Eight of Cups Explained - Upright & Reversed Meanings
Last Updated: November 7, 2023
The Eight of Cups is the eighth card in the Suit of Cups (also known as the suit of Goblets or Vessels) and one of the fifty-six suit cards from the minor arcana. In divinatory tarot, the Suit of Cups is typically associated with the element of water.
It traditionally represents emotions, intuition, relationships, and creativity. Each card of this suit can provide insight into different aspects of our lives such as love, friendship, family, and emotional well-being.
The Eight of Cups often sees the reader caught in stasis, or reaching a crossroads – do you continue on as things are, or do you take the path less trodden seeking higher ground? There’s a moment of transition that takes place when you pull this card and the onus is on you to make a choice.
You’re being confronted with the stark truth of a situation and you’re being asked what you want to do about it. Are you willing to let something go, or move on, in order to change the narrative and facilitate growth?
Divination practices such as cartomancy can help us make decisions, offer guidance, and help us tune into our intuition when we are at a crossroads in our lives. Understanding the meanings of each tarot card can help you sharpen your interpretative skills so you can get the most out of your readings.
In this article, we will discuss the meanings of the Eight of Cups in various tarot reading contexts as well as the different symbols and nuances that can be found within this court card.
Pictorial Symbolism in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck
Traditionally, we see a cloaked figure walking away from eight cups. Usually, the figure is positioned in the distance, often walking up a hill, with their back to the goblets and a staff or walking stick in their hand. This walking aid represents wisdom and experience, offering support when needed.
The cup is a direct symbol of the water suit and indicates a connection to the inner world, our emotions and our intuition. Leaving the cups behind signifies there’s something missing, likely emotional in nature, that the individual is going to seek out elsewhere.
The fact that we only see the back of the figure indicates a sense of moving on, letting go or abandonment, either through disillusionment or necessity. The hill or mountain before them symbolises a higher purpose, new adventures or opportunities, challenges and potential.
Oftentimes the eclipse within this card is missed, and it’s usually depicted off to one side as the figure ascends. Eclipses are full of powerful and transitional energy. They represent moments of great change and are able to reveal that which once was hidden. The balance of solar and lunar power also points to wisdom, understanding, strength and abundance.
The Eight of Cups key correspondences
Letting go/moving on, seeking a higher purpose, heading to higher ground, withdrawal.
Stagnation, avoidance, fear of change, staying in a bad situation.
|Yes or No|
Pisces (Cancer, Scorpio)
19 – 28 February
What does the upright Eight of Cups mean in the Tarot?
The Eight of Cups upright is shedding a spotlight on something you’ve been wrestling with. You might be starting to feel compelled to walk away from a difficult situation, person or thing, such as an unfulfilling relationship, fruitless project, or dead-end pathway.
It’s likely that you’ve invested a lot of time, effort and energy into this thing, and as a result, you’re feeling torn about moving on. But in the long run, what is this person or thing actually providing you with? Is it serving you and your purpose? Or is it draining you and leaving you feeling stuck? Investing in something emotionally but then having it fail or not turn out as you’d hoped, despite your best efforts, can be a real sting. However, some things just need to run their course and then you need to make the choice to start over.
Explore your options, make a pros and cons list, and decide what it is you really want. It might be time to step away from the familiar and into the unknown. Create your own happiness.
What does the upright Eight of Cups mean in a love reading
Sometimes something has come to its natural conclusion and that’s what the Eight of Cups is saying, in most situations here.
Ask yourself the big questions, the tough questions. Are you feeling fulfilled in this relationship? Does this person encourage you to be the best version of yourself and to grow, and vice versa? Or is there an element of fear of being alone, or settling?
If you’re feeling stuck, stagnant, abandoned or isolated it’s time to see what changes can be made.
You might be feeling like your significant other is distancing themselves from you, or that you’re pulling away from them. It might stem from actual relationship issues, or past trauma – either way, it might be time to see if you can get some help processing and overcoming these things.
A relationship or unhealthy attachment might be coming to an end, or you might be sensing something is missing from your romantic life (likely emotional or spiritual) and it’s time to address that.
What does the upright Eight of Cups mean in a career reading?
You know when it’s time to move on and this might be another one of those situations. You might have reached a point in your current job role where you feel it’s no longer offering you the challenges it once was, or perhaps you’re just sick of being unrecognised for the hard work that you do.
It can be as simple as taking a break from work (chucking in some holiday, asking for a secondment or heck even going on maternity leave) or as significant as you leaving the job altogether.
If things are particularly draining for you right now, some escapism might be just the ticket. However, if you’re on the fence about leaving your job, sometimes it’s important to note how you’re investing your time and decide whether or not it’s worth it. Consider your financial security and current responsibilities, alongside what it is you want out of your career path.
