The 8 of Cups: Transcending the Familiar

It’s been long – too long – since my last post here on Shades of Midnight. Between juggling the hassles – internal and external – of a new job (which has served its purpose and is now at an end), the commencing of another, and attending to a thousand and one details that never seem to achieve completion, I have been hard-pressed to find time for the things that truly matter. So it only seems fitting that I should commemorate the recent upheavals in my life with the suit of the 8’s, of which the 8 of Cups has the honour of being the first.

Numerological wisdom attributes the number 8 to the planet Saturn, the Lord of Sorrows and Karma. The 8 symbolizes success through struggle and honour through hardship. Those born under its influence have the potential for great financial power, but so too exists the tendency to abuse the human and fiscal resources available to them. Often, those who have the number 8 in their numerological makeup are no strangers to hard work: for them, success is commeasurate with the effort put in. Highly karmic, the 8’s portend struggle, perseverance and ultimate transcendence of the ego by merging the lessons of the 2’s (balance, decision, opportunity) with the 4’s (caution, detachment, achievement).

The 8 of Cups brings Saturnian lessons to bear in matters of the heart. Cups, being emblematic of the element of Water, rule our emotions, attachments and most deep-seated spiritual needs. The 8 of Cups represents detachment, withdrawal and transcendence – typically Saturnian traits – and herald a time when we voluntarily leave a situation or a relationship behind. It is important to note that this transition is not forced. Rather, it is the culmination of experience and prolonged soul-searching….an honouring of a gut feeling that someone or something is no longer right for you. This decision is the product of choice.

8 of Cups from the Rider-Waite Tarot

Decks in traditional Rider-Waite style show a figure walking into the distance, leaving 8 standing cups behind. Is there a difference in that they are standing as opposed to lying strewn on the ground? I think so. I view these as situations/ relationships/ concepts that are intact and without flaws, but no longer suit a higher purpose. The dual lunar symbol of crescent and full moon can be said to represent the ‘many moons’ it might have taken for the figure to decide that the cups no longer fulfilled him and that to seek true meaning, he’d have to journey across the river to unfamiliar lands. It would hardly come as a surprise then that one of the more traditional meanings of this card is to go on a pilgrimage.

The river (symbol of emotions/ attachments) lies between the cups (the ego/ material desires) and the figure (the enlightened soul). Frequently, the individual is depicted wearing a red cloak and I choose to see this as the courage to go (literally!) the distance. Leaving the safe and familiar behind is never easy. Indeed, it is a tremendous and potentially foolhardy risk, with no guarantee of success and save for that warmth in the pit of your soul (intuition/ truth) nudging you onwards, you may in all likelihood receive little if any reassurance of the future at all.


8 of Cups from the 'Thoth Tarot'

Astrological Association: Saturn in Pisces

In the Thoth tarot, the 8 of Cups is titled Indolence and is associated with Saturn in Pisces. When the twin qualities of Pisces (Jupiter and Neptune) merge with Saturn, the result can be an odd mix of desire and detachment. Jupiter expands what it touches while Neptune dissolves what it comes into contact with, indicating people or situations that might initially seem appealing but are experienced as tedious or disappointing once the glamour wears off. Contempt breeds frustration, and kicks off a vicious cycle with no discernible beginning or end.

The Piscean principle of evolution is rooted in the desire for transcendence, and while the material can be satisfying initially, this sense of meaning is rarely if ever sustained. It is no secret that those with Pisces prominent in their natal charts frequently drown their ‘worldly’ sorrows in drugs, alcohol or some other form of addiction, in a bid to reach higher planes of existence. While great spiritual enlightenment can result, it often comes as a consequence of years of self-abuse and self-damage. Bring Saturn into the picture and restriction, struggle, and frustration become amplified. Saturn aims to teach through deprivation and detachment, and in the 8 of Cups, we are gifted with success/ happiness (Jupiter) only to find that it is an illusion/ unfulfilling/ unreflective of our true soul needs (Neptune), and must then make a decision that will change the course of our life path (Saturn). Do we stay with what is familiar and risk perpetual malcontent or do we take a risk and trust that our truth will take us where we most need to be?

