The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
~ Winston Churchill
Having visited at almost this exact time last year, the Six of Pentacles appears during this week of extreme astrological tension, showing us a picture of resources given and received. In a way, it is a portrait of charity.
The Pentacles deal with the literal, physical, material world, and the Sixes are about reciprocity, exchange, and restoring equilibrium.
So we see a well-to-do merchant (some speculate this is the same character as in the Nine of Cups) who is dropping coins into the outstretched hand of one of the two beggars on their knees.
Are these the same two lost souls that we see in the Five of Pentacles? This could easily be the case, since the Sixes are often the resolution of the conflicts of the Fives.
With the current astrological aspects continuing to be incredibly volatile, some even calling it the most pivotal time of our generation, this card’s appearance focuses our attention on resources, wealth, and how we divvy it all up.
Respect and Giving
I know this is supposed to be a card about charity and benevolence.
Arthur Waite himself noted of it, “A person in the guise of a merchant weighs money in a pair of scales and distributes it to the needy and distressed. It is a testimony to his own success in life, as well as to his goodness of heart.”
But when I look closely, I have a little trouble seeing the goodness of his heart. Perhaps Waite is making a tongue-in-cheek point.
Instead, I am always struck by the way the wealthy man dribbles his coins into the hands of the kneeling beggar. He can’t even be bothered to touch those hands. And I am always painfully aware of the other kneeling figure in blue, to whom help is denied.
All of the Sixes in the suits refer back to the Major Arcana Six – The Lovers. So where is love in this picture?
The Hierarchy of Virtuous Charity
Also I find another shadow aspect to this card. Moses Maimonides was a medieval Jewish philosopher, physician, and intellectual giant of the 12th Century. He was the first to write a systematic code of all Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah.
According to his hierarchy of giving, the second most favorable form of charity is when the giver and recipient do not meet one another. And the most virtuous form is that which enables the recipient to become self-reliant.
Neither occur in this card.
Instead, it seems to be a recipe for co-dependence, domination and weakness, arrogance, and the darker side of how we wield and are affected by the power of money.
For instance, in order to play the role of magnanimous benefactor, who is required to play the part of humble supplicant?
We are certainly being invited to see the role-playing here, since this is another of Pixie Smith’s “stage” cards (in which, if you look closely at the parallel horizontal lines in the background, it appears that the figures are standing on a theater stage).
Waite also interprets this card as the need for vigilance and paying attention.
So this might be time to take a sober look at what we offer and what we receive.
How do we define what our wealth is?
How do we bestow what we value upon others? How do we ask for what we need? How do we wield the power of give and take? How do we truly care for the well-being of our human family?
This week, beware of hubris. Be mindful that the tables can turn.
Who has and who has not, at any given moment, may switch. And in a planet-crossed week of potential life-changing drama, changes could come suddenly and quickly.
All of life is an exchange, often with one up and one down. How much is there, really, to go around? Over time, what will be needed to keep the balance?
And where does Love enter the equation?