What Comes After the Eight of Cups?

Whew. I’ve been away for a while. My apologies for that; a blog that isn’t being updated on a regular basis always looks necrotic to me, but sometimes life rears its ugly head and the real world has to take precedence over things like Tarot and the internet. I haven’t done a reading in weeks, and to be honest, it’s driving me crazy, but I just haven’t had the time.

This week, I had an Eight of Cups moment. (I always think it’s a bit pretentious when Tarot people interpret their quotidian lives in terms of cards like this: “Oh, she’s such a Queen of Pentacles!” or “I just can’t shake the Five of Wands at work!” But this is a Tarot blog, and I want to link this experience back into my reading philosophy, so we’re going to go ahead and be pretentious here, at least for a little while.) I have a friend who’s going through some serious problems, and I did everything I could to help him, but it got to the point where, for my own health, I needed to walk away. His issues were starting to spill over too much into my life, and even though I wanted to be there for him, I finally decided to put my own needs first and take a step back. It was not an easy decision to make.

I like to imagine that this is the same river being crossed in the Six of Swords, even though the backgrounds of the two cards are actually quite different.

There are a lot of cards in the deck that represent this need for change–the need to take a step back, to give up on a project that’s not bearing fruit, or to let one thing end so that another may begin–but I think the Eight of Cups more than any other shows it as a personal choice. Death is about inevitable change that comes from outside. Judgment and the Six of Swords are about an awakening, a shift of perspective, but they don’t necessarily mean an individual’s choice to leave the old perspective behind. After all, the figures in Judgment don’t wake themselves, but rely on the angelic trumpeter. And the parent-and-child figures in the Six of Swords are led to new shores by a ferryman. Only in the Eight of Cups does the querent set out on his (or her) own and take the responsibility for leaving his (or her) old, unproductive, unhealthy life behind.

But here’s a question: What comes after all of these cards? The man in the Eight of Cups is not just walking away; he’s also walking towards something new. The same is true of the pair in the Six of Swords, who are not only leaving old shores behind but are looking for a new place to dock on the other side of the river. Throughout Tarot, there’s a pervasive theme that nothing ever ends without something else beginning: that every (metaphorical) death is an opportunity for rebirth.

On one hand, I think this is a defense mechanism for readers. It would be too disheartening to ask, “What does the future hold?” and to draw a card suggesting that everything you care about will end without any hope of finding something new. It would also be really bad for business. But on the other hand, I think it’s true that–barring literal, physical death, of which I really don’t have the authority to say what does or doesn’t follow–no ending in life is permanent. True, what follows may not be an exact correspondent to what came before (and in some cases, it seems like a piss-poor replacement), but there’s always something. Life changes, and often not for the better, but even the worst, most permanent changes always lead to something new.

So when you have a card like the Eight of Cups, in a reading or in a pretentious assignation of Tarot to life, it’s important not only to acknowledge the need for change, but also to ask what that change is leading to. It’s not enough to know what you’re leaving behind. You also have to at least think about where you’re headed.

The cards that everyone wants to see after the Eight of Cups are the ones that are full of hope and promise–the Star, the Fool, the Ace of Pentacles–but often in life, that’s not the way things work out. The man in the Eight of Cups has a hard journey ahead of him, and once he gets to the other shore, he has a cliff to climb. What’s at the top will be different for each querent on his (or her) journey: maybe it’s the palatial residence in the Two of Wands, and the preparation for new ventures, or maybe it’s the asceticism and solitude of the Hermit in his mountain cave. But either way, getting there will take patience and dedication, so for me, the immediately-after of the Eight of Cups is often the Seven of Pentacles.

So he stopped halfway up the mountain to grow a garden. Don’t judge him. Maybe he was running low on food, and he needed to replenish his supplies.

As for my friend and his situation, I pulled a card to see what comes next for me, after the Eight of Cups (and probably a lot of time with the Seven of Pentacles, as well). I drew the Ace of Cups, so who knows? Maybe everything will work out for the best after all, even though I had to bow out.

Apologies again for having been gone for so long. I’m still pretty busy with day-to-day stuff, but I’ll try to be back here more consistently and get new content up for you. I have a lot of thoughts to share, and I just need to find the time to write them all down. Until next time!


2 thoughts on “What Comes After the Eight of Cups?

  1. I know it’s been some time since this post but I just wanted to say that I hope everything with you and your friend worked out for the best :). And I loved the idea of looking beyond the card to what comes after, thank you for bringing it to my attention :).


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