Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.
— Albert Camus
First, I want to note the importance of the timing for this card’s appearance, for it has never before been a Card of the Week. From financial expert analysis to astrological interpretation, the forecast is that we are in for a very challenging economic period. Security, prosperity, wealth and power – there is a radical transformation now underway of what these terms mean, as well as who will possess them.
The Six of Pentacles seems to point to a week when we should pay very close attention to these changes, especially what we need, how we spend, and how we give. It is especially a time to beware of hubris.
This week, due to unusual time constraints, I rely on the guidance of Joan Bunning – a wonderful Tarot teacher, scholar and author of the excellent, Learning the Tarot.
“The Six of Pentacles,” she writes, “is a difficult card to describe because it falls in the shadowy area between the lack of the Five of Pentacles and the affluence of the Ten of Pentacles. These two cards represent the extremes of not having and having. The Six of Pentacles covers the huge middle ground where it is not clear exactly who has what.
“On this card, a well-to-do gentleman is tossing a few coins to a beggar while another supplicant waits to the side. The giver holds the scales of justice as if claiming the right to decide who deserves blessings and who does not.
“In this picture we see both sides: what it means to give and to receive, to dominate and to submit, to be on top and to be on the bottom. It seems clear who has and who hasn’t, but is it? Life is not that simple, and how quickly fortunes change.”
Notice that here we have another one of Pixie Smith’s “stage” cards. The figures are on what appears to be a theatre stage, and the hills and buildings in the background may or may not be real. This calls into question the role we play when we offer charity, as well as when we ask for help.
The wealthy man seems to exude a sense of superiority. No doubt he is certain he is being fair and even kind. But doling out pennies in public, while the other man is forced to wait on his knees makes one wonder what would happen were the tables turned.
As Joan notes, the tables do turn eventually.
“The Six of Pentacles,” she writes, “asks you to look very deeply into the whole issue of what having really means both materially (resources) and immaterially (knowledge, power, love). You may see yourself on one side or the other, but this card asks you to reconsider. Think of the successful businessman who suddenly declares bankruptcy. The tyrannical invalid who dominates through weakness. The teacher who learns from her students. The parent who controls by giving money.”
All fortunes rise and fall. Knowing this, it is no surprise that, “you will get the gift you want. You will have to defer to another. In all cases, though, you should question the obvious and go deeper. Why are you in the situation you’re in, and where is it leading? Who is really in charge? What’s really going on?”