When the sun rises, I go to work.
When the sun goes down I take my rest,
I dig the well from which I drink,
I farm the soil which yields my food,
I share creation, Kings can do no more.
— Chinese proveb, approx. 2500 B.C.E.
The apprentice is skillfully focused on his task. Although he is completely lost in his work, in the far distance is the city, reminding him that there is a larger world to which his work must have relevance, lest it be an act of vanity or a waste of time.
The eights of the Tarot are often about getting organized and setting priorities. So in the Pentacles suit, this is about focusing on work, money, and resources.
Rachel Pollack, renowned Tarot scholar and teacher, has a fascinating view of this card. “Work,” she writes, “whether physical, artistic, or spiritual (the Sufi Idries Shah speaks of ‘work’ as the most basic of Sufi doctrines), cannot succeed if the person thinks only of the end result. Many artists and writers have testified to this fact, warning hopefuls that if they just want to become famous or rich, they will never succeed. We have to care about the work itself.”
This card speaks of mastery in the physical world, skills that are well-honed and the confidence and pleasure that comes from labors well-done. On practical terms, this kind of mastery may indicate that you feel ready for a lateral move, seek promotion to a new, more challenging level, or even wish to change your career completely. It also appears for those who are talented in craftsmanship or in the arts. I often see this card come up for people who are restless in their successful but conventional careers, and who seek a life-changing shift to more creative or artistic endeavors.
If you are busy this week, finishing up projects before the first big summer holiday (in the U.S.), this card certainly reflects it. Pay close attention to the details, and get everything lined up skillfully. This card is also a reminder that if you are doing work that is satisfying and rewarding, be thankful, and continue to grow and learn.
If not, remember that our labor is sacred. Be honest about your skills and your limitations, and find the calling that is in harmony with your integrity and the gifts you can give to the world. For we certainly need them!