8 of Cups

A stylized waning crescent moon watches from a cloudless night sky. The angle of the crescent indicates the moon is near the zenith of its travel. In the foreground, five great chalices are placed side by side, with three more chalices stacked across them. There is a gap in the second level of chalices, allowing the viewer to see the feet of the solitary figure that has crossed the stream behind the chalices and is making his way up a hill. The figure wears a cloak and uses a short staff to keep his balance. The stream he has crossed can be seen to the viewer’s left, where it becomes part of a larger river that winds up through the mountains in the distance. There is a sense of abandonment to the card. The figure is leaving his joy behind.

Intellectually a neutral card, emotionally a dour and depressing card. Why did the figure leave his cups? Did he take too much of life, and finding himself deadened by repeated over-stimulation decided an ascetic life would be more fulfilling? Did the figure celebrate his coming of age and is now going off to find himself in the world? Was the figure sent away by force, to be exiled from the community? Or is the figure simply leaving for the next leg of his journey?

In all these considerations, there is the same beginning. A withdrawal from and the leaving of comforts and sources of joy. The tone of this card is heavily colored by the context of the query. If advice, then the Querent needs to step away from distractions and focus solely on the matter at hand. If history, then a past (emotional) pain in the Querent’s life is going to reappear and the Querent should deal with this once and for all before moving forward. If in matters of love, then the Querent will not have a close emotional relationship in the near future, and should spend this time dealing with themselves.

Ill-dignified, the card informs that the Querent’s departure was not voluntary, or that the “party” moved on without the Querent. However, it can also indicate a complete reversal of the initial meaning. Instead of the Querent leaving, they are arriving. Instead of emotional solitude, there is shared joy. But this complete reversal I have seen rarely, and when I do, it has been unmistakable in context.