Q: What would the Tarot have me reflect on today?
Traditionally labeled “material gain,” the Nine of Pentacles generally signifies the impending end of a long journey or the conclusion of an project (it is the next-to-last pip card in the 40-card sequence of the Minor Arcana) and of the wisdom of pausing to reflect on a life richly lived. It also suggests the importance of self-discipline in reaping success, be it material or any other. The falcon resting on the lady’s gloved hand is a ferocious predator in his savage state; tamed and trained, he can serve his master by ridding her garden of mice and other vermin, which in turn allows the garden to grow and bear fruit.
And what abundance of fruit there is! This is harvest time in the garden, it would seem, and time to transform those grapes into wine that is both an intoxicant and a symbol of the union of God and man. So it is with us—when we have given ourselves the proper time to mature, and the proper amounts of spiritual “nutrition” and sunlight we need, we harvest the results in the form of a psyche that is “intoxicated” with joy and liberated from doubt, fear and anxiety. It is easier said than done, of course, and it usually requires a lifetime of spiritual path-work, but as the Nine of Pentacles suggests, it all pays off for us in the end.
Nines in the Tarot also signify a state of “aloneness” or solitude that is a necessary component of a fully individuated psyche. Viewed side by side, we can see their commonality.In each card, a single solitary figure is literally surrounded—or, perhaps, imprisoned—by his or her defining element. Note that the so-called “active” or “masculine” Nines (Wands, Swords) show unpleasant and even nightmarish scenes while the “receptive” or “feminine” Nines (Cups, Pentacles) bespeak happiness and contentment. This suggests that when we spend time to reflect upon our lives, we are better served by listening to our feelings and emotions, and attempting to understand how they affect our view of the material world. This is where the language of the unconscious—the dream and the vision-quest—can guide us rather than over-relying on our conscious intellect, which can erect all manner of “logical” barriers to our progress, or to the vain and jealous ego that would trap us in nightmares.
A good way to “translate” this “language” is to keep a daily journal of our dreams, writing down whatever comes to our minds the very first thing after we arise in the morning. The dreams may come to us in tiny fragments at first, but if we keep at it regularly (keeping in mind the principle of “self-discipline” previously discussed), eventually we will be able to recall multiple episodes that can span many pages at a time in our journal! The unconscious mind is merely the obverse of our intellect—the dark side of the moon, as it were—and it is subject to the same general laws of application; just as we “work out” our conscious mind to solve problems or to gain knowledge in our waking lives, so too can we “work out” our unconscious mind—and the more frequently we exercise it, the stronger it becomes, and the more clearly we can apprehend the totality of the psyche.
Getting better acquainted with the language of the unconscious is a crucial step in achieving a richer understanding of our inner lives, and the only way we can really achieve this is by taking the time every now and then to “go off the grid” and to meditate and reflect in solitude. Psychotherapy and other interactive support mechanisms can be of great help, of course, but sometimes—as the Nines of the Tarot inform us—we may find ourselves “on our own”, and this condition is nothing to be afraid of. As we are assured in the Scriptures, if we refrain from following the self-serving ways of the multitude, and pray to our Creator alone and in secret, our prayers will be heard and we will reap our heavenly reward.