Financial and emotional well-being is important to consider here.
What does the upright Eight of Cups mean in a health reading?
You might be focusing too much on the negative aspects of your health and not enough on the positives. This can be challenging depending on what you’re dealing with, but a change in perspective is going to be invaluable.
If you’re “doing all the right things” or “ticking all the boxes” but still feel unwell or unhappy you might be questioning everything. Are you focusing too much on tick-box-exercises rather than really delving down deep into the core of the issue? There might be something missing, and the missing piece might be being covered up by things that don’t actually hold any meaning or significance for you.
This card is inviting you to seek out true healing by asking yourself what brings you joy, contentment and fulfilment on a deeper level.
Don’t knock trying something new or reaching out for support either. Make yourself the priority.
The Eight of Cups as feelings/emotions
The Eight of Cups is suggesting a questioning state of mind. You, or they, might be uncertain about someone or a particular situation, and it’s causing a need to pause. It could be that you, or they, are wondering about the future of a particular relationship, partnership or situation, and are questioning how the dynamics will work. It might also mean you, or they, are leaning towards ending the connection if they feel their needs are not being met.
Feelings can be confused and imbalanced, and a sense of objectivity is needed to clear the mud from the water.
The Eight of Cups as a person
This person is likely wise and experienced, despite their age, and they may have travelled extensively or have a desire to explore new places and things. If they’re somewhat of a nomad, they might have difficulty setting down in one place and always be keen to see what’s next.
They might also be someone who has just left something significant behind in favour of personal growth. It might have involved risk-taking and/or withdrawal that some may find surprising.
As someone who’s decided to prioritise themselves, they can be keen to make connections and decisions based on personal emotional fulfilment and spiritual advancement. As a result, they’ll likely be a Seeker, prone to deep reflection and self-examination and constantly engaging in practices or activities that lead them towards bettering themselves.
The Eight of Cups as a job/vocation
As a job, career or vocation the Eight of Cups represents someone who has sought out an opportunity where they can follow their passions, explore and be fulfilled. It’s not just about the financial gain here, it’s about finding something that speaks to your soul. It will likely involve you following your dreams and making an intentional choice for emotional fulfilment above other things.
This kind of job or career will be one that sparks joy, perhaps in a field that serves others or is creative in some way. It could involve travel/adventure, art/creativity, Nature, humanitarian aid, community, counselling/therapy, and/or freelancing.
The Eight of Cups as advice
There’s a need to detach yourself from your current situation in order to see more clearly. This might require some time away, a pause, and/or a change of perspective. An objective view is necessary for you to understand what’s going on and what needs to change.
Change, transition, moving on and letting go can be really cathartic now and lead to new opportunities and beginnings. Be open to these things, perhaps take a risk or leap into the unknown. A new direction may be trying to make itself known to you.
Know when to walk away and move on to new things.
What is the zodiac or astrological sign associated with the Eight of Cups?
The Eight of Cups is associated with water zodiac signs, in particular Pisces. Water signs are all about intuition, creativity, sensitivity and emotions.
This card and sign are associated with deep inner reflection and spiritual healing. Often Pisces can withdraw for too long into their inner world, being easily consumed by their thoughts and feelings, causing a stagnation of energy. This is reflected quite well in the Eight of Cups, and comments on the need to stop pushing for results in a fruitless or barren situation. Instead, it’s time to examine the issue objectively and look for that which will bring you joy.
Look at your emotional resources and ask yourself do you have enough, does something need to change in order to replenish them etc. How can you express your feelings in a way which is stable but not stagnant?
Is the Eight of Cups a yes or no card?
The Eight of Cups is a ‘no’ card, as it usually indicates moving on from a situation, letting go of something and coming to a particular realisation grounded in reality.
Below are some of my interpretations, as an experienced tarot practitioner, based on different types of questions:
Querent Question: “Will I get the job?”
- Card interpretation: If you’re looking to move on from a current job or career role this card is encouraging you to spread your wings. However, if you pull this card and you’re wondering about a job you’ve applied for or interviewed for it might not be 100% favourable. It could be that this isn’t as well suited as you first thought, or there might be a need for you to look further afield for true career fulfilment. However, the experience of applying and interviewing might be just the inspiration or motivation you need to make a real change.
Querent Question: “Is this new person in my life good for me?”
- Card interpretation: No, they’re likely not aligned with the same values as you, have a different motive and/or are on a different path from you. They might be someone who is caught up in their own past and therefore unable to engage healthily in your future. Emotionally speaking this doesn’t bode too well for you so be careful about how you interact with this person.
Querent Question: “Will I achieve my current goals?”
- Card interpretation: You might be struggling to achieve your current goals and it’s going to require you to sit down and properly assess the situation. It might be that these goals in their current form are not achievable and you need to readjust, or it could be that you need to abandon them altogether in favour of ones which are going to get you where you want to be.
