5 of Disks / Pentacles: Taurus I
Decan ruler (Chaldean): Mercury
Hermetic Title: Worry/Material Trouble
Corresponding majors: The Magician (Mercury) and The Hierophant (Taurus)
Pamela Colman Smith's dark and disturbing vision of the 5 of Pentacles presents one of those strange, paradoxical equations: How do the quicksilver Magician and the bridge-building Hierophant add up to this deplorable outcome? It's similar to what we see in the 10 of Swords, where the Sun and the Lovers meet in the grimmest of mixers. We'll talk more about that in June.
The lockpicker meets the key-keeper
Mercury - magician, trickster, realm-crosser, rule-breaker - is a dangerous resident in the Hierophant's House of Rules. What happens when the lockpicker meets the keeper of the keys? The Magician likes to decode things himself, whereas the Hierophant's literal job is to interpret things for other people. The Hierophant may be a teacher, but the Magician is an autodidact.
Look how the Magician and the Hierophant dress, like versions of each other. Look at the roses and lilies, wildly intermingling in the Magician's card, separated and appropriated as garments in the Hierophant's. Is magic the Magician's faith? Is faith the Hierophant's magic? Taken together, you might almost consider the pair a kind of shorthand for ceremonial magic.
Either way, the card raises questions of belonging and not-belonging, of veneration and control, of consorting with the spirits, or Spirit. . . . At the end of his working, the chaos magician declares, "Does not matter! Need not be!" - a talisman against Worry, and an affirmation that these are issues of spirit, literally not issues of matter. To believe without Worry is surely a magical act. What if the 5 of Pentacles, were a call to first plan with all your might - and then to just believe? Worry before, but not after?
Cows, hair, and clothes on fire
The texts from the Picatrix, the Yavanajataka, the Birhat Jataka, Ibn Ezra's Beginning of Wisdom and 777 offer contrasting images and interpretations (cf. Coppock, 36 Faces) as always of the decan. Still, there are themes.
1. Hair. "A woman with curly hair", "torn ringlets," "a woman with hair". This is mysterious - though hairiness can connote fertility, virility, or wildness.
2. Singed clothing. "wearing clothing looking like flame," "clothes partly burnt," "dirty clothes." Weird resonances with the rags and tatters of Pamela Colman Smith's beggars.
3. Bovines. "head of a bull" "bowed down to by cow herds", "shoulders like an ox". Would you expect anything else from the first decan of Taurus?
The Latin Picatrix says: "est facies arandi et seminandi, documentor, et sapientie in terris, et in geometria discendi” (or "arandi et laborandi terram, scienciarum, geometrie, et seminandi et fabricandi"). Essentially, it is a face of sowing and plowing, working the earth and the science of the land.
The plow and the fallow earth
So imagine this: a hairy farmer in ragged work clothes, following the ox pulling his plow in straight lines. This is appropriate to the time of year, the "cares" of those who plant; their faith in a seed, the mercurial instinct to apply mental effort to physical labor.
What do these two metaphors - lock and key, plowman and field - have in common? in each the penetrating, airy qualities of the Magician confront the earthy, receptive qualities of the Hierophant. Mercury aids in the literal quickening of the earth, the messenger goading the bull to inseminate the land.
Look ahead to anticipate, look back to assess
One key that's really helped me to understand both the 5 of Pentacles and 7 of Pentacles better has been recognizing they are complementary. In the suit of earth, the 5, 6, and 7 are cards of Taurus. The 5 is called the "Lord of Worry"; the 7 the "Lord of Failure"(!). In between, however, is the 6 of Pentacles, the "Lord of Success". By looking ahead to forestall trouble and looking back to assess results honestly, you can find a middle path to success. In other words: be vigilant, and learn from your mistakes. I think it's also worth noting, though, that success will also elude you if you worry too much about worst-case scenarios, or brood too much over past failures. It is poised between the perfect amount of each.
Can love and worry be reconciled?
Two main themes run through the cartomantic history of this card, and Waite opined that "they cannot be reconciled." Theme 1: love and lovers, affinities. Theme 2: poverty and material trouble. I tend to disagree. I think the two go hand in hand. Consider the word "care," which means both the sense of tending for something and the sense of worry. We "care" for someone or something; when we are troubled, we are full of "cares". Someone can be "dear" to us; something expensive is too "dear".
As any farmer will tell you, the act of caring for something is a literal labor of love. Your worry may be bound up in whether or not you profit from in the end, but it is also bound up in the wellbeing of the thing you love.
The 5 of Pentacles shows both the promise of community (in the lighted window) and the cost of isolation (the beggars outside of it). The sense of vulnerability is real, but you have a choice as to what happens next in the story.
When the 5 of Pentacles comes knocking.
I have a weird, rich, complex personal history with this card. It keeps trying to get my attention. It was the first and only (as far as I know) card I’ve ever lost, in 2005: it flew out an open patio door and into the Pacific Ocean. When I returned home I found I was pregnant. Last year, I drew it 21 times, far outstripping the average annual draw of 9 per card. At the Northwest Tarot Symposium this year, I unthinkingly made a spell packet combining the Magician and the Hierophant, and then did a divination to see what the result of the spell would be: 5 of Pentacles. (I dismantled and threw out the spell.)
In the 4 years I've been tracking my cards, I've drawn the 5 of Pentacles forty-two times. It has manifested as parking problems, car repairs, and being locked out. It has manifested as running late, and being left with an empty gas tank.. It has manifested as physical pain - most notably tripping and injuring my left leg, like the figure in the Waite-Smith card. It has manifested as the family separation policy and social isolation; also as problem solving, financial planning, and as the prognosis for my first podcast (which was a financial failure). One time, I heard a podcast about a prisoner who was literally named 'Five'. It has manifested as snow.
Most of these sound like the very definition of worrisome, I guess. To be honest, I do react with genuine Worry whenever I see the card. (Further, Saturn occupies this decan in my natal chart, whose nocturnal sect exacerbates his malice.) But still, I'm always looking for what's beneath the surface in this card. To plan and worry over what you love is the work of Mercury the Magus; to have faith that life will naturally, steadily ensue is the work of Taurus, the Hierophant. As the Sufis say, Have faith in Allah, but first tie up your camel.
The 5 of Pentacles points to a scarcity mentality, but I don't believe the solution is to simply meditate on abundance. I believe the solution is to use your brain, your intellect, your common sense right up to the point where they can go no further, and let faith take over from there. Perhaps that’s the only way Worry can stop grinding its gears.
But then, that's just my opinion.
When you draw the 5 of Pentacles, worry constructively: take out insurance, double-check your schedule, rotate your tires, and look twice when you cross the street. But remember that your concern is motivated by love, and know when to stop worrying the weeded, cultivated, marked and measured soil so the seed can grow and thrive.