[This post is the second of a planned four-part series on the tarot suits. The previous post is on Maelstrom Tarot, The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Suit of Cups]
As an earth-sign Taurus, I feel a special affinity with the tarot suit of Pentacles. Although different systems assign different elemental values to the tarot suits, the suit of Pentacles, or Coins, is always going to be about the element of earth for me.
This suit is the down to earth, hands in the dirt, make things tangible and do things in the real world path of action. When we see Pentacles, we should feel the essence of how we can actually make real and concrete the things we imagine (swords/air), love (cups/water), or feel creative energy about (wands/fire). This is flesh-and-blood action that produces results in the physical sphere.
Describing the Suit of Pentacles
As with all the suits, we should start with the symbol itself. Although pentacles are often associated with their magical evocation as a pentagram amulet or talisman, in the tarot we would do well to rather think of them as coins. Money leaves no question as to what we are talking about here. Conjure up all the associations you can make with money (career, wealth, transactions, payments, earning, producing, working) and you are likely already on the right path to understanding this suit.
As such, money comes and money goes, we feel wealthy, we feel poor, we beg, we borrow, we steal, we enjoy material abundance, we hoard it, we distribute it, we have trouble juggling it, we are confident in our ability to gather it. The Fool’s Journey through the suit of Pentacles will teach us all the different ways we handle material matters from all sides of the equation, whether we are the beggar, the wealthy investor, or something in between.
The Fool’s Journey always begins with a beginning, the Ace, and ends with an ending, the King, with all the steps in the middle making up the lessons along the way.
Ace: Planting a Seed – A New Beginning (From an Ending)
As in all the cards in the RWS tarot pack, the Ace is a hand offering us the gift of the suit in its full intensity. Here, the coin takes up nearly 1/3 of the entire card, giving it a golden glow, with white bright rays coming out from the hand as if to emphasize the shimmer.
All that glitters is not gold, of course, but this card is the promise of a new coin in our hand, some new project that could bring material wealth and rewards. Sometimes the promise is really all we need to take that first step on the journey, and in fact, we are further beckoned into the realm of Pentacles by the tempting flowered path we see below.
The small round entryway that leads to mountains beyond is representative of our starting out, like the Fool, on this journey. Who can resist the inviting call of the unknown, decorated on all sides with lush flowers and vegetation? It is the initial sign that abundance awaits – new growth, flowering, tangible results in the natural world. The background is simply a blank canvas. Right now what we are being offered is the promise of a material return, but what we must commit to at this stage is to take the first step. Without crossing under that lush threshold that awaits, we can’t get any closer to holding that golden coin in our own hand, so, we must move forward.
Two, Three, Four: Juggling, Negotiating, Keeping
Two: We take the first step beyond the arched trellis, and we find ourselves nearly overwhelmed with all the practical tasks we are forced to juggle. It seems as if there is simply too much to do and not enough physical time to do it all, and so we hold the new coin we have accumulated, not knowing whether we can keep all these plates spinning in the air. The way is a bit bumpy; we ride the rollercoaster of waves up and down. It may even feel like we’re putting on a ridiculous performance for others and getting nothing in return for ourselves but jumping through hoops. Creating structure and detail-oriented planning in black and white, while eliminating what isn’t necessary, can bring things back into focus and balance.
Three: Where we were first feeling like we had to do it all on our own, we now realize that any material earnings and growth are not accomplished in a vacuum. Making money and getting projects completed takes a team of people, and everyone on the team has their own agenda. We have to find ways to be practical about achieving our overall goal without alienating others who we truly do need in order to get there. We must collaborate and find common ground, quite possibly sacrificing some of our wants and needs in order to accommodate those of others—and they in turn must do the same with us.
Four: We have now reached an initial point of financial and material stability, where we actually have four coins in our possession. Much like the four legs of a table, at this point in the journey we have enough to feel relatively comfortable, but not enough to feel as though we can share with others. In fact, we may even feel so insecure about this newfound wealth that we do everything in our power to hold onto it tightly, so that no one can take it away from us. The paradox, however, is that anything we try to grip too tightly for fear that it will escape our grasp is eventually bound to flee. In this situation, we learn about what it feels like to try to control our wealth, to prevent others from taking it away from us. And yet, in so doing we may lose sight of the larger picture, of the bigger community at our backs, and how what we have inevitably must be shared and spent in order to grow.
Five, Six, Seven: Lacking, Balancing, Reflecting
Five: And so, the inevitable does occur, and we find that all our stubborn clutching to something that seemed so valuable is somehow taken away from us. Now we are left wandering in a blizzard, without even sufficient clothing to keep us warm. We felt we had just enough and didn’t want to let it go, but now we don’t even have enough to provide us with our basic need for shelter. It seems that so much is lacking, and if only we had more material wealth we could supply ourselves with what’s missing. However, we still aren’t seeing the bigger picture. Community is still there for us, in fact we’re walking right past a welcoming window where perhaps inside there would be a warm set of clothes and some food to eat. But we’re so focused on what’s missing, that we fail to see what’s there for the asking. We have to be humble enough to ask for help, or at least to admit that we need something. We also must trust that our worst fears often don’t come to fruition: the physical situation may seem dire, and may actually be financially or materially difficult, but nothing is permanent. Just when we think there’s no hope, we turn a corner.
