Two of Pentacles

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Pentacles

Pentacles are about the material aspects of the world such as health, things we own, abundance and work.  They are also about how these are manifested into reality such as practical, steady planning and a step by step approach.  As well as being the worldly things, the things you can own or touch, pentacles can also be about the things that you can sense, sense based experiences, nature and the environment.  There is a groundedness to the pentacles and a stability that lends itself to tending to the aspects of daily life such as health maintenance and food.  This suit embodies the idea that a flourishing outer world extends from a flourishing inner world.  Putting on your own oxygen mask in on a plane before helping others is a high expression of pentacle energy. This is helping and being generous with yourself but tending to self first in order to do this.

“Pentacles, as either magic signs or money, can influence the world without physically moving”
– Rachel Pollack

Where pentacles can be about prosperity, they can also be greed, possessiveness and materialism and an obsession with money for money’s sake.  It can also be about the power that comes with money and owning things and thinking about what Pollack said, this can be a very strong way of influencing the world without physically moving.

Twos

In tarot, twos can go two ways, appropriately!  They can be about union and partnerships or they can be about choices and opposition as they were with the two of swords.  With this in mind, we can also see them as being able balance or finding the middle ground.

Twos are also linked with the high priestess, the two from the major arcana, who is associated with intuition, the feminine and looking inwards for wisdom.  She is often depicted in a way that suggests balance and harmony.

Decks

RWS

The two of pentacles shows a juggler spinning two pentacles and is an image we can read in two ways.  Firstly, he could be seen as enjoying himself, having fun and being playful but an alternative reading could see him precariously balancing the pentacles, trying to hold things up in the air.  We also see here the infinity sign made of ribbon which appears above the head of the magician and above the woman on the strength card.  Looking at the meaning of the card we could see the infinity sign here as a reminder that we are always balancing things in our lives and/or that there are infinite things we need to balance.

Reversed, Waite tells us this card means ‘simulated enjoyment’, not stimulated enjoyment as I repeated read it… Here we find ourselves putting on a mask, going through the motions, pretending to others that we’re having fun.  This almost always leads to dropped juggling balls…

Michelle Tea says that flexibility is the main message of this card.  The more flexible we can be, the better we will handle things, the better able we are to keep the balls in the air, but also this is a time where we find adapting easy.  She also makes a point which really chimes with me.  That if you spend too long focussing just on one thing, you can end up dropping all the balls you have in the air, including the one you’re focused on.

“Push yourself through too many hours or days of work and your brain starts to push back. Ideas that once flowed easily dry up, and tasks that you should be able to perform quickly become excruciatingly difficult.”
Inc.com

Pagan Cats

The pagan cat is shown staring off to the side whilst standing on a chequered board on top of what looks like a wooden platform, in the distances is the sea and things are stormy; two boats are struggling on epic waves.  The cat seems unaware of this and also unaware of the two golden discs his paws are on, one contains a goldfish and the other a mouse.  Having said that, one paw is on the mouse’s tail and the others is dipping into the fish bowl so he’s not completely unaware…  Note also we have the infinity sign from the RWS deck.

He seems to be distracted which is a different take to the rest of the decks which focus more on balance and juggling, although we could see the cat as juggling and balancing things so well that he has the freedom to look away…  Perhaps he could even try taking on more responsibilities or projects and balance more things!

Wild Unknown

At first look, the wild unknown two of pentacles is very different to the RWS and pagan cats cards in that there is no obvious juggling or balancing going on, instead we have a black and white butterfly but this contains the infinity sign and within the loops of the infinity sign we find the two pentacles.  Note also that the card is black and white whilst the infinity sign is rainbow shaded.  The black and white suggests to be a yin and yang type of idea, that we need both work and play to make us balance and this is echoed by the symmetry of the image.

With this in mind where do you need to find more balance?  Where are you out of balance?  Are you being pulled in different directions? These are important questions to ask yourself when this card shows up.

Metamorphosis and the related transformation and change will be discussed below when I unpick the butterfly in relation to the two of pentacles.

