Eight of Cups Meaning: Upright and Reversed Explained

Like the man in the Eight of Cups, remember that emotional fulfillment is often found when one is moving on from the past. We see a man that has turned his back and is walking away from the cups, but one cup seems to be out of place. This ‘missing cup’ signifies that something emotional might be missing. When we decipher the card, we understand that this implies emotional fulfillment. But can the man get fulfillment by leaving the past behind?

These are some of the concerns explored in the Eight of Cups tarot card. 

Let’s take a look at what we can decipher from the imagery and what this tarot card can show us

Imagery Description

Rider Waite card deck

This imagery description is based on the Rider Waite card deck. While many of the modern card decks appear to differ, the overall message brought forward by the illustrations is always carrying a similar significance and a congruent message. 

The imagery is where the power lies, but I use the word ‘power’ quite loosely here. Because the tarot cards don’t have any power themselves, it’s your subconscious that does all the work. You see, when you look at a tarot card, there will always be some kind of bells that go off in your brain. There will be particular aspects of the card that jump out at you- and this is where your subconscious is telling you to pay attention. 

So, how do the images on the cards relate to you? Or what part of your psyche relates to the card images? There may not be an immediate and clear answer, but there will likely be something that you recognize. Follow that feeling, continue reading the description or the rest of the cards in the reading, and the message your subconscious is trying to communicate with you will gradually become clearer. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the Eight of Cups is showing us.

He has turned his back on these cups with a sense of loss and defeat. There are a river nearby and mountains in the distance. The river represents his emotions, as a body of water often does. And the mountain range symbolizes how arduous the next part of his journey will be. However, the mountains are not obscured, and this suggests the man is fully aware of the perilous journey that lies ahead of him and is also painfully aware that the challenges ahead are necessary for his growth.

We can see by the moon that he is skulking away in the dead of night, but the moon is also illuminating the path ahead, which gives the man hope as he leaves in the dead of night. But the fact that he is leaving at night also alludes to the possibility that there is some escapism involved- possibly avoidance. But since we see the moon, we know that the emotions are unavoidable as they are the thing (symbolized by the moon) that is lighting up the way forward. 


Upright: withdrawal, disassociation, disappointment, escapism

Reverse: indecisiveness, aimlessness, walking away, final efforts/last chances

Overall Meaning (Upright)

Eight of Cups

The Eight of Cups often shows up in a Tarot reading when you’re already turning your back (or considering it) on a disappointing situation.

Is there something you want to walk away from? 

When you walk away from a disappointing situation, it removes the influence of that situation over your future. The more time and energy you spend on a dead-end situation, the less time and energy will be available for you to devote to new projects. If you wish to focus on new things, cutting ties with whatever is holding you back will be essential. It can be difficult to walk away from a situation that once caused you happiness but now brings you pain. But while it may be difficult, you know that it is essential for your fulfillment. If you’re in a situation that you know is wrong for you, but you can’t get out of it right away, take comfort in knowing that it’s not meant to be forever.

What’s more, you will most likely have to move through some intense emotions after cutting things out of your life before you can reach a level of fulfillment. If you have a feeling that a certain area of your life isn’t going as smoothly as you wish, then it’s possible that you might need to reconsider how much time, attention, and effort you spend on this particular area.

You realize now that even though you invested yourself emotionally, it didn’t turn out the way you expected, and you’re now getting nothing out of this situation. And even if you have already cut ties, chances are you still think about it and call it to mind from time to time. But now it’s behind you, and you must go on, even if the memories and saying goodbye make you feel sad. 

Do you sense that you’re in a dead-end career, relationship, or location? You might feel or sense that there is something that is lacking in your life, but the message here is that you already know that you shouldn’t wait around until things improve. Because deep down, it’s possible that you’ve already made up your mind. Sometimes, even when things look perfect on the outside, you can feel that something is still not right. When this happens, it typically makes it difficult for the people around you to understand. It’s important to know that in these cases, you don’t need the permission of others. 

The Eight of Cups can be a sign you’re trying to escape an uncomfortable situation, major psychological issue, or emotion. The cups are representative of the emotional issues, and as you can see on the cards, the man is turning his back on the emotions. You may be trying to pretend as if you have already dealt with your emotions or have already had open conversations about what’s happening, but deep down, you know it isn’t so.

When you receive this card in a reading, no matter what context you’re asking for help with, it’s time to ask yourself this: What brings you joy, contentment, and fulfillment?

Without knowing the answer, you might find yourself in the same space as the man on the card- feeling a little bit empty and aimless. If you don’t ask yourself what brings you happiness on a deeper level, you will continue to repeat this cycle of chasing unfulfilling dreams and situations and then feeling despondent. 

Eight of Cups in Love & Relationship Reading (Upright)

Eight of Cups Upright

The Eight of Cups is closely linked to abandonment- whether as an emotional issue or as something that you or someone close to you is currently going through.

If you’re in a relationship, the Eight of Cups usually means either you or your partner is pulling away. This card represents emotional abandonment, which is different from physical abandonment. You may be feeling left out or neglected by your partner. 

Most people want to know whether or not the Eight of Cups is a positive card to receive in a reading. However, the answer might not be what you want to hear. The Eight of Cups is often linked to walking away- whether it’s you or the other person in the relationship. But there is relief in understanding that walking away from something that doesn’t satisfy you is exactly what you need to do to ultimately get fulfillment. 

This card can also indicate that if you’re having problems with your partner, such as consistent arguments, it may be because of unresolved abandonment issues. 

If you’re single, the Eight of Cups can indicate loneliness, or it can represent feelings of indifference towards love and relationships. This can often come from abandonment issues causing you to feel despondent or wary about getting involved with a new partner. 

