Apathy, action and the Four of Cups

Apathy is an odd feeling.

It can creep up on you unawares. Like, one day you’re pootling along merrily, getting stuck in to this and that, and a week later…everything seems… duller. Less interesting. You don’t feel that bolt of excitement any more. What?

Yesterday I wrote about getting excited about projects, and getting things done. ‘Productivity’ is pretty easy when you’re obsessed with what you’re doing and full of ideas and energy. But what about those days (or weeks, or months, or years) when you don’t have that energy? Ideas just don’t grab you in that way and you don’t feel like doing much of anything.

four of cups fountain tarot

From The Fountain Tarot

That’s the feeling in the Four of Cups.

A lack of fire, yes, but it’s not a wands card. A feeling of physical tiredness… but this isn’t about pentacles or earth. This is a cups card. This is about something in the heart. It’s an emotional apathy.

Perhaps it means you’re bored in your romantic relationship. The spark of love just isn’t there. Or maybe it’s a lack of passion for your art. You’ve lost your flow, can’t seem to create anything. You get trapped in this cycle where you can’t see a way out.

four bottles collective tarot

From The Collective Tarot

I love the interpretation offered in The Collective Tarot:

This card indicates a temporary state of discontent. In a personal relationship, this is the year two mark. You’re either going to go deeper, or break up. All the love and stability you strove to establish are now taken for granted or feel like a trap.

Sacha Marini, The Collective Tarot

This emphasis on ‘going deeper’ is interesting. In the Fountain Tarot image, above, and in many other versions of this card, a person sits, despondently staring at three cups. What they don’t notice is the fourth cup, right beside them. This is the opportunity to go deeper – if we will only choose to take it. In the Rider Waite Smith image, it’s even being offered, just like the aces in that deck. It’s a crossroads. There are choices.

The Four of Cups warns you not to take your situation for granted, nor the people who supported you along the way. Look around you. What are you truly longing for? Name it.

Kim Krans, The Wild Unknown Tarot Guidebook

People often say that the numbers sequence in the major arcana runs through three cycles. The four marks the beginning of the second cycle. It’s time for an injection of energy, passion, feeling. Time to re-connect to what matters, to lift your head and see what’s really going on, or go deeper and find what’s missing. And then, just as when we reach for the Ace of Cups, to act.

Transformation is not work based out of fear or pressure, but from your own guiding integrity. We need to be the change we want to see.

Sacha Marini, The Collective Tarot

9 comments

  1. Ellen says:

    A very timely post for me Beth.The weather here is muggy and it is raining a lot. And when the sun breaks through the clouds, it gets even more humid. Honestly i don’t feel like doing anything but watching series or reading books. Time to dig deeper. I am tempted to wait until fall arrives :)

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Y’know, waiting til fall might not be a bad idea. I don’t feel like this cards is saying ‘go deep/snap out of it’ all the time. Where I see it come up most in tarot readings is as an indicator of a bigger pattern someone has become trapped in…and actually want to change.

      Though sometimes it does just seem to pop up and say ‘you’re bored! Snap out of it!’ ;)

  2. Lilith
    Lilith says:

    omg let me run and get the four bottles card and meditate on it: “In a personal relationship, this is the year two mark. You’re either going to go deeper, or break up. All the love and stability you strove to establish are now taken for granted or feel like a trap.”

    (the anniversary my partner forgot this week? It was our 2 year one. yep yep)

  3. Shonna says:

    I’ve been trying to learn more about the astrology associations to the cards, and this one is Moon in Cancer — ah, fitting for the new moon yesterday.

    So sensitive Cancer, the crab, really feeling the emotions (moon)… and needing some stable (4) time hiding in the shell of non-feeling — no pain, but no joy either. We might even feel a bit crabby.

    The moon rules Cancer, so it’s actually a harmonious placement — though it can feel so bleh.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Seriously? The Four of Cups is the moon in Cancer? Wow. Thanks for sharing this Shonna! Yeah, the hiding in the shell thing, that’s such a great way to describe it, and to work with the number 4 and its structured, protective associations.

  4. BT says:

    A little late to the party but…
    I’ve just purchased my first deck (to learn with) and it had an accidental double print of the four of cups. Definitely what I’ve been stuck in for months. I do academic work… and I’m 2.5 years into my graduate programme. My writing feels stale, my research feels stale, and even my general environment is dull and confining most of the time. I actually think it’s what’s brought me to tarot as a new outlet, intellectually and creatively.

  5. Caroline says:

    I have recently started learning tarot and today my daily draw was the Four of Cups. Like BT, I’ve been feeling stuck around my creative passion and my work and this card today just encapsulated the apathy and lack of connectedness I’ve had for awhile.

    Biddy Tarot’s page on the Four of Cups says “A lot of the disappointment in life comes from people who want more but who already have all that they need.” I’m finding this very astute; I keep thinking I need something out in the world to stimulate me but instead I need to go deeper into myself to figure out what will be really fulfilling and not just temporarily distracting on a surface level.

    Like BT, I think this apathetic feeling is what has brought me to the tarot as well, as I’m hoping tarot can show me a new way into myself.

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