The 8s are under the auspices of Mercury and share some of its quicksilvery mental acuity. The cards offer sudden insights, but also share a sense of nervousness and of mental hyper-sensitivity.
The Cups don’t cope very well with this kind of energy. The best scenario to describe the feeling of the card would be those times you wake up at four in the morning and a few minutes later you are thinking about all the problems and worries in your life. The more you think the more awake you get and the more the problems seem to get blown out of all proportion until you feel your mind is spinning apart and you reach a state of total panic, despair and exhaustion. You know that in a few hours you need to be awake for real and go to work, but what’s the point of it when your whole life is basically a mess and in the end you die anyway.
There is a reason why statistically most suicides happen in the early hours just before dawn…
The Rider Waite deck shows us a red-robed figure wearily stepping away from a group of 8 stacked cups into a moonlit landscape of water, hills and rocks. He or she is leaning heavily on a walking stick and seems tired and exhausted. In the Crowley-Harris deck we see a group of 8 cups suspended over blackened putrid waters under a dark and sulfurous sky. Some of the cups have run dry and the half-shriveled up lotus flowers that still hang over two of them cannot supply enough life-giving waters. Some of the cup-handles have broken as well.
For my card I wanted to emphasize the element of Water turned against itself. A sea-turtle is trapped in the mesh of a fishing net. She still fights against the mass of lines dragging her down, but every battle to the surface for breath is getting harder and harder until she'll finally give up in exhaustion and drown. It seemed to be an apt symbol for the idea of despair - the mental baggage you try to take along with you will eventually pull you under and you ask yourself why you even try. It would be so much easier to just give in and not care anymore - to let the deep swallow you up... I incorporated the number 8 for the card in a little tag that's been fixed on the turtle's front flipper.
In a spread the card indicates our mind becomes our worst enemy when it's at war with our emotions. We're trapped in the dark night of the soul where we feel there will be no light and no morning. We have a sense of a deep and profound crisis, that we are powerless with everything stacked against us. We're lost and desperate and we feel that all we can do is to give up. The card asks us to examine what's dragging us down and to try and make changes that will prevent us from sinking to the bottom.
For a relationship-related question the card may indicate that we are choking on poisonous and destructive feelings. What used to be a living and vibrant connection to a partner or friend has become stagnant and dead and is doing everyone more harm than good. If we want to salvage the situation we need to let go of whatever resentment or despair is affecting us and give each other a new chance. If we can't do that it might be better to step away rather than keep hurting everyone by holding on to something that's rotten to the core.
If the card comes up for a business-related question we are trapped in a dead-end project or job and it's eating us up. We either cannot muster any enthusiasm for what we do and just drag ourselves to work, or we feel that we're working on something that's wrong or futile and that's doing others harm while poisoning our own soul. It's time to re-examine your situation and make changes before what you do just swallows you up. Perhaps it's time to hand in your notice and to look for something more rewarding to do.
If the card is uncovered in an adverse or blockage position it could mean that you are giving in to despair and depression and cannot free yourself. Perhaps you just want to wallow in self-pity. It could also mean that you are unwilling to confront your sense of despair that is trying to alert you to the fact that something's going off in your life and that you try to numb it by pretending nothing is wrong, fleeing into mindless activities or dulling it with drugs or other addictive behaviors.
Incidentally I'm on vacation in Florida right now, and we saw happy and healthy turtles sailing these past few days, plus there's a baby nest up on our beach...