Surely you’ve heard someone tell a story that began with, “A funny thing happened on the way to…”
So often in life, we head toward an intended (and seemingly straight forward) destination only to be diverted in some odd and unexpected way. The more odd, and the more unexpected, the better the story.
But what about those times when we tried to get somewhere, and were struck by misfortune, sadness, sorrow, or despair? Maybe we were derailed and never got to that intended destination.
In my newest book Scribe to the Pantheon of Rome, numbers are used to describe and discuss archetypal experiences in life within the context of a story. The number that best describes an unexpected detour is five.
Let’s look at one example in the Tarot: the Five of Cups. Looking at the picture, we immediately get a sense of the emotion displayed – in a word: sorrow. The person shown is mourning the loss of something. In front of him/her are three cups spilling their contents. From his/her perspective, something failed, which resulted in loss.
Often, this card is about those sad moments after a split up. Even if the relationship wasn’t exactly working, we can feel deep sadness when it ends. Often, what dies with the relationship are our dreams and hopes.
A little over a week ago, I was having a discussion with a friend. He recommended that I write a mission statement for my work. I have yet to do this, but I have been thinking about it a lot. One aspect of my mission statement, possibly the largest, is to help people increase their awareness. It is my belief/understanding that with awareness comes all sorts of benefit.
For example, if in a reading I tell you where I see you ending up in 2 weeks, you might get there and you might not. In 2 weeks, you’ll see if I was right. And then you’ll either be disappointed or surprised.
However, if in a reading I am able to help you see where you are and in which direction you are facing – right here, right now, then you’ll be able to track your progress from that day forward. You’ll know well in advance of the 2 weeks whether things are heading in the right direction. You’ll see how various endeavors are helping your cause. You won’t just know of a distant milestone, but will have a map!
So let’s get back to sorrow and the Five of Cups. Is the Five of Cups a destination or is it a map illustrating a journey? Well, that depends on how you look at it.
Traditionally, the Five of Cups is viewed and described as a destination – albeit one that no one desires. “If it is looming in the future, beware!” they often say. But advice like this is shortsighted, limited, and helps little at best.
The last time this card came up in my awareness, I tuned into it in a way I never had before. I was discussing it with someone and stated how I didn’t understand why it showed three cups spilt and only two remaining upright (and out of view of the mourner). And then it hit me.
Let’s consider the numerology. The card is a 5, but highlights 3 and 2. It can thus be illustrated as 32/5. Rather than seeing at it as a 32 that makes 5, I saw it as a 5 that makes (reveals, results in) 32.
Three is creation. Two is connection, direction, relationship. So 32 can be thought of as a path to relationship. But why would sorrow ever be on the path to relationship?
Well, depends on where you are!
Instead of looking at the Five of Cups as a destination, let’s consider a whole journey. When we start, there could be five cups standing in front of us. Each contains an emotion or mix there of. Let’s not even consider where they came from, just know that they are there. In relationship, each of us might have five cups. I have my five and you have yours. They surround each of us respectively. When we relate to each other, we thus filter everything that happens through our own five cups.
But what if some of my cups are filled with past disappointments, doubts, fears, insecurities, and old hurts that I’ve never resolved? Well, then any time you do something that looks like something I’ve experienced before, I’ll react. I’ll protect myself, or run and hide. Am I responding to you or am I responding to my stuff?
The only way to find out is to clear my stuff. That means some of the dirty liquid needs to be poured out and then my cup(s) can be washed.
So in this manner, the five of cups can be exactly on the way to relationship. Maybe I react to you, and then you react to me, and in the middle of the dance, we each knock over three of our cups. Surely 6 out of 10 spilt cups will capture the majority of our attention. In fact, it could end our relationship.
But if each of us has three cups that are filled with swill, then didn’t this need to happen some way, some how, some day? Maybe we won’t have the relationship we wanted with each other, but won’t the next one have a better chance?
And here’s some more Tarot. The Three of Cups indicates celebration. The Two of Cups is about heart-felt partnership (often romantic). Celebration is more or less the same as anticipation. At times, we celebrate the negative. Just think about anniversaries of loss (like September 11th) and what we do with them.
At the five of cups, we are momentarily celebrating a loss. We can’t help ourselves. We are mourning. We are fixated on our pain. But this is not bad. This could be the best way for us to get it out.
But what remains is two cups, the Two of Cups. It’s there, right behind us. When we are ready, all we need to do is turn around – reorient our focus. Maybe it will be with a different person, maybe we just need to see things differently with the person we are with (or were).
With increased awareness, we can begin to see that the Five of Cups is not simply an unpleasant destination, but rather a journey that serves us in many ways. Then someday, we can say, “A sad thing happened on the way to happiness, and it actually got me there faster than I ever thought it would have.”
Just continue to say to yourself every day, “I’m on the way. This is what’s on the way to where I want to be. It’s not the only way, but it is the way I went. If I keep going, I will surely get there…”
It’s all on the way.