Querent Question: “Should I start my own business?”
- Card interpretation: The answer to the Eight of Cups and your career might lie in creating a space for yourself where you can thrive and feel fulfilled but you need to be objective now. This card might be suggesting this isn’t the right time to start your own business, or that you’re not quite ready to make that change, for example, your aspirations aren’t grounded in reality and/or you don’t have the correct resources in place. Supporting cards might help you in making your decision.
What does the reversed Eight of Cups mean in the Tarot?
You’re likely confused or distressed about a particular situation, person or thing and this can cause excessive thinking, wallowing and/or worrying. It might be a case of being too much in your head, not knowing what’s best for you and languishing in a pit of despair.
Making a choice right now might seem impossible, especially if you’re emotionally overwhelmed and this might be filtering out into other areas of your life. You may feel like you can’t break away from something because you’ve invested so much time, emotion or energy into it. A sense of security, particularly emotional security, might have you gripped in a vice and change or losing something that once gave you comfort might seem truly terrifying.
You might actually be mistaking stagnation for safety and this is stunting your growth. It’s never easy to decide to move on from something that you once found value in, but in the end, it’s what’s needed for true growth and transformation.
Courage is needed now, as a belief in the fact that you deserve better. A new journey is beckoning you.
What does the reversed Eight of Cups mean in a love reading?
In terms of love, there might be a history there but it might be challenged by a lack of healthy boundaries, emotional abuse or exhaustion, and/or fear of intimacy or commitment.
There’s an imbalance in a current relationship and you, or the other person, might be questioning everything. It might lead to someone walking away. It won’t be an easy choice or transition, because as we know leaving something behind that we’ve invested in and built up over time can be a real challenge.
But if it isn’t working for both of you or one of you, then it’s time to evaluate, engage and question. A decision needs to be made as to whether it’s time to move on, or there’s something salvageable. It doesn’t have to be a parting in animosity, it could be that you both understand your romantic journey has served its purpose and you both need different things.
If you’re single it might be because you decided to walk away from something or someone that was draining you, or perhaps someone walked away from you because you have some unresolved issues that they could no longer engage with. Now’s the time to examine yourself, your values and your needs.
What does the inverted Eight of Cups mean in a career reading?
You might be struggling or suffering when it comes to your career. It could be that you’re in a job that is just not fulfilling you anymore, or there’s a toxic environment that you’re having to endure. Whatever it is that’s casting a shadow here you still might be finding it difficult, or even flat-out refusing, to walk away whether out of fear of change or from a misguided sense of loyalty/duty.
It comes down to you and what you really want – are you willing to take a leap into the unknown and find your true purpose, or are you content to plod along in a job that stunts or drains you?
Ask yourself, is this job/career/vocation really serving me? If it isn’t, what changes can you make to feel emotionally, creatively, financially and spiritually fulfilled?
What does the upside-down Eight of Cups mean in a health reading?
It’s likely that you’re keeping yourself in a situation that is causing issues for your health, or you’re ignoring things which are impacting your health. Think about your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being when you’re identifying situations, people or things which may be having a negative influence on your overall health.
You need to remove yourself from anything which is compromising your well-being or putting your health at risk. It’s no good saying “I know it’s not good for me” but continuing to engage with it regardless. Take back your power and make the necessary changes needed to ensure your health thrives.
In conclusion, the Eight of Cups card is a powerful symbol of letting go/moving on, seeking a higher purpose, heading to higher ground, withdrawal. When this card appears in your reading, it is often a sign that you need to move toward what will really make you happy, set your soul on fire, and provide you with a creative output that’ll boost not just your own happiness but for those around you too.
Despite its association with mysticism and occultism, the tarot has grown to become much more than a simple “fortune-telling” tool. For many tarot practitioners, it is a complex system made of symbolic imagery and psychological considerations (Jungian archetypes for example) that can be used for self-exploration, meditation, and personal transformation.
The 56 lesser arcana cards relate to the day-to-day events of our lives, the more mundane aspects of our existence. Even though that part of the tarot is about the “smaller picture”, it symbolizes the constant choices we make that shape our lives, our characters, and ultimately our destinies.
Have you ever had a reading where the Eight Of Cups appeared? What was the outcome? What does that card mean to you personally? How do you interpret this card in your own tarot practice?
Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments below. Additionally, If you want to know more about the different tarot cards, feel free to check out my complete list of all 78 tarot cards and their meanings.
Written by Vicky McAfee
Vicky McAfee is a witch, empath, creator, and writer. She’s a professional divination reader, dream decoder, and witchy business owner. Through her website and Instagram page Medieval Morticia she offers knowledge, guidance, and support through a variety of divination and witchery tools.