On Coins

[As part of our special four-part series on the nature of the tarot card suits, I’ve been asked to talk about the suit of coins. For the previous parts, do check out Miguel’s To a Queen of Swords and Shelley’s The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Suit of Cups.]

 

My first experiences with the suit of Coins happened way before I ever got involved with the Tarot. I was eight years old when I found my first stray card. It happened on a garden. I was sitting on a bench, waiting for my parents. When I was about to leave, I took my hand to my pants and found that an Ace of Diamonds got stuck into my pocket. At that time, it felt like an omen. I have always had a soft spot for this card. It was red, one of my favorite color and at its center, it had a big diamond, which reminded me of diamonds, money. In a way, it reminded me of the good stuff in life. I guess that was why, when I was playing cards with my family, I always wanted that particular card to show up on my parents’ hand. To give him some needed good fortune in life. I’ve held to that particular card I found in the garden for years. I carried it with me in my wallet wherever I went, until I lost my wallet and the card that was inside. At that moment, as I was reminded that what comes, will also go away sometimes, everything broke. And I learned that no matter how good a talisman is, it’s no substitute for ourselves and our ability to go after our own things by our means. You see, magic is a good thing, but never a substitute for work and diligence.

A few years later, I was in Den Haag, in the Netherlands, trying to make ends meet. I needed some money to catch a bus home, but didn’t have enough to buy the ticket. Thus, I ended up walking my way home. On the way, I stopped for a while to catch my breath. I glanced down and saw another Ace of Diamonds, right there on the floor. I picked it up and found five euros glued to the back of the card. There was the money I needed, after all. This card was indeed an amulet. Once again I took the card – and the money – and keep it in my wallet. Once again, I ended up loosing the card. Only this time, I wasn’t concerned. Twice it had appeared, bringing either news of fortune or, money to a much needed situation. And they say third time’s a charm, so I’m quite sure it will show up again.

For me, this is what the suit of Coins represent. Money, riches, quality of life. The money part is easy: the suit is called “coins” after all. In Portugal, where I’m from, we call it “Ouros”, which translates as “Gold”. In a deck of playing cards, the suit of coins corresponds to Diamonds. And oce again, we have that meaning of riches, of precious things right there in the name of the card. But riches doesn’t necessary mean just money and precious metals. It can also mean anything we find of value. It can be a good friendship, or a plentiful table. In a way, of everything good that we receive from friends, family, society and nature itself, for food and shiny things are taken from the earth to our enjoyment and fulfillment.

And yet, it is the human eye that sets the value of all that surrounds us. What is precious one day can become dull and worthless the next day. Money is a fickle and nervous thing. It doesn’t like to rest, but to travel from one hand to the other. In a way, it gets nervous if it has to stop for more than a few moments, and it ends up loosing value. As any book on finances will tell you, money is only good as long as it can be passed along, traded for another thing. Unless you’re Uncle Scrooge, that is, and take your enjoyment out of jumping into piles of money, swimming through them and toss it up and let it hit him on the head.

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From “Only A Poor Man”. Story and Art © Walt Disney

When going through the suit of pentacles, we can see how these things influence our lives. Whether you’re using a Marseille deck or a Waite-Smith deck or any other, the same ideas come forth, even if in different ways or in different cards. As I’ve mostly familiar with the Waite-Smith deck, this is the deck I’ll be using to address the suit of coins. As a first approach, the more coins we get in the spread, the better we are. If these cards are meant to remind us of the good things in life, this is easy to understand: one coin (the ace) is little; ten (the highest number in the suit) is great wealth. So the higher the number, the better we are. But then, we come to the images. Some of the images from the WS suit of coins are not as positive as one would like. They speak of loss and misery; of struggle and work; of patience and the need to resort to others. This is to be expected, as money comes, money goes and really, how many of us can tame that fierce beast under its belt?

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Money comes to us as a gift. From our parents at first, but also from friends, strangers or bosses. It is handed to us to do as we please. This then would be the ace. Money as an offering, a gift. In a way, it can also mean a letter, as gifts of money usually arrive inside a letter, as it is not polite to show everyone else what one is giving.

As soon as we get money in our hands, our struggle starts. What to do with it, or where to put it. Expenses such as food, house, water and gas are to be paid and we have only two coins to address it all. Not enough for our needs, but still, one must make ends meet.

