Understanding the Wildwood 5 of Vessels: Ecstasy

The 5 of Vessels is another of the many cards in the wonderful Wildwood Tarot (Mark Ryan, John Matthews, Will Worthington; Sterling Ethos 2011) that often tends to confuse readers when they first sift through the deck.  The keyword is “Ecstasy” and it features a woman dancing within a pentagram surrounded by five glowing cups.  The sky above is dark and filled with stars.  This card correlates to the traditional 5 of Cups, which we tend to think of as a card of mourning, sadness, regret, and challenges with recognizing the good in our lives.  So the Wildwood image and keyword seem so vastly unrelated to this understanding that at first readers may not know quite how to wrap their minds around it.  Let’s dive into the Wildwood and see if we can discover the deeper meaning of the 5 of Vessels, and how it connects to the traditional 5 of Cups….

Radiant Rider Waite Updated by Virginijus Poshkus

U.S. Games, 2003

Christiana Gaudet, from Tarot Trends, has written a wonderful description of the power of the 5 of Cups, which provides an excellent starting place for truly understanding the meaning of the 5 of Vessels – “Ecstasy:”

“I love the 5 of Cups because it discusses a situation we all share. There will always be loss and disappointment in life. But this card reminds us to pay attention to what is standing and to what is still good. When we turn away from what has been lost and look to what is standing we see Two Cups.  The Two of Cups is the card of perfect love, and the healing power of love. The Five of Cups allows us to acknowledge our grief and then reminds us of what is most important to keep us on track – imploring us to release that grief and find healing through love. What could be better than that?”

Perfect love. Divine love. “Ecstasy” refers to shamanic ecstatic healing, a ritual through which shamanic healers access other dimensions and realms, connect to the divine, to Yggdrasil, the great Tree of Life, to the universal energies uniting us all. There are many reasons for entering into an ecstatic state, but the principal reason is for healing – a spiritual healing from pain that can be brought on by the experience of physical and emotional loss.  “Ecstasy” is the acknowledgement of pain as well as the acknowledgement of the “two cups still full.”  It’s a conscious move toward healing, an understanding that pain is part of the process of loving, and of life.  Whereas we tend to view the 5 of Cups as focusing on what has been lost, the 5 of Vessels focuses on turning pain into transformation. It emphasizes the deep healing that is available to all who suffer, a process facilitated by a connection to the truest form of love that flows through us all. When we understand what “Ecstasy” truly means, it becomes evident that it’s not really so different from the 5 of Cups, rather it gives us another perspective on loss and the powerful and positive change inherent in recovery.