8 of Cups from the Rohrig Tarot



While seemingly negative on the surface, the 8 of Cups does in fact have a very positive underlying message, though this may not be apparent initially. This card appears in an individual’s life most frequently when they are at a crossroads. The challenge of the 2’s comes to bear (what choice will you make?) and is amplified by the lesson of the 4’s (be truthful about what gives your life meaning: stability vs spontaneity) which leads to the crux of the 8’s: are you willing to own your power and honour the truth of your being?

Difficult decisions that involve the severing of ties are always painful, no matter how aware we are of the situation’s limitations. I’ve found this card to show up when one door closes and another has (or is about to) open. The question that needs to be posed to the querant is this: are you brave enough to walk through it?

“Often the thought of pain is actually worse than the pain itself.” ~ Greg Behrendht


In the context of a love relationship, the 8 of Cups foretells a situation when love has run its course and one party is ready to move on. The 5 of Cups signifies being abandoned by one’s lover but the 8 of Cups shows a reversal of power, with the querent being in the position of walking away. Often times, this involves leaving a long-term relationship though I have seen it applied to relationships that are passionate but impermanent.

“Take a second to think about this: in your life you search and search for the right person for you. Every time you break up with someone, you get one step closer to that person. You should look at moving on as getting closer to meeting the one.” ~ Ian Philpot

Examine the querent’s emotional attachment to the relationship, and make an effort to understand what prompted the loss of its significance. Oftentimes clients know deep down inside that the relationship has outlived its purpose but cling to the notion that what is familiar is safe and ‘right’. Sometimes, this card can indicate a person’s need for space to work things out in their own time, especially if coupled with The Hermit or the 4 of Swords. A change of scenery does wonders to put things into perspective, so recommend that the client take a vacation or an extended holiday away from the obligations of the relationship.

8 of Cups from the Tarot of Dreams


With regards to work, the 8 of Cups signifies leaving a job that no longer satisfies you. This card kept flipping out of the deck for weeks before I made the decision to leave my previous workplace. The delay in making a decision I knew was what I needed to do all along? I fell into the all-too-human trap of equating the familiar with safety when in fact, the workplace environment and its people were sucking every drop of joy from my soul. The minute I duct-taped my preconceptions of security up, tossed it into the boot and stepped on the accelerator, a new door opened….and took me exactly where I needed to be. I am happy to report that my new job leaves me time for the things that truly matter, and by taking a chance, I rediscovered a me whom I thought I’d never find again.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but simply moving on with dignity despite that fear.” ~ Pat Riley


From a financial perspective, the 8 of Cups advises that investments will promise short-term rather than long-term returns, and advises against any purchase intended for long-term use.  Any financial decisions should be the result of long-term consideration rather than spur-of-the-moment impulse. This card can also indicate less of a preoccupation with financial issues and the adopting of a more spiritual outlook in its stead. When present with a reversed 4 of Pentacles, the 8 of Cups indicates that the querent is rejecting the material in favour of a more simple lifestyle. I have also seen this card coincide with clients moving from an affluent neighborhood to one that is less so.

Healthwise, the 8 of Cups signifies recovery from a long drawn-out illness or period of convalescence. Oftentimes, this can mean a prolonged period of depression in which the person might have ‘lost themselves’, and after much soul-searching and guided therapy, have emerged reborn with a new sense of self and identity. Any physical complaints are likely to be psychosomatic in nature, and stem from clinging on to outmoded ways of feeling and behaving despite knowing that better times await elsewhere. Any form of therapy or intervention should target the emotions and spiritual needs (Cups) as opposed to being focused on treating the physical manifestations.

8 of Cups from the Deviant Moon Tarot

The 8 of Cups is a sign that the change that you’ve been hoping for (even if not consciously acknowledged) is within your grasp. Speak up, take charge of your life, and let truth be your guiding light in choosing the right path to tread. No one says it better than Natasha Bedingfield in her song Unwritten:

No one else can speak the words on your lips

Drench yourself in words unspoken

Live your life with arms wide open

Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: