A cold and snowy night. Two beggars clad in rags—a woman clutching her shawl, and a boy limping on crutches—trudge through the snow past a stained-glass window of a church. The window bears the images of five Pentacles .
In the Tarot, Fives generally portend ominous events, and while the Five of Pentacles may seem likewise troubling, it is one of the more intriguing cards in the suit because it can yield multiple interpretations, each one as valid as the next. The most obvious, titled “Worry” by Crowley, suggests financial, physical and even spiritual hardships.
Another way of looking at it, however, is to see these two characters as the malign psychic energies that inhabit the split mind of the miser pictured in the Four; he may have all the riches of the world, but he is utterly bereft of joy. By ruthlessly oppressing and exploiting his brothers, he has cut himself off completely from God. This explains the absence of a door to the church.
Another look at the card warns us about perceiving ourselves as the measure of all things as we discussed in the introduction to this suit.. This is a card representing the five senses and the five extremities of man, and when we behold our world and perceive our position as being exalted above all of Creation, we slight the Creator—who, after all, created every other living thing in this world before He created us. In the Talmud, it is written, “Let him beware of being proud, lest he invite the retort that the gnat is older than he.” As the saying goes, pride goes before a fall—and as pictured in the Five, we have fallen hard.
There is yet another interpretation that is the inverse of the prior: That the church with no door has “shut itself off” from humanity, and this signifies that organized religion—the “faith of our fathers”—has degraded in modern times into an insular and self-serving institution, riven with dogma and political intrigues, and has lost sight of its original mission. Our religious impulse, as Jung wrote, is as essential to us as food, sleep, and sex, so in our time, many new spiritual movements have arisen to fill the void left by the hidebound traditions of a church that no longer speaks to our yearnings—that no longer invites us inside its inner sanctum.In a reading, this could suggest looking beyond traditional avenues of expression and/or conventional trains of thought to arrive at the solution we seek.
Yet another interpretation of this card can be more positive: Determination in the face of adversity. The characters depicted here are surely cold and suffering, but they continue to keep walking, perhaps in faith that their luck will improve if they continue. Likewise, when we encounter obstacles to our happiness, we can let them defeat us or keep trying to clear them. Try hard enough, and we eventually get “over the hump”.
If our miser in the Four reminded us of Scrooge, perhaps the boy on crutches in the Five reminds us of Tiny Tim, whose life in A Christmas Carol was transformed from one of sickness and woe to one of happiness and health through the redemption of Scrooge and the gift of unconditional love. While the woman in the Five looks straight ahead of her, Tiny Tim appears to be looking directly at us—as if to ask if we have redeemed ourselves in the eyes of God, and whether we have offered gifts of love unto others. There are Tiny Tims among us anywhere we choose to look; we simply need to be willing to open the door to our hearts to them, and watch miracles happen when we do.
Meanings in a reading can include: Material troubles, obsession with money, pride and vainglory, doggedness and determination, dogmatism; the healing power of love; but also troubles relieved, surrender to love, the “open door” of spirit, charity and almsgiving. If some of the meanings included here seem contradictory—well, that’s because they are. Tarot, like life itself, is a complex system of cosmology and ethics that resists oversimplification, and when we go into a reading, we have to think about the cards on as many different levels as we can think of if we are going to discover new aspects of our own personalities that we had never known before. If the cards seem somewhat difficult to interpret, that’s only because sometimes, we are too.