A scene at the gate of a great walled city. An elderly man, bearded and wearing a multicolored robe, is greeted by two greyhounds. Under the arch, a woman in red gazes at a man approaching her, and a small child in blue clutches her dress. Ten Pentacles float in the foreground, forming a kabbalistic Tree of Life.
Thus we are beckoned to enter into the gate. Here, free will ends, for this is the gate through which all must pass to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is simultaneously the end and the beginning of, quoting Aleister Crowley, the “cycle of regeneration” of the cosmos. It is the winter solstice; it is Christmas; it is the rebirth of the Sun and of the Son, and it is here where we exit the darkness and step into eternal light.
In her reading of the Ten, Rachel Pollack makes a comparison of the old man to Odysseus, who returns home after his 20-year absence and who is recognized initially by nobody but his dog. The two dogs here represent, as with pairs in the Tarot, yin and yang, male and female, and the reunion of the opposites. In addition, they are greyhounds, one of the oldest dog breeds with roots in ancient Egypt; they are a bridge between the aeons. The old man’s patchwork coat also suggests a possible connection to Joseph and the “long coat with many colors” in Genesis. Joseph’s greatest power, after all, was psychic; he was a spiritual adept, a dream interpreter without equal.
Symbolism abounds everywhere we look. Directly above the old man’s head, a pair of scales is engraved in the stone wall, yet another sign of life in balance and the reconciliation of opposites. Pollack notes the presence of a magic wand leaning against the arch, suggesting a connection to The Magician and, by implication, passing into a world he has newly created for us. The man and the woman in the distance who are facing different directions may signify the coming and going of life from one stage to the next; the young child, with the help of her mother, is only now “coming into” the world; the old man, by contrast, is moving in the opposite direction, perhaps with the aid of a spirit-guide whose face we cannot see. The three buildings (the Trinity again?) that we can see in the background have a total of 22 windows, corresponding to the 22 Hebrew letters and the 22 Trumps Major. And, of course, the ten Sephiroth cover the entire tableau. This is, it should be noted, the only card in the entire deck to show a concrete representation of the Tree of Life, which should give us a clue as to the meaning of the card: as was written long ago, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The Holy Spirit has descended the Tree in the form of the Shekinah who we encountered yesterday in the Nine; now we are beckoned to ascend the ladder, and to return to our once and future abodes..
Meanings in a reading can include: A life well lived, wealth and success, comforts of hearth and home, reunion and reconciliation, death and rebirth,, or the successful conclusion of a matter. As this is the “last” card of the deck (along with the Page of Pentacles), it is card of finality, hence its meanings are only modestly modified when reversed; success delayed, temporary setback, or goals yet to be achieved but within reach. The old king has ruled wisely and well. He can take leave of this world knowing that in the final reunion, his house has been restored, his lands healed, and his family’s honor redeemed. As it was for Odysseus, so shall it be for us.