And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
— T. S. Eliot
This week, we receive a card not seen since late 2007, a time when many of us were feeling much more financially stable. The Tens are the culmination of each suit in the Tarot, the ultimate of the energy of their element. With Pentacles being about money, physical reality, health and security, the Ten is certainly a card of great wealth, satisfaction, and the enjoyment of the fruits of one’s labors.
Now, when we many of us are feeling the precarious nature of our security, wealth, and jobs, this card brings a powerful reminder about those matters. And it is no accident, I think, that it also appears in the week of Beltane.
Tarot scholar and author Rachel Pollack calls the Ten of Pentacles a “Gateway” card, for the archway we see here is literally a gate. This is highly appropriate for this time of year, as we enter the magical threshold time of Beltane – as powerful and mysterious in its own way as its darker counterpart, the time of Samhain.
Despite the superficial ordinariness of the scene, this is a multi-layered card full of magic. It points to the fact that in the mundane lies the most mysterious. It is rich with wonders hidden in plain sight.
Notice the placement of the ten coins – they form the Qabbalistic 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 recognized by his dog.
Speaking of the dogs, the old man and the child connect, yet do not actually touch, through their love of the dogs. Dogs, as it happens, also appear in The Fool and The Moon cards. Another hint that this card is much more “Major Arcana” in its scope than one expects from a Minor card.
Is the couple shown here 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 meaning of wealth and money in our culture is undergoing Plutonic transformation. 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 the mystery of Life itself.
As we stand this week on the threshold Between the Worlds, we celebrate the splendor of the Life Force, the source of our power and our pleasure. Within our most ordinary daily routines, we are invited to remember that to be here, embodied, in this pivotal time, in this gorgeous, mysterious world, makes us the recipients of enormous treasure.
Do not forget that one day, you will be the old one who sits outside the gate. How do you want your descendants to remember you? What will be your legacy, and to whom will it be given? The greatest wealth is to have lived so that, at the end of our days, we have enriched others, and we are comfortable in our cloak of Mystery.