Eklektiki Mageia: The Pain of the Five of Pentacles

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(Beginner’s Guide to Tarot, Juliet Sharman-Burke and Giovanni Caselli)

For anyone that has either received or given a tarot reading, there are a few cards that may not sit well with the querent from time to time. To put some thoughts into perspective, the next few installments of Eklektiki Mageia will dive into how, why, and which certain cards raise feelings of apprehension, stress, or a downright freakout when they appear in a spread or pull.

In all the years that I have been involved with tarot, of course this notion applies to me. While the style of certain cards in certain decks don’t exactly make me react favorably, what’s the one card that always makes me throw my hands up and sigh audibly any time it comes up? The Five of Pentacles.

If you think about a one to ten scale, five is smack dab in the center, so it is always considered the neutral or average point. Not too bad, not too good. Traditionally, the lower end of that spectrum is considered “negative”, “less than” or “less likely”, while the higher is more “positive”, “greater than” or “more likely”. In tarot, this concept doesn’t apply in quite the same way.

The fives in each of the suit (Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles) aren’t exactly neutral. While they don’t have a typically negative connotation, each of them do depict and symbolize some semblance of loss, struggle or strife, so they can make us cringe at times. 

Let’s take a closer look at the Five of Pentacles in the Sharman Caselli deck, which is pictured above. 

On this card you see a pretty stained glass window etched with five pentacles and four red flowers beneath them. In front of this window are two dejected and destitute older-looking men. Both are outside in the snow in rather shabby clothes, with their hoods up; the man on the right is standing while leaning on crutches, while the one on the left is seated on the ground, clutching a walking stick.  They are visibly upset, hopeless, and desperate (especially the man on the left). A lonely little mouse is also shown in the bottom right corner. It’s just a sad sight.

Its accompanying book lists the meaning of this card as “loss of wealth or faith”, (p. 114) and this message is abundantly clear.  As pentacles symbolize wealth, finances, and tangible goods, this card reflects concerns as to money and the like. It is a particularly sad card for me, not only because of the imagery, but because I would pull it often during one of the most difficult times of my life; when I felt lost, afraid, and unhappy. Even though I’ve always liked architecture and think stained glass is spectacular,  this card just doesn’t exude positivity.

Intuitively, my interpretation of the card is that it shows that fear and despair when there is the loss of a job,  stability, livelihood, or actual cash.  The two men are trying to get help and aren’t finding success. One of them is certainly infirm since he’s on crutches, so maybe he can’t work  (which adds to the hopelessness of the situation).  I also get a loss of faith in humanity and goodness, and in some cases, since most stained glass windows are in houses of worship, a loss of religious faith or someone who doesn’t or no longer believes in a certain religious doctrine. In addition, back in the Renaissance and Middle Ages, since the Church was all powerful in the community, when people were impoverished or falling upon hard times, they would turn to it to for charity and sanctuary. 

While my reaction to this card isn’t the same as it used to be, it does make me groan and wonder what could possibly be lost. The Five of Pentacles isn’t a card that evokes a feeling of happiness, but with tarot, there is plenty of advice and insight to be gained.

Messages from the Five of Pentacles

-Loss is unavoidable.  It’s how you react to it that makes the difference.

-Sometimes if you lose faith in someone or something, that’s a signal to rely on yourself. Do whatever you need to do to process it. Then, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.

-Never be afraid to ask for help if you need it. No one should have to go through it alone.

-You may think all hope is gone, but it isn’t. 

-Hard times don’t last forever. It may be painful, but it will pass.

What messages are you getting from the Five of Pentacles? Sound off in the comments! 

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