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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Not letting go, no way no how

Spiral Tarot, 1997
The Spiral Tarot certainly models itself on the Rider Waite-Smith deck, with a few variations. I like what the creators have done with the 4 of Pentacles here. Look at this amazing image. The man sits on a throne of bricks, fist clinched. His legs look more like marble columns, rooted firmly on the two pentacles on the floor. He grips one pentacle to his chest and the other sits firmly on top of his head, mashing his hair down a bit. The ornament on the back wall makes me think of a prison window. And the floor is stark black and white. This is a card of grasping and clinging, of seeing things as 'mine' or 'not mine', of limiting yourself through trying to hang on to what you've got.

That's also the way the 4 of Pentacles is seen in the Rider Waite-Smith, but in another tradition, the 4 of Pentacles (or Coins or Disks) has a different meaning, incompatible with this. On the Tree of Life, this card falls at Chesed, which is about benevolent outpourings of mercy, and because the pentacles are about earthly power, it would be natural to assume this benevolence would come from someone in power. Now I suppose one way to reconcile the two meanings would be to say that the figure in the RWS 4 of Pentacles is not currently showing benevolent outpourings of mercy, but obviously needs to. And in fact, that is usually the spin that we put on this card. You're hanging on, but you should be letting go. On occasion, the card can mean a healthy sort of self-protection, but in the main, most readers would see it as advice to be less rigid, self-protecting, self-limiting, and miserly. It's just that the card gets the message across by looking at from the negative angle.


This is one reason why unillustrated pip cards can be helpful. If you know the full range of possible meanings, you can combine the card with other cards nearby and not be overly influenced by the slant that the illustrator has chosen to put on the card. See the 4 of Pentacles from the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot, a firm favourite of mine, at right. The disks are in the four corners, suggesting the groundedness of the number four, and the white rose in the middle gives a hint of the 'purity' of the benevolence of Chesed, but you could go either way or even both ways with this card, with perhaps less explaining of 'alternate' meanings to do to a client who is looking at a picture of someone hanging on to coins and listening to you telling them to 'release'.

I do love my RWS decks -- don't get me wrong! Most of my decks are based on RWS. It's good to remember that there are other kinds of cards out there. And as usual, since both decks are a Golden Dawn tradition, if you look at and think about them long enough, both systems end up in the same sort of interpretation anyway.

For today, then, I will examine what I'm clinging to and what I need to let go of, particularly as it pertains to my physical and material life.


3 comments:

  1. Personally I would have a hard time to read cards without reading their atmosphere .That is my main reason for collecting decks: to compare the same cards form different decks :)
    Have a good day!

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  2. I like illustrations, too, but I do find that not having them is also surprisingly triggering of the intuition. :)

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  3. this guy must feel very uncomfortable with a giant christmas tree bauble stuck to his head :-/

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