November 11th, 2009
Today I drew the Seven of Pentacles. Funny enough, while I drew this card, I had two friends with me – One of whom wore a necklace which she made. It has silver rings with stars suspended at their center – Sixteen of them, numerologically Seven. She had never thought of the necklace as being pentacles before, but there it was. I love it when stuff like this happens!
I really believe that anybody who has spent any time with this particular card knows that the painting itself is unusually evocative – immediate feelings of difficulty and unhappiness drip from the image; Hard work without end, or a harvest without joy. However the scene appears to be playing out for the reader, the feel of the card is unmistakably still, and sad.
I am surprised when I see a positive read on this card; The apparent bounty seems so unappreciated to me. However, among other ways I’ve read this card I do sometimes see this card as not noticing all you’ve been blessed with, or going through a time of difficult but necessary labor – so in that sense, it may be supportive of work which may seem without end, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.
The astrology according to BotA and Crowley agree that the card is Saturn in Taurus. (I’ve recently read a History of Tarot which explains a little about where these astrological assignations come from – Fascinating!) I find the combination clearly expresses difficulty in matters of wealth and even challenges to one’s core values – Both very clearly read into the cards image.
BotA has a keyword for the card, ‘Loss’, while Crowley labels the card ”Failure’. Frankly, the Waite picture for this card is elegant for the astrological assignation in a way which keywords can’t encapsulate – I can emphasize with the emotion of the picture, and both keywords ‘sum up’ the card crudely.
Sevens are special to me in the Tarot. I consider them highly magical, and increasingly I am understanding the reasons the Sevens are such difficult cards to face in the minor arcana. Seven of Swords is fractured, the rational mind turned to manipulation and pettiness. Seven of Cups is illusory, the attractive quality of water pulling the dark figure in many different, often dangerous directions. Seven of Wands is characterized by a sense of attack, the spiritual fire is turned down against competitors, the highest point being anywhere above the rest – rather than the true heights of transcendence.
And then todays card, the Seven of Pentacles – the productive and generative capacity is insufficient; the figure is dissatisfied. This unhappiness is thematically comparable to the Nine of Pentacles, except the figure here toils. His discontent is still primordial and expansive; In the Nine, the woman attaches her feelings of incompleteness to the hawk. Already materially satisfied, she begins to move towards airy concepts of travel and philosophy. He, on the other hand, feels trapped in a more concrete way, and maybe also alone and futureless.
The material haunts him, and though he has a strong connection to the world of work and creation he lacks the freedom of wealth. There is a spiritual and intellectual poverty in the cards depiction that I appreciate for its simplicity. One wonders if he owns the products of his labor in the card, or if he is a servant to another, working forever. With that thought, I imagine slavery to the material within this card.
Where else but the devil does Slavery in any form so clearly appear? Many other cards depict authority or painful challenges, but here we have a man – one foot literally in the earth, if you believe the coloring – who works without satisfaction. The fruits of his labor may not be his.
If we read this card as Loss, it is the loss of freedom in life. As Failure, it may be a failure of humanity; The degradation of a vehicle ideal for exploration and evolution into a survival machine.
So then we have more esoteric associations. The Hebrew letter Chet is associated with the Chariot, the archetypal card of the evolving spirit. The Letter Chet, however, means ‘Fence’ in Hebrew – both a boundary, which in itself is very Saturnian, but also an obstacle to those who wish to move beyond superficial boundaries and explore our own potential. The peculiar way Tarot corresponds to Hebrew traditionally, we have Key Seven – The Chariot associated with the number Eight – Chet. I always see this ‘plus one’ effect of the Hebrew correspondences to be a hint that we are always moving through the arcana as a dynamic journey rather than absorbing static concepts. It also links the seven to the Eight, in this case Strength. The balance of what one desires and what one must do to satisfy what one feels is ‘right’ comes into doubt in the Seven of Pentacles.
Should the figure work on despite his unhappy posture, or should he honor his want for a change and step away from it all? I believe that the Eight can be seen as the question of inner strength posed to the minor arcana of the Seven. That is the strength which allows the minor cards to experience the evolutionary quality of the Chariot throughout their difficulty, or at least their Tower (which is also a Seven), which may set them on a new path – increasing their opportunity to grow and flourish in a more complete and integrated way.