Six: What would our journey on the path of learning about wealth and poverty be without a trip through the land of the haves and the have-nots? We see them both portrayed on the six. Who do we identify with here? Are we begging for crumbs, in a needy or less-than position? Do we feel we aren’t worthy to stand on our own two feet and demand to be on equal footing with someone who wants to keep us down or subservient to their power? And, if we have more than others, how are we sharing it? Are we giving of what we have in a balanced way?
Seven: We’re now about two-thirds of the way through our journey, and the sun seems to be setting in the background in a dusky color over the mountains. We’ve earned and learned enough in our work that now we have the luxury, or perhaps the burden or duty, to reflect on what we’ve harvested thus far. It’s like a fork in the road, with one foot on each side (in fact we even see mismatched shoes to this effect). We have a chance to look over what we have accumulated, but also to think about what lies ahead. We now have enough skills under our belt to know that we can create new concrete realities, and it is our job to consciously decide what we want to bring forward and what we want to prune out of our garden.
Eight, Nine, Ten: Concentrating, Luxuriating, Maintaining
Eight: Past the fork in the road, we dedicate ourselves completely to the task at hand. We’ve removed ourselves from the community at large and social life so we can concentrate without interruption. We’re proud of our work and make a point to do it well. We’ve acquired the skills at this point to produce things of value. We work diligently and consistently, focusing on quality and craftsmanship. The process may not be particularly exciting or dramatic, but it produces tangible results.
Nine: We’ve arrived at a point where we can bask in the glow of our abundance. In fact, we have become self-sufficient and we can enjoy the luxury of our surroundings. We no longer struggle for material wealth; abundance is all around us and we take full advantage of all that the abundant garden around us has to offer. We have some status symbols to be proud of and that we can show off. The danger here, however, is becoming too wrapped up in our own grandiosity. We must also remember that not everyone is well-off and we shouldn’t be ostentatious. There is the need for refinement here, not vulgarity. The training of a falcon represents the fact that we can reign in some of our wilder or more immature impulses and be the master of our own environment. We don’t need to lean on or depend upon others for our own physical well-being.
Ten: The completion of the cycle brings us to a formation of coins that looks just like the Kabbalistic tree of life. We’ve worked the path and integrated its learning. We’ve reached a point of stability, especially as it relates to money and family, and yet, we mustn’t rest on our laurels or forget to notice the unexpected or magical things in life. Are we so wrapped up in our conversation that we fail to take in the mysterious man behind the gate? The little boy and the dogs are aware of him. We can have routine in our life, but we must not allow it to become stagnancy.
Page, Knight, Queen: Envisioning, Stabilizing, Nurturing
In the court cards, we see the maturation process of material production and growth in the physical world.
The page holds a coin aloft, in an admiring stance. He is honoring his vision and working to make it real. He believes in his work, but he is still at the initial stages of bringing his concrete project to fruition. His energy and optimism see him through at this point, even if material wealth is only just now beginning to emerge.
The knight represents planting stable roots. The horse he rides is heavy, reliable, a work horse in the truest sense of the word. While he may not be the fastest, he is certainly the most dependable and gets the job done. This card represents a material provider and shows that consistency can produce predictable results, especially in terms of material or real-world gains.
The queen relaxes on her garden throne, with the fruits of her labor all around her. She has learned how to integrate her physical body with the natural abundance that surrounds her, and she understands that the world truly does provide for her needs. She understands this because, for starters, she makes a conscious effort to never neglect her own needs. That includes taking care of her physical body and nurturing everything to do with her five senses: touch, taste, sight, smell and sound. She takes in the world around her in all of its glory and she doesn’t have to worry about fertile ground, because she is quietly basking in the middle of nature’s fertility, reproduction, and prolific prosperity.
King: Reaping What You Have Sowed – An Ending (For a New Beginning)
The King shows what is ultimately possible at the completion of our Fool’s Journey that began with the large beckoning coin being offered. Now, the King sits with his hand comfortably resting on the coin: he has mastered the abilities and qualities necessary for producing material abundance. He is inside the kingdom, it now is a part of him and belongs to him. The results of his hard work are piled around him, and he no longer has to struggle or strive. Over the course of his work, he has built up a comfortable nest egg and no longer has to worry about how he will provide for himself or others. This is ostensibly a retirement, and yet, it ultimately opens the way to yet another invitation, as the cycle begins again.