Adventures in Tarot Cards: 8 of cups

“Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the Ranges–
Something lost beyond the ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

–Rudyard Kipling
“The Explorer”

8 of Cups has always been a favorite card of mine. It usually (we will use the Rider-Waite as an example here) shows a person walking away from a set of 8 cups, moving up a mountain with a staff in his/her hand.

I see it as advancement. The pile of cups is incomplete, 8 cups is not enough to make a pyramid or proper stack, so the person is walking away from it. He (or she—I will assume a neutral pronoun from now on) is holding a staff in their hand indicating he is taking the power onto himself. The cups are old things no longer worth dealing with. They may be old goals no longer worth pursuing or old relationships that are not working no matter how one tries. The seeker realizes that is it is time to move on and leave the old behind. I have talked about quitting versus failing and this is an example of quitting is not failure, it is just giving up what is NOT working and moving on to something that may work better.

I also see it as following the 6 of cups. In the Rider-Waite card, there are two children in front of us playing in the garden. In the background, someone is walking away holding a staff. This person (I feel) is the subject of the 8 of cups. The seeker is leaving behind childish things and moving on to new and maybe better ones.
In the Rider-Waite the moon looks down dispassionately. There is no judgement here, just change in action. Geese fly overhead, heading somewhere in migration formation. They too see the advantage of a change of scene.

In my deck of choice, the World Tree Tarot, the seeker is seeing leaving behind a set of cups some of which still have bubbles rising from them. Bubbles in this deck indicate possibilities. There are still possibilities in staying with the old ways but not nearly as many or as exciting as the new things possible “up the mountain.”

In any 8 of cups version, the mountain, of course, is essential. We ASCEND spiritually by taking on new challenges. We stagnate when we refuse to add new challenges to our lives. If we stop evolving, we start to die. If we are in a situation where all the options are exhausted, we look toward death.

This is why I also see a very sad meaning for the 8 of cups. Recently, a client at a party asked me about her father who was very ill (I asked for confirmation and she told me it was Stage 4 cancer and he had been struggling with it for a long time.) I told her I did not see him dying, but that he was resigned to Death. In the booklet with the World Tree tarot, the artist says the person is “taking the paths to the Moon” towards Man’s greatest adventure: Death. He may have been declared terminal.

Ending are always sad as we mourn what Could Have Been. But they are also happy as we find our way to new and better adventure. Never stop seeking.

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