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This series is to help folks recognize the Minor Arcana in their day-to-day lives and their community. I’ll generally base my interpretations off Pamela Colman Smith’s illustrations from the Smith-Waite or Rider-Waite deck. In this article, we look at The Six of Pentacles in detail.
As we progress through Ostara, Beltane, and Spring, as we roll through Taurus season, we get an opportunity to work with the 5, 6, and 7 of Pentacles. Many groups have connected Tarot and Astrology. One school of thinking connects the Minor Arcana with the decans of the signs. The Decans are 3 divisions within each astrological sign based on the degrees; Decan 1 is 0º-9º, Decan 2 is 10º-19º, and Decan 3 is 20º-29º.
In Tarot, the suit of Pentacles is the suit of Earth.
This suit is where we take a look at issues around our money, our homes, and our physical worlds. Moreover, this is where we deal with what it takes to physically survive, live, prosper, and/or produce things in the real world. This is food in the fridge, gas in the car, money in the bank. It is also where we encounter issues and work around our self-worth.
As we move through the Pentacles, we will encounter Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, the three Earth signs of the zodiac. Taurus is a fixed Earth sign. Its decans correlate to 5, 6, and 7, the three cards “fixed” in the middle of the suit.
Taurus itself correlates to The Hierophant card (for more on that card check out The Hierophant and The Empress.) The Hierophant is the archetypal leader who wants to (and sometimes needs to) control things from above, like the Eye of God. And so, the Minor Arcana connected to it are some of the real world elements of how we will begin to “create our dominion” in the physical world.
What does the Six of Pentacles Mean?
First, let’s take a close look at the details of this card.
In the Six of Pentacles, the scene has improved from the Five of Pentacles, but only somewhat. The snow is gone from the ground at least, and the sky is simply grey and flat. But the city, where we get our fundamental understanding of how things work, is far off. We are a long way from home, leaning on the kindness of strangers.
The two mendicants from the last scene are now sitting on the ground with their hands out in an asking or begging gesture. They are in better-looking rags, though one person, wearing faded yellow, still seems to have their head bandaged. People with bandaged heads come up a few times in Tarot. For me, they represents the pain we feel when our intellectual understanding of “how things should be” clashes against our physical, real-world experiences, or “how it really is.” The other person is cloaked in the pure blue of the emotional realms. These people are still having a hard time getting a grip on why these things are happening to them.
The Haves and the Have Nots
Standing above them is a person in much more beautiful clothing. Their under-layer is blue and grey striped, similar to the skirts of the High Priestess. Their boots are green. All of the rest of their clothing is a deep ruddy red or maroon, with a bright red belt. While this person stands in the world of The Empress and nature, they are not leaving anything up to chance. They are guided by mystical knowledge and use a honed sense of Will power to manifest their Will in the Universe. One hand is dropping four coins into one person’s hands while holding a scale in the other.
Think on a houseless person asking you for money. Think on having to ask strangers for money. Now, imagine someone pulling out their entire bank account, doing some math, and portioning off a small bit to share. That sounds incredibly awkward, and frankly, rude, bordering on cruel.
Now, what do we get when we put all these details together?
We can find ourselves in all the roles this card depicts. Sixes relate to learning how to live with the decisions we’ve made and the adjustments those decisions require. And while we are in a significantly better situation than we were in the Five of Pentacles, we’re still not in a great spot.
The only other card in Tarot that features a scale is The Justice Card. In this card, we are faced with the question of what is right and what is fair? All in all, this balancing of moral options and actions is at the heart of the Six of Pentacles.
In the most neutral light, the Six of Pentacles represents a moment of negotiation between people who need resources and people who have resources.
What if this conversation is happening within ourselves? Then it is the little moments of figuring out the rhythm and cycle of your own budget. It is the shift that must occur in us to yoke the various forms of ourselves and all the agendas we would like to pursue, to get goals accomplished in our lives. We know we have to give those selves a moment every now and then if we’re going to stay sane, but we have to measure the exchange.
For example, your co-workers on a Friday after a hard week ask you to come out for food and drinks. You’ve been saving money for a goal. Part of you would love to go to the restaurant. It would feel great to blow off steam, have some laughs, enjoy a bunch of food and drinks someone else prepared. Plus, maybe there is also the social pressure to spend money or go along with the group. But the Six of Pentacles represents the decision to find the middle path. You go, Venmo your friend to snack off their plate, get all your best jokes out early and walk home. This is giving yourself a bit of pleasure, a bit of fun, without compromising your long term goals.
In a less savory interpretation, the Six of Pentacles can mean…
…we see a person who feels they are above these beggars. Obviously, fate has smiled on them and blessed them with abundance for a reason. They can only spare just a coin or two for these peasants. So, we might feel judged – by the Universe, society, or even ourselves, for not “keeping up with the Kardashians”. Conversely, we might be feeling grateful that our situation has improved, but still frustrated at how small our economy is.
In a more positive light…
…we see a person who wants to help as much as they can, but they know from experience that they must weigh the whole picture and consider all the people who may need some of their financial support. What might seem miserly to these poor folk may be a wise move for the collective in the long run. We might be receiving, or in the position to give, seed money. Seed money is just what it sounds like – money intended to help a thing get started. We might be investing in someone in our community that just needs a helping hand. On the other hand, perhaps someone is investing in us, and giving us a few seeds to get our own garden started.
But money isn’t real…
However. The grey sky and grey ground are a symbol of old traditions, structures, and hierarchies. In particular, grey indicates the boundaries of “that’s just the way it is” built around us through indoctrination. As a species, we know the concept of currency is arbitrary and wholly made up. So, on a deeper meta level, this card also points to how we are still caught up in false reality constructs and straw man arguments handed to us by previous generations and patriarchal social structures that rely on us having circular arguments like this, rather than reframing the conversation into something more progressive, ideally beyond currency and hierarchical paradigms altogether.