The darker the night, the brighter the stars, The deeper the grief, the closer is God! ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
So, in talking about the Five of Cups, let's talk about Fives in general. Fives in the Tarot have a reputation as being rather, ahem, challenging. We talked about it a few weeks ago with the Five of Wands. They are cards of upheaval, action, and change. Again, it is your view of change that really affects how to look at Fives. As Cups deal with emotions and love, the Five of Cups is about upheaval of our emotions. Our cups are spilled over, as is represented by the fallen cups with red wine flowing into Mother Earth. That red wine looks suspiciously like blood, and right it should, we often feel like we are bleeding and traumatized by loss. There is a black cloaked person, head down, clearly crying. He or she is in traditional mourning clothes, and behind this figure runs a river with a bridge, and into a town. The sky is grey. Behind his view, there are two upright cups. He has lost more than he has, but he still has, the card seems to say.
So, this card is about loss. I pull it when the Seeker is grieving from the loss of a family member, from the loss of a marriage or relationship, from the loss of a job, from the loss of a house. Often the cards around it will give me indication of what this is about--lots of pentacles can mean it is a loss of a job; other key Cups, like the Two, Three, or Ten, can mean the loss of a relationship: Wands can mean the person is facing depression, or loss of energy (or sometimes a creative job, like an acting job); and Swords can mean they are losing a legal battle, or the loss is one of perception, rather than reality. If I pull a clarity card for the Five of Cups, I look for Court Cards, because sometimes the Five of Cups comes as a message from beyond for someone--Kings are father figures, Queens are mother figures, Knights are sibling type relationships, friends, or cousins, and Cups are children. Again, Spirit usually directs me toward this clarity. I had a reading with someone grieving a few months ago, and her reading had two Kings in it. As I was reading, I had a distinct feeling that these were cards of people who passed over, and were father figures, and gave her birthdays they could be--Air signs and Earth signs. Her grandfather was the Air and her father the Earth. She recognized them immediately. So even if you are not a medium, remember that Spirit has a lovely way of connecting our Seekers when they need it most.
For me, grief is a great teacher. I have heard the quote, "Grief doesn't change you. It reveals you." It strips away your reserves, and your facade, and exposes your vulnerability. This is a terribly scary place for those of us who wrap our vulnerability up tight, but we must move into the scary place, rather than away from it. This is the key to spiritual growth, in my opinion. And the key for healing from Grief, which feels wrong for the grieving. They fear if they give into their grief, they will never come back. But it never happens that way, does it? We think if we allowed ourselves to cry, we wouldn't stop. But we stop. We do. Moving into the scary places takes support, love and trust in Spirit. As Readers, we ask our clients to be courageous here, and move into the grief, rather than away from it, to heal. To feel every little feeling that arises and acknowledge those emotions and natural, healthy and right, even when those emotions are dark, scary and petty.
Grief can be the opening for spiritual growth and compassion, if we let it. For grief is a heart-centered experience--it is about love and connection, and the seeming break from that connection. But Spirit connects us, always, across time and space. We see this in dream time when we see our loved ones, or in release rituals where we release anger at our ex-husband and remember the great love once shared. One great gift of grief is that each person in the world can relate and understand those around us who suffer. Grief speaks one language--Love.
We all lose, we are all lost at some point. I wrote about grief and gratitude in November. This is my philosophy of grief. Moving into it, feeling it, embracing it as an expression of Love, rather than Death. I read Tarot books who tell Readers to remind the Seeker to focus on their upright cups rather than their overturned ones. But this is so dismissive to me as a grieving mother and daughter. Grief and gratitude coexist for most of us, as I write in the piece above. I recommend my clients sit with grief, and perhaps try some meditations that help them feel the emotions of grief. Another great practice is tonglen meditation, which basically says, "Since I am feeling grief already, allow me to feel the grief of others, so their grief may be lessened." This meditation is quite opposite of our instincts, but we breathe in suffering, and exhale release. We breathe in pain and fear, and exhale peace. In this way, we are asking to take in more grief, rather than less. The idea is that we help alleviate suffering through our suffering. I do this practice in my painting work, and I made a wee film about this a few years ago. Maybe it will help you to understand the process.
So, back to the Five of Cups...when I get this card, I ask my client about their grief. I tell them to sit with it, to weep, to treat themselves like an injured person, which they are. I tell them to give themselves a time frame for grieving, and just nurture themselves through the grief. The piece I wrote recently about healing from friendship loss--so much of it can be applied to healing from any loss. Because so much of what my writing has been in the last five years is about grief, I might write a post about grief stones, support and ideas for moving through grief. If you would like more information on grieving support, please let me know in the comments.
This card in the reversed position is about moving out of the period of grief. Spirit does this to validate and nod to your experience of grieving. It is a profound life changer, even if you are simply grieving the loss of a job. Spirit doesn't differentiate different suffering in the same way we do on earth. There is no ranking of grief or suffering. The experience of suffering is one that is a Noble Truth for a reason, and Spirit often says with the reversed Five of Cups, "Yes, you have grieved. We held you during your grief. We stood beside you. We wept with you. And now," Spirit whispers, "Now, you may go forward from here, not forgetting, but taking with you only the Love that was always there."
Please let me know what you think of this post, or this card. I'd love to hear your insights as Readers or Seekers, or someone simply interested in these spiritual truths.