Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tarot: Beggar's victory

When I pulled the cards a few days ago, I didn't see their meaning right away. They didn't seem to have any connection, but everything is connected in one way or another and the connections aren't always easy to discern.

A storm blows up in the Arctic and snow swirls along deadly, cutting winds, scouring the surface of the tundra until all is laid bare and clean. It's a local occurrence that doesn't reach the nearest Alaskan town or freeze the icy waters. It roars its wintry defiance and dies down, leaving a pristine wilderness of frozen waves and sculpted in the snowy plain.

Meanwhile, in continental America, the summer sun blisters freshly laid tar and macadam bubbles lightly in the streets and on parking lots, burning anyone who braves the scorched surface barefoot. The dog days are here. The relentless sun beams down from a brazen sky and clouds drifting over the mountain's edge grow wispy and disappear.

A faint breeze ruffles sweat-soaked curls lying heavy on bronzed and reddened shoulders alike, and every face turns to the breeze, breathing in the promise of cool fall days to come before it is gone like the clouds. Another breeze tinged with Arctic breath blusters and the timid clouds mass as the Arctic storm, now long quiet, makes its furious onslaught felt, pushing its frozen presence felt. The temperature drops and the darkening clouds rumble and spark, loosing a torrent of rain and hail that batter the bubbling macadam and cooling the fresh tar into a sea of shining black now pock-marked by hail. Sweat cools and chills. Bronzed and reddened shoulders hunch. Everyone dreams of smoky, spicy fall and golden aspens where the autumn winds whistle in harmony with crackling fires and hot chocolate.


The first card is the Ace of Wands, a fiery brand upheld in human hands. Every Ace is a gift from the universe, but the molding of this gift is in human hands. The spark of creativity is given to mankind to temper and shape. This Ace is the kindest and most generous gift of all. It is the beginning of life, inspiration and passion. This gift requires an exercise of will and to achieve the goal and courage to see it through. It is an opportunity, but, like all opportunities, it means nothing without active pursuit. Don't wait. take action. Use the fire of inspiration to see the potential of pure, raw, unbridled creation and unleash what lies inside with confidence, being grateful for what is offered.

Ace of Wands

Crippling poverty and fear are obvious in the Five of Pentacles as the ragged woman clutches her tired and hungry child to her breast, her other hand outstretched in supplication. She needs help but is ashamed to ask. She feels guilty for getting squandering what she has and does not realize that she is making her problem seem bigger than it is. Her outstretched hand is tentative as though she isn't sure she should ask and doesn't really know what to ask.

Standing in front of the glorious stained glass window, she is unaware of the help that is available, has always been available, if she'd only look up, open her eyes and see what is right in front of her. Help has always been just within reach, but she is too sunk in despair and misery, afraid that if she looks up all she will find is an empty purse and a closed door. The door is always open. Someone is inside or the window would be shadowed and not so bright.

In earlier decks, the Five of Pentacles was the card of the mendicants, missionaries who chose a hard road without seeking or accepting the help that was always ready for them. Their fear was palpable and bowed their heads so low they couldn't see what was right beside them, an open door where warmth, sustenance and help were theirs for the asking.

5 of Pentacles

It was a day for fives when I pulled these cards, but the Five of Swords seems much different from the Five of Pentacles. A man stands with upraised sword victorious on the field of battle. The enemy lies dead or dying around him and he holds the booty of war in his arms. This is a Pyrrhic victory, a victory won at heavy cost. There are no comrades celebrating this victory, only the defeated. What is victory worth when all is lost? Was it worth the effort?

Wars and battles are not always way to resolve conflict, not when they come at a high price. There is no profit in humiliating the enemy because they will come back even stronger with revenge and destruction in their hearts. In an intellectual conflict or verbal argument, sometimes it's better to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective instead of battering an opponent until there is nothing left. To assert superiority in such a way is not only poor sportsmanship, it is also unnecessary and the victory is short-lived. There is more to be learned and to be gained by leaving a little room for the opponent to maneuver. It's never a good idea to push the enemy into what Sun Tzu called "death country" from which there is no retreat and safety. The enemy has nothing to lose and will fight even harder and more wildly and the cost to defeat them may be the decimation of the army.

The fives in the tarot deck always spell trouble or a crisis that needs resolution. It's up to you to turn the tables and make the best of a bad situation before it is too late. The Five of Swords shows victory, but it could just as well point to dishonor, malice or slander and, in such cases, no one wins even when they're proven right.

It's like picking up a frozen snake near death and warming it near your breast. When it wakes, it will repay your kindness and generosity with death. That is its nature. If you must pick up the snake, take it to a fire or somewhere warm, but don't linger. It's safer that way.

5 of Swords


There cannot be a connection in these cards, or can there? The fire of inspiration, a gift of possibility and opportunity that must be acted upon cannot have anything to do with beggars down on their luck and unwilling to see that help is within reach, and it certainly cannot have anything to do with a costly victory. Can it?

A woman digs in her garden and finds a rag wrapped bundle. It smells foul and crumbles to bits in her hands. She tosses it onto the heap of branches and cuttings that will go into the trash. The bundle breaks open and out spills a wealth of jewelry: diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls of all colors, sapphires. A king's ransom in stones and silver and gold. Thinking it must be stolen, she gathers it all up in a trash bag and hides it beneath a loose board in the floor of her closet, placing her shoes and suitcases over the spot to hide it from prying eyes.

The woman is of middle years and has worked hard for what little she has, spending her life's savings on the little cottage with its rose and herb gardens. She continues to work, but the cost of upkeep is almost more than she can afford. She's not ready to give up and is used to getting by on short rations. The wealth hidden in the floor of her closet would be enough to fix the place up and set her up for life. She would never want for anything. She could sell the jewels one at a time to different places so no one would make the connection, but it might cost more than the jewels would bring that way. She could call the authorities or check old newspapers to see if something like that was stolen just to be sure she was safe. If she did that, someone might say she had no right to it and take it all away from her, or she could return it for a reward. That might be enough to see her comfortable.

What should she do? I'll leave the end of this story up to you.

Until next week, may all your stories be full of life.

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