Tarot Tuesday: Six of Pentacles

6-of-pentacles

Rider-Waite-Smith

There’s something ugly about this card. Look at the way the merchant measures out precisely how much he should give to two people reduced to begging on their knees.

Yes, it’s a good thing to share with those in need—no question. But this man seems to have no respect for the basic human dignity of these two people. Shouldn’t he find a way to help them out without humiliating them?

There’s no indication, to me, that this man is supposed to be some sort of holy figure—and therefore I don’t see him as a fitting subject of worship. And this isn’t three consenting adults exploring ideas of dominance and submission for the fun of it. There are two people here who seem powerless, and a third who seems to accept power as his due.

Perhaps this is the dark side of the suit of Pentacles. Pentacles represent earth and everything that suggests: hard work, prosperity, craftsmanship and family. So perhaps we shouldn’t expect the sharp, bitter blades that can cut us in the suit of Swords—the suit of air and the mind. Or the angst that can drown us in the suit of Cups—the suit of water and of emotions. Or the anger that can explode in the suit of Wands, the suit of fire and ambition.

No, when Pentacles presents us with a problematic card, it usually deals with greed (as we see in the Four of Pentacles) or what we have here: a trite sort of superiority. The idea of noblesse oblige gone terribly wrong.

Is there a way to rescue this card? To give it a more profound meaning? In Tarot and the Tree of Life—still my go to book on the Minor Arcana—Isabel Radow Kliegman certainly tries! She acknowledges the ugliness of it and then offers other ways to look at it. But none of those ways satisfy me.

On the other hand, as much as I hate this card, I know it’s good for me as a writer. I sometimes write stories where a power imbalance, for one reason or another, exists between the protagonists. And sometimes not in a bad way—sometimes it’s temporary and situational; sometimes it’s consensual and healthy enough.

But that only works when the people involved do have that basic respect for each other’s inherent dignity. So this card reminds me of how ugly power imbalances are when that respect isn’t there—and it reminds me to include examples of that in my stories.

What do you make of this card? Do you see a way to redeem it? If you’re a writer, what sort of theme or characters does it suggest to you? As usual, if it happens to inspire your own meta or story, please leave a link here!

Meanwhile, we’ll need a card for next week: Strength.

About Jenn Moss

Author * Web Serialist * Virtual Addict
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6 Responses to Tarot Tuesday: Six of Pentacles

  1. I’m not sure it needs redeeming. It shows a very nasty, very unpleasant side of humanity. But a true side, nonetheless.

    I’ve certainly known people in my lifetime that have given to the poor only so they could be seen giving to the poor. Or only giving to the poor who “deserve” it according to their dogma.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I agree it’s an ugly card. The scales in the merchant’s hand say it all. He is not giving out of the fullness of his heart but weighing up how much he believes the beggars deserve and how much it would be expedient to give. While we need to consider how we use resources, especially if our own are limited, this proud and prudent merchant is the face of the workhouse overseer or the contemporary architect of ‘austerity’.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Adam says:

    My first reaction is also a tone of stern condemnation, but I think there may be a way to see this in a less negative tone, and I think the key is the scales. This isn’t my first reaction, but I could also see this image as a symbol of the need to measure, balance, and ration. Two people stand before him in need, and at the moment he is only giving to one of them. I could see this as a scene where a man recognizes the need of both, and measures out so that both receive an equal half, hence the scales. All will receive their fair share, but not more. Granted his face appears stern to me, but that may be a nod to the need for impartiality. Compassion has its place, but if we allow compassion to lead us to give too much in the moment, there may not be enough to give to the next person, or enough to sow the fields and nurture the earth for tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dipa says:

    I’ve always looked at this card as someone who’s risen through the ranks and now wants to give back to society… For example – people like Oprah or JK Rowling. They’ve both admitted that they were once poor. But now that they’re rich, they actively give back to the community. I think that’s great. Every time I see this card in a reading, I always tell the person – it’s time to engage in some philanthropy.

    We see the symbol of the scales in the Justice card as well – so it’s more that things move in cycles and you reap what you sow. I’ve always thought this was a positive card – but your post has made me think of the other side of the coin – excuse the bad pun!

    Liked by 1 person

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