Four of Cups Meaning

Four of Cups Meaning: Upright and Reversed

Latest posts by Amber Brinnier (see all)

One of my favorite affirmations is “You cannot miss what is meant for you.” The traditional idea of the Four of Cups is that there are opportunities that are being missed because you are too focused on yourself.

The interpretation I find within the Four of Cups, however, is not that you are missing out on opportunities in the long run by taking some time to focus on your own emotional needs, but rather that you are finding that you are not yet ready to take on these new opportunities. If an opportunity is not meant for you, then its passing is a blessing. If it is, you cannot miss it – especially not by putting yourself first. It will come back to you when you are ready.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Four of Cups meaning and some of the ways Four of Cups can be interpreted in your tarot readings and integrated into your life.

Cups in the Tarot

Associated with the element of water, the Cups cards in the tarot deck speak to our emotional state of being. Emotions are fluid, ranging from gentle and soft to powerful and raging. They can even be stagnant – the Cups cards can represent a lack of emotion as well.

Along with emotions, a Cups tarot card can represent intuition, another aspect of consciousness that is often in flux and flow, moving from a soft whisper to a powerful shout in our minds.

Most often, Cups are symbolic of relationships, feelings, and love. When a Cups card appears, think about the relationships in your life, especially – but not necessarily – romantic ones.

In the zodiac, the Cups are associated with emotional water signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.

Four of Cups Imagery and Symbolism

In the Rider Waite Smith deck, the Four of Cups features a man sitting under a tree with three empty cups in front of him. A hand is reaching out of thin air, offering him a cup – an echo of the same imagery from the Ace of Cups – but he is, perhaps stubbornly, not interested in it. Instead, his gaze is fixed on the three empty cups. His arms are crossed, further signaling his unwillingness to take the cup being offered to him.

The Ace of Cups is an invitation to begin a new endeavor of the emotional kind, and this guy just isn’t ready for that yet. He is still focusing on cups he has taken in the past, even though they may be empty and used up.

He may not have the capacity to take on more cups right now. For the moment, he is not interested in forward movement, and in interpreting this tarot card, it is our job to understand why.

Four of Cups Upright Meaning

When the Four of Cups is turned upright in a reading, it often signals a period in your life when you are unable to take on any new emotional information. You could be going through a period of stagnation and depression, where you are totally focused on yourself and everything that is wrong in your life, with no interest in focusing on the positive aspects.

This, of course, creates a narrative that there only are negative things happening, which in most cases just isn’t true. However, it is important to let yourself feel your emotions, so if you find you are in a rut like this, don’t rush to pull yourself out. Instead, this is an opportunity to explore the things you find yourself focused on.

Releasing can come with the Five of Cups – for now, let yourself wallow in self-absorption if you need to. Perhaps it is time you started putting yourself first, anyway. Ask yourself why you might be emotionally unavailable at this time. This will, of course, lead to stronger bonds in your relationships in the future.

Four of Cups Upright Keywords

  • Focused on the negative
  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Missed Opportunities
  • Nostalgia
  • Frustration
  • Regret
  • Remorse
  • Refusing an offer
  • Daydreaming
  • Yearning
  • Self-absorbed
  • Emotionally unavailable

Four of Cups Upright in a Love Reading

Since Cups are such an emotional suit, oftentimes, when they show up, they are speaking to a romantic relationship. If you are currently partnered, this tarot card upright can indicate that you are in a rut in your relationship.

You may be feeling bored or unsupported. You could find yourself focusing on all the negative things in your relationship or even daydreaming about a past partner.

Alternatively, you could be so absorbed in your relationship that you are unaware of or uninterested in what is being offered to you outside of it.

If you are single, this card could signal that you are emotionally unavailable at this point in time and not ready to start a new relationship, even if there is one on offer. Since romantic relationships are the focal point of so many people’s lives, it can come as a surprise that you are actually not available for one emotionally. This card‘s appearance is an invitation to get curious as to what may need to be released in order for you to be ready for a relationship.

This card may also indicate that you are focusing so much on why your past relationships didn’t work out that you are unable to recognize when new opportunities may be on offer. However, don’t worry that you will lose out on something important – if it is meant for you, it will not ever truly be out of your reach. This card is asking you to focus on yourself right now so that you can come to this opportunity with an open, clear heart.

Four of Cups Upright in a Career/Finance Reading

Career-wise, the Four of Cups upright can indicate that you are stuck on some aspect of your career that isn’t working out and unable to take on new opportunities at the moment. You could also be so focused on your career that you are ignoring your emotional needs or those of somebody in your life.

The same goes for finances – you could be so absorbed in your own hustle that you are ignoring the emotional sector of your life. Alternatively, you may be focusing on what you lack in terms of finances while unaware of opportunities that may be arising for you at this time.

Four of Cups Upright in a Family Reading

When reading about family, the Four of Cups upright is an indication that you are somewhat disconnected from your family unit because you are focusing so much on yourself and what is going on in your own life. There may be support and love on offer, but you cannot accept it just now.

Four of Cups Upright in a Health Reading

In a health reading, you may be focusing on aspects of your health that are leaving you feeling depressed or restricted. You aren’t thinking about the things you can do in this state, but rather all that you cannot do. You could have a health issue that is all you are able to focus on at the moment, to the detriment of other areas of your life.

