Loss. Disappointment. Grief.
The Five of Cups represents loss, disappointment, and grief. Although there is loss, it’s important to remember that something remains—two of the five cups remain standing, so partial loss can be indicated.
And in the RWS image, the road continues on over the bridge to a destination.
There’s a possibility that you regret things you’ve done that cannot be undone—but the road always lies ahead. Regrets might not go away, but they can be learnt from, and what is learnt can be put to use in ways positive affecting the world.
In a relationship reading it shows emotional pain.
Disappointment, sadness, a marriage might be broken off, friends might be unkind—or even lost.
This card can sometimes indicate inheritance.
Reversed, the Five of Cups can take on many meanings; as always trust your intuition and take careful note of accompanying cards.
The opposite of the upright meaning may be indicated. Friendships restored, a new alliance, a new hope.
It could be a warning on a project you are about to commit.
Forgiveness and acceptance are possible meanings.
Reversed, this card could show blockages in your life preventing you from moving on. It may be time to move on and lay the past to rest.
Another meaning can be the same meanings as the upright meaning but to a lesser extent.
In general, reversed cards can mean an internalization of the meanings. Here, that would mean a feeling of grief or disappointment that is hidden within you but not apparent to other people. Perhaps there is a need for you to outwardly express your feelings.
The RWS Five of Cups shows a man in a black cloak standing forlorn near a river. Three spilt cups are near him, two standing cups remain behind his back. In the distance, a white bridge crosses the river, leading to a house or castle. The sky is dull and depressing.
Many other tarot decks echo the image of the RWS. In the Steampunk tarot, the image shows a man at a bar with spilt cups of wine around him representing his loss, his head in his hands in sorrow, while the woman behind the bar looks on sympathetically and shows the possibility of help, even if only in showing the possibility of a new direction.
Astrologically, the Five of Cups represents Mars in Scorpio.
The esoteric title of the Five of Cups is Lord of Loss in Pleasure.