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The Eight of Cups is a card about moving into new phases in your life - even when it means leaving things you’ve loved behind.
To give you a bit of context whilst you reflect on your own relationship to the card, here are a few key things to know about the Eight of Cups:
The Rider Waite Smith illustration of this card is rich with symbols. In it, we see a river shoreline by night, some mountains in the distance. There is a lunar eclipse in the sky. In the middle ground, a figure retreats from view - we see them only by the back; they wear a red cape and red boots and carry a walking stick. And in the foreground: eight cups, a row of five, all touching, support a second row of three stacked on top. Two cups stand together, and a third stands apart.
Let’s talk first about the cups themselves, as they’re the closest thing to us as viewer. In this card, the cups can represent labours of love. Things we’ve built and poured our hearts and souls into. It could be a relationship, a creative project or business venture, a job we’ve loved or a home or community we’ve built.
But, of course, this isn’t a card about showing off or embracing those labours of love. It’s a card about leaving them behind - that’s what the retreating figure in the middle distance of the card tells us. The card, then, can be a prompt to consider when it’s time to let something we’ve loved go. But the cups’ careful arrangement and shining, polished gold suggest it’s possible to leave those things behind in a way that honors them.
As for the gap in the top line, where a fourth cup could fit, I like to think of this as a reminder that not everything we leave behind has to be completed and perfect. Sometimes it’s important to acknowledge when a project we started is no longer serving us - even if that means leaving it unfinished.
The final symbol I want to draw your attention to is the eclipse - a hopeful symbol for a melancholy card. While it can be hard and painful to leave things you’ve loved behind, the eclipse can serve as an encouragement and remind you of several things: first of all, that this journey may make room for new ventures, new things to love, which can ultimately eclipse the pain of leaving what’s past behind you.
Secondly, whenever I see the moon in the tarot, I’m reminded that our lives are not linear, they move in cyclical phases. In fact, as well as looking like an eclipse, this element of the card also resembles two phases of the moon at once: crescent and full - a visual reminder that the moon moves through cycles and so do we. You could read this as a reminder that leaving something behind now does not mean you’ll never come back to it.
Finally, an eclipse is a rare, extraordinary, and beautiful event. When you allow yourself to recognise the rare beauty of your experience - the things you’re leaving behind and the things you’re moving toward, you may feel a deeper sense of peace for your journey.
In your tarot journal, you’re asked to reflect on what this card means to you, now, in this moment, and what actions and thoughts it inspires in you. As you journal, pay attention to what you’re personally picking up in the card, but also consider what the key themes in the card might be telling you. What aspects of your life may it be time to reassess and consider leaving behind? How can you honor the things you’ve loved but are moving on from? What’s coming up in your life that may eclipse the hardship of walking away from past passions? And how does it feel to know the door is never fully closed on the meaningful moments in your past, even if you move in a new direction?
This mini-tarot lesson was brought to you by me, Chelsey Pippin Mizzi, founder of Pip Cards Tarot. I hope you gained a little context to help you continue reflecting on the card in your own way, and I’ll see you tomorrow for another mini-lesson.