My Tarot card of the month for August was the Eight of Cups. At the beginning of the month, I imagined this as being a time of leaving behind bad habits and moving on from negative patterns, visualizing the cups as these things sitting on the shore as I walk away triumphantly. While this sort of process did take place in some ways through intention and shadow work, I was surprised to find myself feeling old emotions this month that were not necessarily toxic – the kind that must be peeled off of us and burned – but simple sadness, humble heartbreak, the grief of a genuine loss I never allowed myself to feel or mourn, the yearning for what was good once. I was reminded of aspects of lost love and light that I had, until now, been ignoring.
These were feelings I had, in a way, left behind already, in an effort to heal my wounds years ago. But I had been so focused on the negative memories, the disappointment and hurt, and the turmoil of finding my way back to self from those places, that I had been seemingly oblivious to the harmless little string that still tied me to the past, that remained connected to my heart throughout this entire healing journey. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right state of mind to be able to face this little string until now, but upon being reminded of it, suddenly one night, by way of a familiar sounding song, I couldn’t contain my tears. It was this crying, this watery and emotional moment, that made me realize that the Eight of Cups was not just about leaving behind the negative, but finding a way to walk away from the loss of love, as well. I realized that this is what really had to be left behind in order to move on, but how? It is difficult enough to walk away from toxic cups of poison, but we can do it knowing ultimately that they do not serve us well. But to walk away from the cups containing those better days, the cups full of warm tenderness and companionship, the cups with waters that reflect a familiar face we may never see again, for better or worse … how do we tell ourselves to leave these behind? How do we convince ourselves to walk away?
I brought the predicament into a therapy session, and the main reason I want to share this experience is for my counselor’s beautiful interpretation of the card. I told her about the Eight of Cups, the way it is often recognized as one figuring out that these cups are not working out, and so the person walks away, moving on in their journey and leaving the cups behind, in a way that suggests that the cups contain something worth leaving behind, something no longer wanted. And perhaps these recent feelings, however beautiful and endearing, are worth leaving behind; perhaps they are only wanted in that dreamy, bittersweet way of knowing what can never be but wanting it back again. But the predicament remains: I cannot move on without letting them go, and I am troubled and saddened by the thought of letting them go, for they are all that’s left of that time. They are good; they did nothing wrong, these good memories, these delicate feelings. They pay reverence to what had been beautiful. They honor the love that held things together, the light amidst the shadows, the simple, honest fact that not all of it was bad.
“I don’t know anything about Tarot besides what you’ve explained to me in our sessions,” she told me. “But if you think about a cup, its use is to hold the water for us, so that we don’t need to use our hands.” A window, a door, something opened inside my mind; something smiled; something let out that long-held breath. Ah-ha moments are just gorgeous, aren’t they? “So maybe,” I began cautiously, “I can just let the cups hold the feelings, and I can walk away, knowing they are there, unharmed, protected even. I can just allow them to be, because they are a beautiful part of the past.” For the first time in this healing journey, I recognized that the past is not necessarily divided into toxic messes to wipe up and lessons to be learned; I can allow for memories to just stay as they are, like works of art, lovely and meaningful moments to fill my heart with hope and to respect what was. “And should the waves rush upon the shore while I am gone and knock the cups over, their contents can just be integrated with the rest, naturally.” I imagine that will happen; I can see now the many times it has before. And how glorious that really is.
And so, I walk away from August with a more hopeful, sensitive, accepting, and loving view of the past and with a more complex and compassionate understanding of the Eight of Cups’ role in one’s journey. I hope this reading of the card will help you, as well. Much love as we enter my favorite half of the year! Away from the shore and into the hallowed darkness we go.