It’s interesting that after last week’s Six, we now step back to the Five of Pentacles — a card that is rarely welcome, and certainly not this week, when we celebrate Lughnasadh – the first harvest. But here it is and in it, I see a powerful message for us.
The fives of the Tarot are usually about conflict and loss. Here we see two figures struggling along in the snow. One is in rags, and obviously depicts poverty. The other, on crutches, wears a bell around his neck. In the Middle Ages, anyone with psoriasis or leprosy was forced to wear a bell. This was, in part, to warn of contagion. But it was also to ostracize them from society. Leprosy in particular was viewed as a terrifying sign of divine punishment, and anyone with the disease was considered impure and cursed by God.
What similar attitudes do we harbor today? How many times have you heard victims of life-threatening diseases being blamed for their own misfortune? We judge them to be ignorant or even weak of character. Or, worse, there are some who would have us believe that getting ill is proof of failure on some emotional, karmic, or spiritual level, and the sufferers deserve their fate.
Likewise, how many pundits have you heard lately, blaming the “greedy” families who have lost their homes, instead of the predatory banks and financial systems that orchestrated many of these losses?
In this card, it appears that the two people are not able to enter the building with the stained glass window, for there is no door to be seen. Looks like an impossible bind, doesn’t it? Or perhaps they do not even seek it. Maybe they are so accustomed to their desperation and deprivation, they don’t believe there is any alternative.
Is fleeting survival all we can ever hope for? Do we believe the stories that tell us we are unworthy or sinful exiles who deserve to suffer? Are we perhaps missing warmth and sustenance by living as if there is no doorway of welcome for us?
Sometimes we do suffer grievous losses and setbacks that tempt us to despair, but we must not. Note that with this card, we are but halfway through the Pentacles suit. The design in the stained glass is only the top half of the Kabbalah Tree of Life. The Ten of Pentacles, as you may know, shows the entire Tree – the only place it appears in the Waite-Smith Tarot. This is no place to quit.
Instead, we may have to dig deep within ourselves, but we must keep going. I believe the hidden gift in this card is its challenge to get uncomfortable with our discomfort. It’s time to move past our history of struggle and survival, and learn instead to thrive.
What do we need to truly flourish? What are our core beliefs about scarcity and competition? In what ways does our acceptance of struggle and conflict blind us from seeing other options?
Perhaps what appears to be loss is, in fact, pointing us to a more sustainable, and therefore, truly nurturing way of living. Real treasure awaits us, if we would but seek and step through the doorway.