February 6, 2009 § 1 Comment
It seems that no matter how long you study tarot and how familiar you think you are with the cards, you will always find something new to enlighten or surprise. This week, I have been learning about the 5 of Pentacles. I wrote about a couple of things specific to the Hudes 5 of Pentacles in another post, but this post is about the 5 of Pentacles in general. To me, this card has always represented some kind of physical hardship or poverty – whether that’s poverty of money, health, possessions, time or spirit. In readings, my interpretations revolve around the idea that what was stable and relied upon, taken for granted even, has been lost.
What I’ve failed to appreciate about the card, however, is its message of shared hardship. This is not a particularly outlandish interpretation of the card – after all, it traditionally depicts more than one person and many books mention shared hardship as a possible meaning. But it’s not a meaning that has resonated with me before. Until this week.
This week, the 5 of Pentacles turned up as the “Opportunity” card in my weekly reading. I thought it probably referred to some temporary setback in my health or finances, such as catching a cold or getting a large credit card bill (for lots of tarot deck purchases no doubt). In actual fact, the card seems to have had many things to say about many different aspects of this week, but the one I want to talk about is snow.
Here in the UK, we’ve had snow. Tons of the stuff. Oh, we have snow occasionally – if we’re lucky there’ll be a snowfall once a year and if we’re really lucky, there’ll be enough to make a miniature snowman – but real deep snow that settles and hangs around for days is pretty rare. So far the snow here has lasted for five days and has been both a wonderful treat and a complete nightmare. A treat for me because I don’t have to go anywhere, except to the park to walk the dog; a nightmare for most other people who’ve had to get up early, shovel the driveway, scrape down the car and trundle along at 15 miles an hour just to get to work (and then get home late only to do it all again the next day).
The snow here has brought life as we know it to a standstill: schools are closed, roads are closed, buses and trains are cancelled and Royal Mail – who are out every day come rain or shine – are not delivering mail. The weather conditions have been the top news story all week. And it’s all pretty much doom and gloom. But we’re all in it together, and that makes you feel a part of your community like nothing else can. Suddenly, you’re talking to kids from around the corner about the snowman they’re building (a giant). Suddenly, you’re out pushing your neighbour’s car that’s got stuck, or you’re checking that the old lady down the road is all right. You’re putting food out for the birds and having your photo taken with the Chinese couple that you’ve always said hello to even though you didn’t know their names and still don’t (true story). Suddenly it’s not just about you anymore. You see people who need a hand and so you lend yours.
And that’s an aspect of the 5 of Pentacles I’ve never really considered before. Of course, this goes on all the time even when there isn’t snow but the conditions this week have made it all the more noticeable. In a way, it relates back to the Hierophant – the big five. Because one area of life he is concerned with is community. We are all part of the same tribe, yet much of the time we are wrapped up in our own little worlds. The snow this week has got everyone outside, talking to one another, helping each other out. And that, my friends, is how the 5 of Pentacles works as “opportunity”.
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
February 1, 2009 § 2 Comments
The first is that the stained glass window appears to contain an Escher-like optical illusion. Look closely and you will see that snow has settled on both the lower sill and the upper arch. Yet if you look even closer it seems that the lower sill recedes, which means there should be no upper arch for the snow to rest on. Did the artist knowingly include this? To me, it suggests something about this card. Pentacles, the suit of Earth and the physical realm, combines here with the number five, which challenges, disrupts, and breaks the box. In this optical illusion, we see something that is physically impossible. It challenges our perception of the world; it hints that there is more to life than what can be touched and held. It’s significant that this optical illusion appears in the stained glass window of a church as it introduces a magical or spiritual element to an otherwise mundane scene.
The second is the two figures at the bottom of the card. The central figure – the figure in grey – looks miserable. He is huddled, clutching his cloak tight against the cold, and his face bears a pained expression. The figure in brown is different: her head is only slightly bowed and the expression on her face is calm. Her closeness to the grey man and the positioning of her body suggests to me that she is guiding him, perhaps with a hand placed gently on his arm or back that we can’t see. The grey man is so wrapped up in his misery that he doesn’t even seem to know the brown woman is there. It’s as if she’s his guardian angel, invisibly supporting him in his time of need. It reminds me of the “Footprints” poem, where God says, “During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”