Not since June of 2005 has this been my website’s Card of the Week. Rachel Pollack notes that this is one of the “Gateway” cards, which would be appropriate for this particular time of year. The archway is literally a gate. Despite the superficial ordinariness of the scene, though, this is a multi-layered card full of magic. It points to the fact that in the mundane lies the most mysterious. For as above, so below.
This is a card of wonders hidden in plain sight. Notice the placement of the ten coins – they form the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, a symbol shown nowhere else in the Tarot. In the archway there is a magic wand – the only time one appears in the Minor Arcana. And not in the suit of Wands, mind you, but Pentacles.
The old man’s multicolored cloak is comprised of astrological and ritual magic symbols. Above his head, on the arch column, we see a set of scales in balance, pointing to Justice, and the settling of karma. Is he a mystic traveler, a disguised mage, or the patriarch of the family depicted? Interpretations vary widely. Rachel Pollack even suggests that he may be Odysseus, home from the wars, and only his dog recognizes him.
Speaking of the dogs, the old man and the child connect, yet do not actually touch, through their love of the dogs, which also appear in The Fool and The Moon. Is the couple happy, or are they turned away from one another? And is the dark castle behind the old man simply a tapestry hanging on the wall, or is it actually another doorway that exists in counterpoint to the seemingly more “real” marketplace under the blue skies through the archway to the right?
The Tens are the culmination of each suit in the Tarot, the ultimate of the energy of their element. With Pentacles being about money, physicality, health and security, the Ten is certainly a card of satisfaction and enjoying the fruits of one’s labors. Again, excellent timing, as we prepare to celebrate the third and final harvest.
Yet the mysterious elements of this card remind us that our ultimate wealth is not financial security or success in the marketplace. Our real treasure lies in our everyday life, and within the most ordinary daily routines, there are forces of great mystery and power.
As we stand this week at the Gateway between past and future, the veil between the worlds thins. In countless cultures around the world, and throughout history, this is a threshold that connects the realms of the living and the Ancestors.
One day, we will be the old one who sits outside the gate. How do we want our descendants to remember us? What will be our legacy, and to whom will it be given?
For the greatest wealth is to have lived our lives so that, at the end of our days, we have enriched others, and we are comfortable in our cloak of Mystery.