The Four of Cups is an interesting card. Coming right between the celebration of the Three of Cups, and the grief in the Five of Cups, it’s a card of stagnation and missed opportunities.
In all of the suits of the Minor Arcana, Fours typically represent a kind of waiting period — a time of stasis between the beginning embodied by the Ace, Two, and Three, and the conflict in Five. For the Four of Cups, this is a kind of emotional pause.
About Four of Cups
- Keywords: Apathy, missed opportunities, disillusionment
- Keywords (Reversed): Emergence, letting go, re-engaging with the world
- Yes or No: Maybe
- Yes or No (Reversed): Maybe
- Element: Water
- Zodiac Sign: Cancer
The Four of Cups is a pretty melancholy picture. In the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith, it’s represented by a solitary young man sitting on a mountaintop. His back is pressed against a tree, his arms are crossed, and he almost looks pouty. His gaze is downcast, focused on the three cups before him.
The fourth cup is held before him, held in a hand emerging from a tiny cloud. The young man doesn’t even seem to really notice, and there’s no indication that he has any intention of looking up. All of his attention is occupied by the three cups lined up on the grass.
It’s a pretty bizarre picture, but its strangeness perfectly illustrates this card’s energy. The young man, three cups, tree, and mountain are all fairly mundane — you can easily imagine him climbing up there for some solitary contemplation.
The fourth cup is unexplained. Why is there a cloud? Why does it offer him another cup? What might happen if he dared to accept it? What makes that fourth cup different from the three identical cups before him?
All of this signifies someone who is apathetic about the blessings he has received, to the point where his sour mood is keeping him from accepting another. He’s missing an opportunity, and it’s entirely his own fault.
Four of Cups Meaning (Upright)
In a general reading, the Four of Cups can appear when there’s occasion for remorse or regret, especially for missed opportunities. It may also turn up when you’re withdrawing due to depression or ennui.
It’s likely that you don’t feel like there’s any way to fix your problems, but you’d be incorrect — there is, if you can look up and take notice. You have the power to free yourself, as difficult as it may be. Your situation isn’t hopeless.
Four of Cups Meaning (Reversed)
When the Four of Cups is reversed, it can represent emerging from your shell. If you’ve been caught up in apathy or regret, or just feel that all of the color has been drained from life, this card signifies that you’re beginning to come out of that phase.
Rather than focus on the three cups you’ve been dealt, you’re looking up to notice the fourth one being handed to you. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by, because you may not get another. Carpe diem!
See also: Check out alternate Tarot decks here.
Four of Cups Meaning – Love & Relationships (Upright)
The Four of Cups is generally an omen of dwindling interest. You may be feeling indifferent toward your partner, or even inconvenienced by them. There’s no longer the same spark and excitement there once was, and this relationship may be circling the drain.
It’s time to evaluate your true feelings. Can you put some of the fire back into your relationship? If you can, do you want to? Does your partner feel the same way?
If you’re single, you may be feeling apathetic and unenthused about your circumstances right now. This may be because you’re tired of dating, or because you’re caught up in regret about your past relationships.
It’s time to look outward, at the opportunities you may be missing. Dwelling on regret never solved anything — it’s time to turn it into a learning experience and move forward.
Four of Cups Meaning – Love & Relationships (Reversed)
In a love reading, the Four of Cups reversed is a sign of emergence. You may have just gone through a period of indifference toward your partner, but you’re beginning to appreciate them for who they are.
Otherwise, you’ve contemplated a breakup, and are now ready to emerge into singlehood. In either case, you’re no longer stuck in the same rut. You’re entering a better phase.
If you’re single, then this card can signify beginning to date again. You may have been disinterested in dating, or even grieving a past relationship. You’re now ready to start anew.
Four of Cups Meaning – Careers, Business & Money (Upright)
If the Four of Cups appears in a career and business reading, your job isn’t exactly setting your soul on fire right now. You likely feel apathetic, or possibly even bored. You may feel that you missed an opportunity for a change or promotion, which has left you unmotivated.
This circumstance may even have you feeling envious — if others are further ahead in their careers, earning more money, or have a more prestigious position, envy may be pulling your focus away from what you do have.
The meaning is very similar for financial readings. You might feel as though your earnings are stagnant, or that you’ve missed a big opportunity to make money. You may even envy others who you think have more than you.
Don’t let this distract you from making wise financial decisions. If you’re trying to get rich quick just to catch up to other people, you’re just as likely to lose everything.
Four of Cups Meaning – Careers, Business & Money (Reversed)
The Four of Cups reversed is a positive sign for business and career readings. Things may have been stagnant and uninspiring for a while, but that’s going to change.
You may be faced with exciting new projects, or opportunities for advancement. It’s time to get in the driver’s seat and take an active role in shaping your future. Don’t let these chances pass you by, or you’ll end up back in the rut you were in before.
In a financial reading, the Four of Cups reversed signifies that you’re entering a period of gratitude. You may have been envious of what others had in the past, but, rather than wallowing in these feelings, you’re choosing to actively take steps to better your situation. These efforts will pay off (literally).
Four of Cups: Yes or No?
The Four of Cups is a challenging card in a “Yes or No” reading. It’s sometimes interpreted as a “Yes,” often as a “No,” but is usually a “Maybe.” This card represents apathy, disillusionment, and withdrawal, so it’s best to take it as a sign that you already know the answer. If you search your heart and mind, you’ll find it, even if it isn’t necessarily the one you want.
Reversed, the Four of Cups is closer to a “No” or “Maybe.” This card indicates that the central figure is emerging from his sense of apathy, but still hasn’t yet accepted the cup being offered to him. In this sense, it’s best interpreted as a sign that you may not be ready yet.
When the Four of Cups appears, it’s a sign to let go of regret, envy, and other feelings that don’t serve you.
Think of the young man sitting on the mountaintop — if he could look away from his three cups for a second, he’d see the wonderful opportunity presented to him.
Let go of what isn’t helping you, and actively choose to accept the blessings the world has for you.
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