Fortunately, we can rely upon others. That is, if our social network is a strong one. Family and friends can come to our rescue and bring us that extra coin, thereby increasing our income to three.

But four coins is the minimum number that we need for security and stability. Enough coins to cover our corners. However, this is a dangerous number, as we have only enough money to meet our expenses. There is a tendency to grab on to what we have and not let it go. If you look at the picture of the four of coins, that’s exactly what you will see: the man in the picture is seated, two coins safely tucked under its feet; one around his arms and one at his head. There’s a risk here, for money doesn’t like to be held against its will. Money is like a spirit, you see, and the more you bind him, the worse it will treat you. And in the end, if you don’t pay your bills…

You will end up loosing everything. Creditors will come and take what is yours and good luck with your four coins. In the end, you will need more than that and unless you have them tucked away, you will be left on the street, cut away from the very society that you were part of. In the Five of Coins, we see two vagrants walking in the street. There’s snow everywhere and a lit window that recalls the comforts of a warm home. I tend to think of the Little Match Girl, when I see this card. However, unlike the hero in Andersen’s story, our vagrants don’t stop and go near the window. They know fully well the reality they’re on, and unless they find a shelter quickly, they will freeze to death. The Five of Coins is then, not a card to get complacent. Hard times are hard times, and need to be addressed with seriousness if one is to escape them.

So what can one do then, except go begging in the streets? To rely upon the kindness of strangers? A coin gained can be such a treasure, after all. It can put some warm food in our belly or help us get a shelter for the night. Still, to depend upon the kindness of strangers is never a good thing. Strangers will only tend to give what they won’t miss. Those few extra coins are to be scattered between all that are in need, and maybe, just maybe it won’t be our turn just now. Still, it is the first step to get on our feet, now that the importance of money has been learnt.

If we take that coin and plant it in fertile ground (7 of Coins), we might get lucky. Our small business might develop and, with time, prosper. But grooming a business takes time. And it takes money. Good things grow slowly, so make sure that you do this well and stay vigilante. Else someone else ends up taking what is yours.

This is the time to work. To work and work and work. There’s no escaping it. Money comes through work. And if nothing else is there to do, well… work some more. The more you put into things, the bigger the rewards. So says the 8 of Coins.

And someday, someday things will bloom again and you will see the fruits of your labor. You will gather enough money to have a secure life. A life without any worries, your nine coins providing all the wealth that you need.

And with luck, you will get there. To the ten of coins. Money is not a problem anymore, as you can do anything you want. Or perhaps it is. Just look at the card. A couple is meeting in a garden, oblivious to all but themselves. But, lurking in the shadows, an old man remains seated, guarding his treasure. As Uncle Scrooge would tell you, that’s the problem with having too much money: you end up having to guard it against all thieves. Once again, you’re a prisoner of money, but now, you’re tending to its needs. Money did give you everything you wanted, but in return, it demanded your total obedience. Was it worth it? If it isn’t, you can always start again, by giving someone a coin. Just enough to get them started.

For the court cards, we go through the same exercise one again.

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The page holds its coin high, dreaming of all he can do with it. He is like a child, wondering which of his dreams he will fulfill this time with what little money he has. For him, money is like a blessing and he intends to treat it as such.

The Knight knows better, and sees it not as the promise of some item to be bought, but a way to get where he needs to go. For him, money is that secret key that opens all doors. Or at least, can open the right ones. Now, he only has to figure where he is going.

For the Queen, money is to be tended and looked after. It doesn’t come easily, so she should better not let it out of her sight. With the right attention, it can increase and offer abundance. But if she takes her eyes out of it, it will disappear. Money is then something necessary to attain what she needs. And to secure her home.

For the King, money is to be shown and paraded. It is there to make a stand and to give him privilege. He is King, after all, and he has the most money of them all; the most power. It is time to do as he pleases when he pleases and how he pleases. It is time to finally rule his world.

In all, money is a means to an end. It is there to provide us with the things we need and, with luck, some of the things we might like, even though we don’t necessary need them. The suit of coins addresses a part of our life: the material part. However, as the other suits point out, it is not the only part that needs to be attended. Even if having all those coins in our pocket might feel like a good thing.

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