Eight of Cups in a Career Reading (Upright)


If you are in a job that no longer provides satisfaction or if you have failed to generate new ideas for your business, you may be considering leaving the current position or want to find something that gives you more satisfaction. Are you contemplating an alternative career or business direction? If you feel like you are on a career path that is no longer fulfilling, you may have the option of walking away from it and beginning a transition to a more satisfying career. You may also need to take a trip to help your career, or you may need to go on a business trip. Travelling doesn’t always mean physically moving. Depending on the question you’re asking, it can mean having to think more broadly about your business.

In a financial situation, the Eight of Cups could be an indication of financial loss, but this is not always the case. More likely, this is a strong indication that you should be careful with your finances, spend prudently and work with a budget. 

Eight of Cups in a Health Reading (Upright)

 Are you having to spend too much time dwelling on the negative aspects of your life? Whenever you’re feeling down, it’s important to remember that no matter how bad things are now, things will only get better if you continue to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Negativity can have a big impact on our health, so try to see the positive side of things. 

Eight of Cups Reversed Meaning Guide


Stagnation is the overall theme of the reversed Eight of Cups. Maybe you’re trying to hold onto the past, hoping that things will be better in the future. Maybe you feel trapped in a job or relationship that makes you unhappy, but the idea of leaving makes you anxious. Fear of the future might be keeping you stuck in the current situation you’re in, causing stagnation. 

You are holding on to something that you know is no longer working for you. You know that you need to change your situation, but it’s easier to stay in the same place than it is to take a chance and start over. If you want to move forward, it’s important to stop contemplating the past and focus on the here and now. Remember, sometimes, your fears become bigger than the actual event. 

This card in the reversed position is often an indication of emotional immaturity or low self-esteem. Remember, there are multiple ways to interpret a tarot card. In some instances, this reversed card can simply refer to returning back home after some time away or time overseas. Look at the surrounding cards in the reading to understand more about your situation. 

Eight of Cups in a Love and Relationship Reading (Reversed)

The Eight of Cups Reversed

If you are in a relationship, the Eight of Cups reversed indicates that you have become stagnant or are unhappy in your relationship but are unwilling to let it go. There can be many reasons why you may not be happy in your relationship, such as lack of personal growth or fear of commitment. If that’s the case, then consider why you may be sticking with a relationship that is not making you happy. 

The Eight of Cups is almost always an indication that you are putting on a happy face when, on the inside, you feel a serious lack. When you get this card in the reversed position, it’s often a good indication that you need to be honest with how you are really feeling. It doesn’t always mean that you have to walk away like the man in the card’s image, but certainly acknowledging your true feelings is essential for fulfillment. 

If you’re single and habitually pick partners who treat you poorly, the Eight of Cups Tarot card in a reversed position can indicate you should make some key changes. There is also a possibility that your clinginess is driving away potential partners. If this is the case, find out why you are insecure and make positive steps towards boosting your opinion about yourself. Another potential meaning of this card is that you could be turning your back on potential relationships because of a fear of commitment. Whatever the specifics, you need to address them if your aim is to have a healthy relationship.

Eight of Cups in a Career Reading (Reversed)

If your career is unfulfilling to you, now is the time to consider making a change. Have you explored all the options available to you before making your current career choice? It is time to take charge of your career and make some changes. 

It may be time to find a new job, start your own business, or simply change the way you work. If you choose to stay in a stagnant career, you run the risk of being trapped in an unfulfilling life. Are you living your life according to your true will, or are you allowing external forces to influence your life? If you want something in your life but are afraid to go for it in case you don’t succeed, then in actual fact, that fear is stopping you from succeeding. The only way to ensure success is to take the right steps towards it. 

Eight of Cups In a Health Context (Reversed)

Tarot 1

If you’re keeping yourself stuck in a situation that is having a negative impact on your health, ask yourself what is causing that situation and what you can do to improve things. You have the power to improve your health, whether that means changing your diet, taking up exercise, or letting go of the things in your life that are causing you undue stress. If you’re not happy with how your health is currently, there are ways to change things. Don’t let yourself be trapped in a bad situation and instead, make healthy choices and seek help if you need it.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is the Eight of Cups a Yes or No card?

Answer: Sometimes, you need to make a change in your life. Making a big change allows you to start over and create a better lifestyle for yourself. If you have been thinking about making a change away from your security towards uncertainty, then this is your sign that you should walk away even if it makes you feel afraid. However, for other types of questions, the melancholic feeling of this card typically indicates a no answer. 

Question: What does the Eight of Cups mean in the Past Position? 

Answer: Your direction might have been uncertain before, but it’s important you keep following your heart. This card shows that you might have to draw on your hard-working nature to be successful in the future. There is the possibility that you might have some challenges to face in the future, but persistence will pay off for you.

Question: What does the Eight of Cups mean in the Present Position?

Answer: Something new is coming that might disrupt your present situation. It may be a new perspective on an old idea or a whole new perspective altogether. It may be something you’ve never experienced before, and it will take you far away from where you are now out to uncharted territory.

Question: What does the Eight of Cups mean in the Future Position?

Answer: keep an open mind about the future. Although it is difficult to leave behind things that you think make you more secure, remember that physical security is not worth much if you don’t have emotional security. Take the time to evaluate what your personal goal is and then take the steps towards achieving them. 

The Bottom Line

Leaving things behind is never easy. Whether it’s a career path, relationship, area of study, or any other situation, take the time to figure out what will bring you the most joy out of life. The Eight of Cups is not necessarily the best omen to receive, but it is a good (and necessary) reminder to follow our hearts. 

For further read: 

Eight of Wands Meaning: Upright and Reversed Explained

The Eight of Pentacles Meaning: Upright and Reversed

Eight of Swords Meaning: Upright and Reversed

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