Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
~ Zen Proverb
In this pivotal week of the Autumn Equinox (or Spring, for our friends who live below the equator), I wondered if we might receive a dramatic message from the Tarot.
Instead, while we celebrate the great turning of the Wheel of the Year and the transformation of the seasons, we are graced with a rather simple, seemingly ordinary card.
Although we’ve been getting plenty of Pentacles lately, this one hasn’t visited us since 2012.
Pentacles are associated with the element of Earth. They focus on how we live in the physical, material world.
And the Eights of the Tarot are often about getting organized, setting priorities, and moving forward (or not). So in the Pentacles suit, this is about focusing on work, success, and resources.
Here we see an artisan, who is immersed in hammering out his creations. Although he is completely lost in his task, we see the city in the far distance.
Perhaps this is a reminder that there is a larger world to which his products must have relevance, lest his work be an act of vanity or waste of time.
This is also another “stage card.” It’s tiny, but notice the double line behind the figure, hinting that the background may be theater scenery.
Here we have the pure act of the creation itself. We see both the physical energy of the hammering, yet also the meticulous care reflected in the results.
Even with so much potential of change and transformation in this very magical week, the Tarot wisely grounds us with the reminder that we must “chop wood, carry water.”
The Gifts of Virgo and Libra
With the Equinox this week, the Sun moves from Virgo’s meticulous, painstakingly high standards to Libra’s message of being in balance.
What could be a better depiction of both? This young man is producing with Virgo’s demand for quality. Yet his serene expression reveals him to be in the harmonious peacefulness that Libra loves best.
There is no indication whether he is self-employed, or working under the authority of a larger business. But in this moment, unsupervised, he works with good cheer, concentration, and a high level of productivity.
No matter where or how you make your living, who signs your paycheck, or even whether you are officially employed, you are always the most important manager of how and what you produce with your time, labor, and skill.
It doesn’t matter who is up the chain of command – the Chief Executive Officer that you ultimately report to is Source, and you can know how you’re doing by the memos you receive in your spirit. In fact, we are always the ones overseeing the quality and meaningfulness of our work.
When we remember that our creativity and labor are our gifts to one another, and to the Beloved, we do not complain, cut corners, or pretend that mediocre work can slide by.
The Satisfaction of a Job Well Done
This card invites us to seek mastery in the physical world, to cultivate and hone our skills, and enjoy the confidence and pleasure that come from excellence.
Are you considering a lateral move at your job, or a promotion to a new, more challenging level? Perhaps you are ready to change your career completely.
What new skills might enable you to be more productive and find joy in your labors?
This is wonderful guidance for creative people who are talented in craftsmanship or in the arts. I often see this card come up for people who are restless in their successful but conventional careers, and who seek a life-changing shift to more creative or artistic endeavors.
But all the inspiration and good intentions in the world will not compensate for lack of focus, poor craftsmanship, or a failure to understand how your visions and the actual desire of the marketplace must intersect.
Pay close attention to the details this week (especially since we are fully into the Mercury retrograde), and polish your best skills.
If your job is satisfying and rewarding, be thankful, and continue to grow and learn. If not, who can you ask for honest feedback regarding your abilities and possible limitations? What new tools or practice can improve your results?
Remember that our labor is sacred. In this week that promises change, awakenings, and new beginnings, the guidance is profoundly simple: Do good work.
Be in harmony with your integrity and the unique gifts only you can give to the world. For heaven knows, those are the very gifts we most need.