Four of Cups – Fallow Time

The four of cups indicates that you are intentionally turning away from an opportunity or a gift to avoid exposing yourself by taking on a challenge that demands too much of you.

Traditionally Tarot readers will tell you that the Four of Cups tends to appear when you are feeling discouraged and unmotivated. It comes at a time when you may feel as if there is no solution or way forward in your situation. Life has become stagnant, and nothing seems to make you happy or passionate. You are feeling apathetic – regardless of what happens, whether the day is good or bad, none of it matters to you.

However, perhaps after all the celebration of the Three of Cups you are simply tired and need to have some respite, some time for introspection. In many cards we see a new cup being thrust at the protagonist of the card. Lets face it! When you have already given your all, the last thing you might need is to be called upon to rise up and go full throttle again.

An example of someone who rejects the prospect of yet another cup is Australian Tennis Champion, Ash Barty.

With French, Wimbledon and Australian Open trophies in her cabinet and the fourth-longest stretch as the WTA rankings leader secured, Barty will never be forgotten.

Fox Sports
“It’s given me all of my dreams, plus more, but I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams and to put the racquets down.”

There can be no doubt that Ash Barty’s unexpected resignation from tennis, after winning at the Australian Open in 2022, took everyone’s breath away and sent shock waves through the Victorian Tennis Association.

Headlines such as “Ash Barty’s decision to retire is a national tragedy and spells danger” highlights the sheer disbelief with which her resignation was greeted. However, this very hyperbole helps explain why a woman, universally described as the perfect package “of talent, true sportsmanship and top role modelling” might want to put the racket down and escape the limelight and associated public expectation.

But if she’d been able to continue as world number one for another year and conservatively added one grand slam title per year until she was 30? That would have left her in an unassailable position as Australia’s greatest ever female player and an icon of the sport.

Fox Sports
Barty refuses the cup being offered. She is not drawn in by the idea of being the greatest ever female player, an icon of her sport.

The words “If she’d been able to continue” highlight the pressure Barty faced as she made this decision. What the media does not appear to take into account is that she had, quite literally, had enough of the taxing pressure and was finding it increasingly difficult to keep functioning on the grueling tennis circuit. We only need to point to the talented Naomi Osaka to highlight the impact this kind of pressure can have on mental health and personal well-being.

“Consider those whose attempts to keep playing backfired. Their reputations weren’t necessarily tarnished, but the unimpressive years at the end of a career certainly don’t look appealing on a stat sheet or in the memory bank”.

Bleacher Report

Barty made the brave decision that she needs to be known for more than her sporting prowess, that she does not want to wait for the Eight of Cups moment that inevitably lies ahead for any professional athlete, that she will not be coerced by the needs of others.

Another Perspective

“I always saw the 4 of Cups as being bored of life, apathy and dissatisfaction. But my perception of it has changed and when it pops up now I see it more as a reminder to retreat, have a little alone time, meditate about which opportunities are really in alignment” @_amanita.muscaria_

Kathryn Ravenwood analyses this beautiful rendition of the 4 of Cups from Black Cats Tarot by Lo Scarabeo. She writes that “In the Black Cats Tarot, we see the luxurious lay out of a feast before the cat who languishes on her couch, not partaking of what is in front of her, and probably overwhelmed by her three friends coming forward with yet more to offer”.

She goes on to point out that herein “lies the warning of this card: while it is good to rest and regroup, we must not slip into debauchery or self-indulgence. We might find it tempting to overeat, have too many glasses of wine, or spend time in maudlin reminiscences, letting luxury overstay her welcome. When Spirit offers us our Four of Cups times, it is prudent of us to use the time wisely and graciously”.

This is analogous with the situation Barty faced as writers waxed lyrical about how she might go on to win more grand slams and go down in history as the greatest female tennis player. Fortunately Barty knew, all too well, that with new players emerging she might well be toppled from her pedestal.

In her seminal “The Secrets of the Tarot – Origins History and Symbolism” Barbara Walker writes about the Four of Cups through the lens of decline. She says that “In the ancient sacred drama, the period following consummation and fertilization brought the death of the god, who descended into the under world like the declining sun” In the Tarot many of the cards remind us that with each new cycle, decline follows. Honeymoon periods end and all things, including athletic careers, have a finite life cycle.

If the Four of Cups appeared in your reading for Ash Barty how would you interpret it?
What is your favourite 4 of Cups? Feel free to share any insights in the comment box.

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