Always remember that you must take care of your own health first before focusing on the needs of others. If there is something that you feel needs attention, just make sure that you are able to meet it on your terms, and don’t push yourself if your health doesn’t allow it.

Four of Cups Reversed Meaning

Reversals can indicate that a particular card is asking to be paid special attention to, that you are not yet ready to absorb the upright lessons of the card, or that you are moving on from the lesson of that card or experiencing it to a lesser degree.

Traditionally, a reversed card meaning is the opposite of the upright version. Whatever message a reversed card has for you can be divined using your own intuition, the situation at hand, or clarifying cards being pulled around it.

For the Four of Cups, turning up reversed can mean that the period of self-absorption and navel-gazing is coming to an end, and you are ready to take on the opportunities being presented to you. You may decide to focus on the positive aspects instead of the negative and have an entirely new lease on life.

You could also be doubling down on an intense internal focus, unable to meet any expectations put on you outside of that task. If the lesson isn’t learned now, it’ll come back later, so allow yourself some space from obligations in order to feel into this as deeply as possible.

Four of Cups Reversed Keywords

  • Focusing on the positive
  • Being proactive
  • Motivation
  • Seizing the day
  • Opportunities
  • Enthusiasm
  • Renewed zest for life
  • Focus
  • Self-Awareness

Four of Cups Reversed in a Love Reading

In a love reading, you may be focusing on all the positive aspects of your relationship and feeling ready to move on to the next step with your partner. If you have been going through a rough patch, the skies may be clearing, or at least, something is signaling inside of you that you are ready to move on.

That could mean a renewal of vows or commitment, and it could also mean that you move on from the relationship altogether in an amicable way. If you are single, this reversal can mean that you are ready to bring your focus to a relationship and to take any opportunities you can to get to know somebody better. This could also mean you are focusing on your past relationships to the degree that is unhealthy – you will know the correct meaning when it comes to you.

Four of Cups Reversed in a Career/ Finance Reading

The Four of Cups reversed in career signals new opportunities finally coming your way in the workplace, and also the fact that you are in a place where you can now recognize and accept these opportunities as they come.

Financially, the Four of Cups reversed signals new opportunities to be proactive in taking control of your finances. You’re most likely more focused on and appreciative of what you do have rather than focusing on what you don’t.

Four of Cups Reversed in a Family Reading

When the Four of Cups turns up reversed in a family reading, you are going through a period where you may have been isolated and are now fully welcomed back into the fold. You are likely feeling very grateful for your family and experiencing a lot of love for your family unit at this time.

Four of Cups Reversed in a Health Reading

New opportunities are coming your way as a result of your health issues resolving or lessening when you get this card reversed in a health reading. If you’ve been overly focused on your health, to the point where other facets of your life are being neglected, that period is coming to an end, bringing with it a new lease on life.

Four of Cups Remediation

Rather than trying to take in all you can when the Four of Cups shows up, take this as an opportunity to stop and let yourself focus on what you feel drawn to focus on, even if it is hard.

Hard feelings and messy emotions are easiest to release when you bring them to the surface, rather than pushing them deeper down to focus on at another time.

Try to recognize what is coming up for you when you receive the Four of Cups and give it the space it needs. Don’t worry about actually doing the releasing right now – that is what the Five of Cups is for – but at least give these things some attention.

If it feels like you are missing out because of it, just remember that anything that is meant for you cannot truly be missed, and if an opportunity comes and goes during this time, never to return, it was not something you would have held on to in the long run, anyway.


Question: Is Four of Cups a Yes or No Card?

Answer: While some cards in the tarot have clear “yes” or “no” energy, I find the Four of Cups to be a bit more ephemeral. This makes sense because the majority of the cards are more nuanced than a simple positive or negative, and most cards are neutral until they are given an association or meaning by the reader.

There is a thought that the Universe only gives three answers: “Yes,” “There is something better for you,” and “Not right now.” I would consider the Four of Cups to give the answer of “not right now” when asked a Yes or No question. As always, look to your own intuition when reading cards.

Question: What Zodiac Sign is Four of Cups Associated With?

Answer: While all Cups cards may represent any of the water signs – Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces – in particular, the Four of Cups is associated with Cancer.

Question: I Don’t Resonate With my Tarot Pull. What Should I do Now?

Answer: Sometimes, a card can come up in a tarot reading that leaves you feeling a little stumped. Its place in the tarot landscape is unclear. In that case, there are a few things you can do. I always recommend pulling one or two clarifying cards, asking why this card has appeared. I also recommend reflecting on the card‘s meaning, how it makes you feel, and the imagery present on the card and trying to link that back to something going on in your life.

Sometimes cards can point to issues you didn’t realize you had or thought you had resolved or that need your attention right now. If a tarot card doesn’t resonate in, say, a love reading, it could be because something else needs your attention more, such as carer, family, health, etc.


The Four of Cups is a reminder that it is alright to step out of the moment and take some time to focus on emotional aspects of your lives that are demanding your attention. They are often doing this for a reason – and often that reason is that they are ready to be released.

While the Four of Cups gives you permission to focus on these things, it is also a gentle reminder that there is a world out there worthy of notice outside of these things, and they don’t have to be the central focus of your life for much longer.

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