Five of Cups: Getting Un-Stuck

Rider-Waite five of cups in the bottom of the photo resting on a brown cloth with printed scissors on it. Other cards are face down in piles with blue plaid-ish designs. A small wooden box is barely in frame at the top of of the image and on the RIder-Waite box is resting.

Today I sat with a card I’ve gotten a couple of times in the recent past while reading for a friend. I got it before I had been able to sit with it- so at first I was a little uncertain as to its meaning, but the second time it clicked, and today I gave it the attention I had been meaning to and opened up a new level of understanding.

Its really not a complicated concept to understand- and with all the positivity culture, the message is one that I find a little bit… dull and overused. Such a pity to be turned off to a perspective so important. Thats the unfortunate thing about cultures that favor one way of being over another- the alternative, which is often a healthy thing given its place, becomes this great big shadow that no one wants to look at. It grows bigger and bigger and in stead of functioning like healthy, normal human beings we end up pathologizing something that is vital to our wellbeing, like grief. And when we try and cast out this monstrous “thing” we start to feel inferior and broken.

Don’t ever believe those people who say they just “stay positive” and every thing is cool. They are suffering too, they just aren’t saying so. And their inability to reconcile their inner truth does not reflect on you. You are not a bad person for feeling the “bad” things. You are a good person who was not taught how to own the full spectrum of your feelings.

Positivity culture is really just a byproduct of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. We aren’t allowed to own our feelings, particularly if they are unpleasant. These feelings pose a threat to the structure of society… because feelings are important indications of what kind of conditions we are living in, and that kind of knowing might make us start to consider what is going wrong and what we can do to change it. Breaking off connection to our intuitive understanding of ourselves and the people/world around us is a crucial tool for holding up structures of power.

So, I’m kind of bitter about positivity culture. Just a little bit. And that really shut me off to the medicine of this card for a second.

But the five of cups isn’t about not feeling bad feelings. Not at all. It’s about dwelling- truly, dwelling. Its about being stuck. Its not a healthy thing. You see, healthy is being able to hold multiple truths at once.

A figure wearing a black cape and yellow boots stands at the bank of a river. Three cups over overturned with red liquid spilling out. Behind them are two cups still upright. In the background is a bridge over the river leading to some kind of structure.

The scene: A man stands at the bank of a river. There is a bridge in the background, and some kind of structure on the other side. He is wearing a black cape- they appear to be mourning clothes. His head is sunken and he is staring at three cups overturned and spilt. I imagine he is crying. Behind him, two cups still stand, but his back is turned to them.

Of course what this means is that he is focused on what is lost, only to miss out on what is still there.

When we have clarity, when we are not stuck and stagnating, we are able to see the breadth of truth. Things are lost, but not all things. One door closes, another opens- that kind of thing. I know you’ve heard it before.

Sometimes you have to wallow in it, though. Honor that, please! But this card is not for that.

There are cards that will tell you its time to rest and to soak it in- grief or whatever else may be coming up in your life. This card tells us that its time to move forward because you are becoming stuck. You are becoming the man at the bank of the river, immortalized in his grief, eternally stuck weeping over what has been lost.

There is a bridge down the way, and you have so much more ground to cover on this journey. Leave the cups where they lay. Their waters have seeped into the sand, you cannot spend the rest of your life separating each drop from each grain- though I know you may want to. You may want to so badly. You may be wishing they had never spilt. You may be wishing that the hand of Spirit would swoop in and return your cups to the state they were in before. You know in your heart it isn’t going to happen, because the desperation with which you look on at this scene gives away its finality. Whats done is done. Say goodbye. Keep moving.