Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we don’t. That is as black or white as it gets. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival.
The last time this card visited, it turned out to be an omen of dramatic loss, as the cathedral at Notre Dame in Paris was burning. I can only hope such portentous doings are not in store for us this week, which marks the magical Harvest Moon. Following last week’s Knight, another card in this suit arrives, but this time, it is the unhappy Five of Pentacles.
The Five of Pentacles is one of the cards that usually comes up as a least favorite in my beginner Tarot classes’ games of “Good Card, Bad Card.”
With good reason. You don’t need to be a Tarot scholar to immediately see the pain in this card.
The fives examine how we deal with conflict and loss. And in the physical world of the Pentacles, this struggle is usually literal. Therefore, this can involve money, home, health, or work — the most important issues of our material existence. Basic survival.
Here we see two miserable looking people on a wintry night, struggling past a stained glass window.
Where is the doorway to that place? Do they seek it? Or are they so used to surviving their hardship that they simply battle on?
Perhaps they have been cast out, no longer allowed into the holy places. Or maybe they deliberately pass it by, because what it offers is not what they need.
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.
So it may well be that they are unwelcome in the halls of those who consider themselves pious.
Planet and People in Peril
I cannot help but look beyond this snowy scene and think of the 70,000 people in the Bahamas who, in a stroke, have been made homeless and destitute. The grim scenes of their abject misery are impossible to ignore; there is no hiding from the horrific reality unfolding for those who are injured, ill, and lost.
Meantime, in a pattern becoming all too familiar, the United States is not only thwarting new efforts to address the global environmental crisis, it is also busy unraveling many long-standing environmental protections.
And every day there is more disheartening news of how governments are slashing programs for public safety, for schools, and the systems that were created to help the poor, the disabled, the sick, the unemployed, and the elderly.
I won’t even discuss the horrors of our treatment of refugees, asylum-seekers, and non-white immigrants. Or the role that some religious leaders are playing in these cruelties.
Perhaps they need to remember the warning spoken by their Christ, when he predicted that on the day of Judgement, the selfish and arrogant who did not address the afflictions of the downtrodden would be rewarded with damnation. “Truly I say to you, Because you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.”
The Harvest to Come
Contempt for those of lesser means always comes with a price. History is rife with examples of how callousness or corruption within the halls of power will, sooner or later, bring about their fall, often in chaos and bloodshed.
The seeds of revolution and destruction are always quickened by hubris that turns a blind eye to the plight of the impoverished and marginalized. As we are seeing, with the ugly return of fascism and ethnic cruelty, hungry stomachs and spirits are easy prey for tyrants when radical change is on the menu.
As enlightened, caring people (as I know every single person reading this is), when we see the misery of the world around us and the heart-breaking degradation of our Mother Earth and Her children, we may well have to face our own darkest nights of the soul.
Note that with this card, we are halfway through the Pentacles suit. The design in the stained glass is the top five Pentacles of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot’s version of the Qabbalah Tree of Life. The Ten of Pentacles, as you may know, shows the entire Tree – the only place it appears in the R-W-S deck.
Thus, the Five is no place to stop.
This week, your faith and well-being may be tested. What do you really need from Spirit, and how will you ask? What actual resources and support do you yearn for, to flourish and thrive? How much will you allow yourself to open and receive?
As our Summer harvests are gathered under this week’s golden Harvest Moon, and the celebrations of Equinox beckon next week, there are many who are being left out in the cold. Who are the shunned, the lonely, the suffering ones that need our compassion? What can you humbly offer to them?
Who is being shut out of the dream that all people share: physical safety, enough to eat, access to healing care, decent wages for life-affirming work? At home or abroad, how long dare we ignore the sick, the lost, and the desperate? In what ways are you or the people around you being exiled in a night of despair?
Let the warning in this card encourage us to step beyond the morass of inertia and overwhelm that seems so pervasive, and reach out a helping hand, especially when the institutions that were created to serve us now seem unwilling or unable to.
May the healing and light of welcome be given to those in need. May goodwill be restored by our care for one another and our planet.
And if there is no door to be seen, then by all the Gods, we must make one.