A troubling card, with troubling feelings attached to it. I mentioned in the last update that I was still working on a complicated setup for this piece, involving a multi-person photo-shoot. As you'll see, I've changed my approach a bit since then. I ended up not photographing any models and instead wound up buying, smashing, and then photographing a lot of porcelain and glass to create this card.
The Five of Cups: Disappointment
The fives are always trouble, of course. Midway through our journey in each suit, we will find the place of opposition, where the guiding element encounters it's natural opposite and risks losing everything it has gained. The optimistic planning of Air hits the punishing reality of Earth, and meets Defeat in the five of Swords. The passion of Fire meets the complexity of personal feeling in Water, and leads to Strife in the Five of Wands. The stable promise of Earth is shaken by the mortal fears of Air, and creates Worry in the Five of Disks. Finally, in this card, we see that perfect relationship we began in the Two of Cups come crashing down around us. The dream of Water has been caught up in the spiraling chaos of Fire.
Disappointment feels like such a mild word for so much pain. What does it mean, when you are disappointed by someone close to you? What does it feel like to know that someone you love is disappointed in you? It can be a crushing, lonely feeling. There is grief there, and anger, and certainly fear. Is your relationship a lie? Has the person you trusted betrayed your trust? Have you lost everything you'd been working so hard to achieve?
The feelings we see in this card are hard to pin down, but if you have known love in your life, you have certainly also known the pain of disappointment. You had high hopes for what could have been, for who that person you put your trust in was, for who they were capable of being. You have learned something, but it was something you hoped never to learn. Perhaps someone you put your trust in was not worthy of it. Perhaps it was you. Perhaps it was inevitable. Perhaps it was obvious to everyone but you. In this moment, does it matter?
What happened to lead to the scene we see here? A break up? A divorce? The discovery of infidelity? An act of violence? Death? It could by all of the above, or something else entirely. The point is less the specifics of the narrative, and more the feelings involved, and the aftermath of their expression. What we hoped would last has been shattered. Whether it can be repaired or not is another question.
In piecing together an image for this card that spoke to me, I admit I was up against one large obstacle - I'm a really big fan of Pamela Colman Smith's version of this card. That solitary, black figure elegantly conveys such a powerful and immediate sense of grief, I was tempted to simply try to recreate that scene in a modern context. I was originally going in a more funerary direction with my vision of this card, but I was bothered by something. The grief of mourning, while overwhelming, can imply a "cleaner" kind of sadness. Death, at least, is a definite kind of ending, and I don't think we have that satisfying sense of closure here. Fitting this card into the context of the suit of cups, I wanted something more turbulent, implying anger, grief, shame, and all the other messy kinds of pain that can come with the ending of a relationship. A friend of mine suggested "broken wedding china" to me, and I realized those three words were the perfect symbol.
Speaking of symbols, the flowers on the floor are intended to be marigolds, and the china pattern on the dishware features pinecones. Both choices were somewhat deliberate, for those who care about such details.
And yes, by the way, that is a raw steak in the background. I first used that texture on the Death card, but it was fun to bring it back and make it a bit more prominent. I wanted that broken china hutch to feel like an open chest wound.