This week, we are faced with yet another challenging lesson from the Tarot. This is one of those cards that often comes up as a least favorite in my Tarot classes’ games of “Good Card, Bad Card.” With good reason. The fives are usually about conflict and loss. And in the physical world of the Pentacles, this suffering is often literal.
Here we see two figures struggling along in the snow. One is in rags, and obviously depicts poverty. The other, on poorly-made crutches, wears a bell around his neck. In the Middle Ages, everyone with disfiguring diseases like 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 people whispering their suspicions about the victims of life-threatening diseases or misfortune? That they somehow attracted their fate to themselves, because they were ignorant, weak of character, or perhaps due to some kind of spiritual failure or even a past-life karmic agreement.
Of course, blaming the victim is a feeble, false strategy that only works as long as we, or someone we love, are not the afflicted.
Ultimately, even the most wealthy, beloved, clever, or noblest of us cannot escape our mortality. Even the super-rich can be so tormented by the specter of poverty, it might as well be true. We all endure heartbreak, illness, and loss.
When we suffer grievous losses and setbacks that tempt us to despair, we may wish to simply give up. We, or those around us, may even begin to believe we have been cursed or somehow deserve our woes. We may even decide that our suffering is the ragged cloak that makes us special, and we use it to excuse ourselves from responsibility, or cling to it with secret pride.
The oldest question of life is why we experience suffering and death. Such times come to us all. The “why” of it is probably futile and can be debated forever. But the “what” of it is that in such times, we stand on the brink of transformation.
Note that with this card, we are 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 stop.
Changes often come disguised as loss, and it can be painful to say goodbye to what has been dear to us. But there are times when only the breaking of our hearts makes possible the sprouting seed that longs to come forth.
This week, your faith may be tested. What do you really need from Spirit, and how do you ask? What do you yearn for, to flourish and thrive? How much will you allow yourself to receive?
Be patient with yourself while understanding the obstacles before you. Learn from your challenges, find forgiveness, and keep moving forward. You, yourself, are the doorway to the light that you seek.