosses a stream, where shelter awaits.
This takes on additional significance when we realize that this is one of Pixie Smith’s most subtle “stage cards” (based on the horizontal line that goes across the width of the card).
So this bitter moment may simply be unfolding in a play, with the cups in the foreground on the stage boards, and the scenery depicted on a backdrop.
Although it is obvious that I’ve been unavoidably late posting this, I pulled this week’s card during Monday morning’s rare Mercury transit. With Mercury also currently retrograding in the sign of Scorpio, this is an auspicious time for reviewing our past. It is very likely that such examination might center on that which has caused us heartache, injury, and emotional upset.
In addition, Scorpio’s influence pushes us to find deeper meaning and assign greater importance to our feelings. The Five of Cups‘ tragic posture, whether staged or not, is quite accordant with the Scorpionic flair for drama.
Monday also marked the holiday that much of the world has declared a day of respect for those who have served their countries in war. Known as Veteran’s Day (U.S.), Remembrance Day (U.K. and Commonwealth Countries), and Armistice Day (France and Belgium), to name but a few, this day was originally set aside to commemorate the end of one of the bloodiest wars in world history (WWI).
A century later, with millions more fatalities, it is apropos that this card be a reminder that most of us are scarred in one way or another by war.
Author, artist, and scholar Caitlín Matthews, in her essential daily guide, The Celtic Spirit, writes of November 11, “Within the last five generations, there has probably not been a family living that did not have some remembrance of war and conflict, some dead to mourn as a result of warfare…”
May this card be a stark reminder that, John Wayne, Chris Hemsworth, and Hollywood notwithstanding, war is not glory. We live in an age where the trigger of conflict can result in immediate, incomprehensible, irrevocable catastrophe, no matter how much posturing and saber rattling the “chicken hawks” might love to provoke.
Thus, the mourner on the edge of the river could well be humanity itself.
In addition, the Full Moon on Tuesday accompanies this visit from the Five of Cups. My brilliant friend Elisabeth Grace offers a treasure trove of insights regarding this week’s astrological influences, which you can read here.
But in addition, this Full Moon had me thinking a lot about what our ancestors have called Her. The sublime Cate Kerr likes to collect these names for the monthly Moons, and this November one certainly reflects the poignancy of this time of year.
Many of you will be familiar with November’s Beaver Moon, but Cate’s list includes:
Buffalo Moon, Cold Begins Moon, Dark Moon, Deer Rutting Moon, Twelfth Moon, Falling Leaves Moon, Fog Moon, Freezing Moon, Frosty Moon, Geese Going Moon, Hunter’s Moon, Large Tree Freeze Moon, Little Bear’s Moon, Long Moon, Mad Moon, Moon of Cold, Moon of Fledgling Hawk, Moon of Freezing, Moon of Storms, Moon of the Falling Leaves, Moon of the Shaken Leaves, Moon of the Turkey and Feast, Moon the Rivers Begin to Freeze, Moon When All Is Gathered in, Moon When Deer Shed Antlers, Moon When Deer Shed Their Antlers, Moon When Horns Are Broken Off, Moon When the River Freezes, Moon When the Rivers Start to Freeze, and Moon When the Water Is Black with Leaves, Sassafras Moon, Snow Moon, Snowy Mountains in the Morning Moon, Trading Moon, Trail Moon, Tree Moon, White Frost on Grass & Ground Moon, White Moon, and Willow Moon.
In addition, these are the days when the Wild Hunt is in progress. Unsurprisingly, then, there are other names that address endings and grief for this Full Moon that hovers between Samhain and Yule, including the Mourning Moon and the Sacrifice Moon. Loss comes with the territory.
Please understand — I do not wish this post to be depressing or overly gloomy. But the Five of Cups is an acknowledgement from the Tarot (and starkly unlike many oracle/inspiration decks) that real life is a weaving of dark and light, laughter and tears, and that the human heart (which is aligned to the suit of Cups) contains both. The Tarot guides us to recognize that both are treasures in their own ways.
Let Our Love Be Greater Than Our Grief
Thus, the message of this card, as joyless as it looks at first, is that, simply by turning, there is a path waiting. This is its great truth: all is not lost.
The Fives are transitions. They are the uncomfortable in-betweenness that take us out of our comfort zone to the new possibilities of the Sixes.
If a broken heart is currently your traveling companion, allow yourself all the time you need, to find your own intimate acceptance. Grieving that is rushed or buried is just as perilous to our well-being as despair or hopelessness.
And if this is happening to someone dear to you, once they indicate they are receptive, what gentle care might you offer? The quiet figure cloaked in black portrays the wisdom of honoring their sacred timing.
Across the span of our own lives, as well as from person to person, we experience our pain differently. Although there may be loved ones who “have our backs,” like the two cups behind the figure, our journey in the lands of loss is essentially a solitary one.
But it must be made if we are to heal and move on.
With infinite patience, may your journey of grief’s release and the subsequent turning be blessed in the ways known deep in your own heart, for not all tears are an evil.