This version of the 8 of Pentacles is one of my favorites because it shows the sweat and challenge of hard work. Yes, she has tools and materials, the only way she will improve is to work. Through practice and discipline she learns what she needs to achieve exactly what she wants.
Have you noticed that there are often these words that float to the surface of popular consciousness? Often they are ones we've not used often (or at all) but suddenly, they fall off our lips as if they are part of our understanding of the world. Lately, for me, it's been the word "iteration." Usually I feel annoyance at these words, as if they are some lame affectation. That annoyance is stupid, I know. With this particular word, I've had to fight that irrational reaction because what this word means is so close to what I believe as someone who is always trying to master something new and as a teacher.
Iteration is a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operation yields resutls successively closer to a desired result. Technically, we could use the word "draft," although interation feels more active with more focus on the act of repetition as a learning experience. Repetition is, in so many areas of life, the single best way to get better at something.
As many of you know, I'm working to become a better artist. I took classes to get me started but after a point, taking in more information wasn't affecting my actual art. It was only when I started practicing what I'd learned, making mistakes, figuring out what went wrong, and deciding things to try to correct the mistakes did I actually start improving. A lot of art tutorials by established artists feature "cheap supply challenges." The point of these is to show that while quality supplies are awesome, they are not necessary to create good art nor is not having them an excuse not to practice. If you develop skill, you can create with whatever is at hand. The best supplies or tools are no substitute for skill. Skill comes through practice. Saying that we will get better once we take that one class or acquire that specific deck or tool actually undermine your progress and take away your power.
So as we all move forward, reaching toward becoming our best selves in whatever areas we are focusing on, the 8 of Pentacles is here to remind us that while we should enjoy and utilize whatever can support us we need to know that practice does indeed make perfect. Make messes, make mistakes, try new things.
May you commit to the discipline of your chosen goal.
May your successes inspire you.
May your mistakes teach you.
May you find joy in the process.
Many people who love tarot consider it in some way sacred, depending on their definition of that word. My definition of a sacred text is very broad and I'm not the only one. The wonderful podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, has the tagline, reading something we love as if it were sacred. The podcast is so good and you should listen to it. First, just because it is deep and human and real. Second, because their practices are so easily applied to tarot or whatever you love.
The way "sacred text" is defined varies depending on who you ask. One of the characteristics I've heard that rings true for me is that a sacred text is generative. That is, it inspires and/or is directly connected to creating new material. Of course I love this idea because I believe that the Divine did not complete the creation of the universe but rather left it unfinished and invited us, all of us, to participate in its continuing co-creation. Also, if something doesn't support or inspire new life or creations, I don't see how it can be sacred.
Tarot, as a literary and art form, has proved to be very generative, offering us versions of the Rider-Waite-Smith that look at different themes through that lens and bold decks that take on completely new lenses. Wisdom can be found in all of them.
Today I wanted to stretch myself out of my comfort zone and take a look at a page from an unusual version of tarot, the Ace of Swords from the Circle of Life Tarot.
A nude pregnant woman sits on the ground, looking at her full belly in wonder, curiosity, and admiration. Near her is a large, ripe pumpkin fully of sunshine and seeds and a sword is thrust into the ground. Hovering in the air, soft underbelly toward us, a huge beetle tightly clutches a sword/spear with the tip at its head and the shaft running along the length of its body.
All the sexual symbolism makes this a unique Ace of Swords. Usually associated with new beginnings or new ideas, the ripeness of this image reminds us that beginnings lead to endings.
This card is reminder that ideas bear fruit and manifest in the physical world, particularly when we nurture them. Then from that initial idea or seed, many more will come and, if fed, will likewise bear similar fruit.
Select the sword or idea you plan to wield as you co-create this world. It will make ripples, resonances, and consequences that will affect you and all of life.
I know things are hard for lots of us right now. We're afraid and angry. We do need to remember, though, that our words and ideas are creating the future...not a million years from now but like tomorrow future. We will live with the fruits of our words and thoughts. Calling other people monsters and saying exaggerated things, demonizing others, focusing on headlines and sayings rather than actual policies only feeds and nurtures the great divide and perpetuates more of the same. I could go on, but this small wise person says it all so well:
CLICK HERE FOR HUMBLING WISDOM
My blessing for you all today:
May you find the heart center of your life.
May your mind be filled with beautiful ideas.
May the sweetness of your heart lovingly nurture them.
PS What I really wish is that everyone could just settle down. This kind of energy is how a small, inconsequential action lights off a metaphorical powder keg.
