The Pentacles Predicament
In tarot cards, the suit of Pentacles represents the element of Earth. The other three suits represent the other three elements. The Cups suit is Water, the Swords suit is Air and the Wands suit is Fire.
Western metaphysical thought offers associations for the four elements. These are used in healing and magick, as well as in tarot divination. The more we are able to understand and invoke the four elements, the more helpful they are. With the element of Water, we associate emotion; the ability to feel, and to love. With the element of Air, we associate thought; the ability to discern and communicate. With the element of Fire, we associate passion; the ability to motivate and create. But what about Earth? Earth is associated with our wealth and health, the two areas where many people fear they lack the most.
Ask any novice Western magickian or tarot reader about the element of Earth, and they are likely to tell you it is about material goods, i.e. our ability to make money. Then they might murmur something about the importance of grounding or honoring the physical body. The take-away is always this: with the element of Earth, we associate money.
As tarotists work to grasp the full meaning of the earthy Pentacles cards, many interpret them as being all about the “Benjamins”. In fact, in some tarot decks, the Earth suit is actually called the suit of Coins!
When we reduce the power of the Earth element into nothing more than money, we lose the full weight of magick the Earth offers us, and we limit our scope as tarot readers.
There are many ways to think about money on a spiritual level. At one end of the spectrum are those who eschew money, or material possessions, as distractions, or even as trappings of evil. At the other end are folks who believe that, through a set of spiritual practices, we can and should have all the riches we desire.
In modern times, Earth and money seem to be sworn enemies, rather than corresponding energies. We ravage the planet and call it “creating jobs.”
The solution comes when we first think about why money might have originally been associated with the element of Earth. Before there was printed currency, there was only the need for resources that sustained us. Those resources would have been food and shelter, which came directly from the Earth.
One way of working with the elements is to think about what they each do, and try to do the same. As water flows, so should we flow. As fire dances and grows, so should we. What does the Earth do? It sustains, it supports, it nurtures. If we ourselves do those things, we will have the benefit of the resources we need.
As we turn to the suit of Pentacles in most tarot decks, they are generally illustrated with fruits and flowers growing in gardens, and people working with tools. We can see these cards refer not just to our bank accounts, but also to our resources, our industry, and our flexibility in finding ways to sustain ourselves.
Now, as our planet struggles with both economic and environmental disasters, we need more than ever to honor the Earth, physically and metaphysically. The Suit of Pentacles shows us some clues. Grab a tarot deck and follow along!
In the Ace, we see that the Earth is able to give us all the gifts we need. In the Two and Three we learn the balance of working and celebrating these gifts. In the Four and Five our choices and fears cause loss. In Six, balance is restored when we embrace charity. In Seven, Eight and Nine we tend the garden. Learning and growing, we bring the garden to its harvest. In Ten, we enjoy the fruits of our labor.
The Ten of Pentacles is an auspicious card, especially in the popular Rider-Waite-Smith illustration that features the Kabalistic Tree of Life. This card represents our ancestry and our legacy. It is that which sustains us now, that which connects us to spirit, and that which connects us to Earth.
If students of metaphysical thought can see the element of Earth as the element of resources and sustainability, we can work together to create that reality for our communities, and for our planet.
If tarot readers can expand their view of the Pentacles cards to include a greater sense of resourcefulness and connectedness to the great web of life, their readings will reflect more universal truth and insight.
Finally, if we can understand wealth as our resourcefulness and our ability to work within community and with the Earth and its energy, we will be able to sustain ourselves with ease.
From my 78 Poems Project, The Ten of Pentacles
To recognize one's true inheritance
To be grounded in history, to honor the ancient
To watch the generations in their dance
To endure, to age wise and patient.
This is the Castle, this is the Crown
The power of legacy, the legacy of power.
The myth of brave deeds far renown
And wise counsel in war's darkest hour.
As we find our place in myth and mystery
The future emerges from choices of the past.
We create our grandchildren's history
From the power of Earth, strong and steadfast.