The "Fives" of tarot have been on my mind a lot lately for some reason. A recent article is HERE. That post was over a month ago and ideas are still simmering.
As some of you know, I'm working on my first non-tarot book. It's about energy clearing and cultivation. While it is not about tarot and will not include tarot, I cannot deny that tarot is the lens through which I look at life, so it shapes my ideas about almost everything. And here, with you all, I can talk about things in tarot terms and we all have this great shared vocabulary that makes communication easier. Plus, this is a great space for me to explore ideas and hopefully hear some of yours, which you can share either in the comments or via email.
So let's talk about the 5 of Pentacles, taking a slightly different point of view.
Below are images from Llewellyn's Classic Tarot and the Steampunk Tarot.
The most common approach to this card is to say that it is material need of some sort and certainly the images in many decks support this interpretation. When we think about the number 5, we think chaos and disruption. Couple that energy with Pentacles, material resources, and it is an easy step to: physical want or deprivation. We can further say that part of the need is created by the neglect or misuse of resources of the spiritual institutions that are supposed to help people. This idea works well with many people's idea that the Hierophant represents all that is worst about organized religion. I think these ideas highlight a cultural bias that I didn't fully understand.
Because so many of us who have taken up the study of tarot have, in some way or another, been disappointed by the spiritual and religious paths that came to us through childhood, we very naturally take the view that all organized religion is, at worst, evil and destructive or, at best, benign traditions that fuel a consumer economy. Not all tarot readers feel this way, but plenty that I've met definitely do.
What happens when we examine that assumption, that shared bias? I touched on it a little in that previous article I mentioned (excerpt below), but I didn't go far enough.
"The 5 of Pentacles, with its very clear depiction of spiritual life (symbolized by the church window) and human suffering asks perhaps the hardest question. What is our relationship with the Divine when life is hard, when we or our loved ones are suffering, when terrible things happen to innocent people? How do we react when things that were good, maybe even great, turn to crap?"
If you are familiar with my work, you know that I do not accept that the only or even main meaning of the Hierophant is stagnant and awful organized religion or stifling systems. Instead, I believe that the Hierophant teaches us the importance of living our faith, walking our talk...in short manifesting our spiritual beliefs in a real way in the physical world. The Hierophant is, after all, associated with Taurus, which rules the second house and is associated with values, both material and spiritual. Fives are associated with the Pentacle, which is the physical world under the guidance of spirit.
The 5 of Pentacles seems like a good companion card for the Hierophant and shows a good lesson in what happens when you are not living your faith, when you do not walk your talk. As I continue thinking about energy clearing and cultivation, I realize that many people do not pay much attention to those activities unless something is very wrong. Their house feels "weird" or "off" so they use sage or salt or crystals to clear the energy. This certainly works, but it is also like going to the dentist for a filling when your tooth hurts rather than going twice a year for cleanings and brushing and flossing in between.
While my book will contain actions to take when things are in crisis, the bulk of it will focus on how to maintain a clear, calm, stable energetic foundation in ourselves and in our environments so that we can avoid crises. This allows us to be more responsive rather than simply reactive in our lives.
Along with tarot, another guiding idea in my life is the Hermetic principle "As above, so below." This ties in so nicely with the Hierophant and 5 of Pentacles. Instead of saying that we are in need and religion isn't helping us, we can flip that and say: when we forsake the small, daily practices of our spiritual beliefs, we find ourselves in need, both physically and spiritually. The more I pay attention to the energy in the world, the more I realize that everything physical is connected with spirit.
Please do not misunderstand. I do know that there are physical needs that are dire and immediate. It is really hard to care about spiritual things when you are starving or in danger (as Maslow's hierarchy teaches us). I am not talking about those situations. I am talking about our normal, daily lives.
And so, here is another way to look at the 5 of Pentacles...and a more empowering way. Instead of blaming some abstract formal religion (which we probably aren't in community with anyhow) for not helping us, we can own our responsibility for our individual spiritual practice. If we pay attention to the details in our lives and attend to things that need attending, it is a way of attending to both our spiritual and physical needs. Cleansing, healing energy flows. Stifling, sickening energy stagnates. As above, so below. Ergo, an organized and tidy place allows cleansing, healing energy to flow. That's true of our homes, our minds, our relationships, and our spirits. Something as simple as cleaning your bathroom regularly can be a metaphor for seeing yourself clearly. It's all connected. When we let things slide, we lose things, we feel more frantic, we are less efficient, and then things snowball until we are in that common quality we love to ascribe the 5s: chaos.
A lover of tarot, magic, and mystery.