Lumina

Keeping an even balance

Like the other cards, this deck focuses on the juggling side of things but more so about balancing your inner and outer worlds.  I really like the line in the book that says “from your internal to external worlds you are feeling uplifted and yet stretched”.  With this there is the recognition that you can be challenged internally and externally and also, given the theme of balance we have the idea that stretching of the inner or outer world can through us off balance.  If we are very challenged internally, our external world might suffer.

In the shadow side, we are advised that we are being called back into alignment, look at where your live has fallen out of balance, where is there disharmony?  Are you over committed?  Working too hard?  Playing too hard?  As we’re dealing with the pentacles, perhaps you’re over stretching things health or money wise?

Animal Totem Tarot

I finally treated myself to this fantastic deck!!!  As it’s new I’m still leaning into it, getting to know it and finding it’s way of talking.

The two of pentacles features the Harrier Hawk and these particular pentacles are sitting on the ground glimmering and shimmering.  The message from the harrier hawk is about dealing with new challenges and how we have the resources we need to handle them.  Her time is spent juggling between family and community but she knows that she can ask for help, she is part of a team and doesn’t martyr herself.

Other decks

Where I’ve looked at other decks when considering other cards I’m not going to as I’ve got the animal totem tarot now!

Associations

Butterflies

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The wild unknown card talks to us of dualities and balance but how do these ideas relate to the butterfly?  Well, if we recall that we’re being asked to find balance we realise that to reach that state we may need to make some transformations and what better metaphor for that that metamorphosis itself?!  With this we also lean into the infinity sign featured in several of the cards – to maintain balance throughout our life we must constantly be rejuggling and reconfiguiring our lives and our selves.

The symmetry of the butterfly also lends itself to the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of two parts which is touched on with the black and white or the yin/yang of the image.

Daisies

Daisies come with a dichotomy.  They are both gentle and kind but also powerful and they have astringent properties.  They are both a symbol of love and yet we find myths where people have turned into daisies to avoid unwanted advances from unwanted lovers.

This duality is seen again when we learn that daisies are something called composite flowers which means that they are made up of two separate flowers; there is an inner section which is one flower and this is surrounded by rays of petals which are actually a second flower.  This combination has been said to symbolise true love as they blend together so well.  It also feels like a good way to think about the balance of different parts of us such as our inner worlds and outer worlds or the blending of our work self and our home self.  Both parts of the daisy wouldn’t cope without having the other there, a concept which echoes the ideas found within the symmetry of the butterfly.

Jupiter in Capricorn

An potentially awkward pair, these guys require careful choreography – or juggling – to maximise their potential.  Jupiter in Capricorn attracts good luck when organising, when working hard and when being disciplined.  As we are in the suit of pentacles and Capricorn is an earth sign, good things will come when you are practical and employ a step by step plan, carried out slow and steadily, to reach your goals.

Be cautious, be patient and what you envision (and work for) will come.

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Ten of Cups

Cups/ Water

Having looked at the ten of wands, swords and pentacles, we are now turning towards the ten of cups. This suit, associated with water, is to do with emotion, intuition and matters of the heart. It is where we find creativity and imagination as well as fantasies and dreams. Cups deal with relationships and love and in the water we find reflections and can see into our inner worlds. The water in these cards often reflects our feelings and thus make for interesting readings.

Tens

If you want to read more about tens, check out the other posts. The only thing I want to add here comes from Rachel Pollack:

“As the highest number, the Tens signify being filled with the quality of the suit… in cups we find joy and the wonder of life spread across the sky.”

Different decks

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RWS

The Rider Waite Smith deck depicts the ten of cups as a normative family – mum, dad, son and daughter – rejoicing under a rainbow of cups. The parents have their arms around each other and the children are dancing. This is clearly intended to be a picture of harmony and a happy, loving family. A river and the green green grass suggest abundance and wealth, but remember we are with cups here so this is different to pentacle style wealth, this is emotional fulfilment and stability. The house is pictured but instead of being a physical asset that highlights security, here it signifies the feeling of clan – it is people who make a home.

“The Ten is the grand finale of the Cup’s emotional ups and downs; this couple has been together through some crazy twists and turns, yet they have wound up here, enjoying a pretty day.”
– Michelle Tea

Michelle notes that it is a simple scene and yet that is what makes this card so wonderful – finding fulfilment and inspiration and magic in the everyday. Take time to pause and breathe and enjoy the peace and abundance around you.

Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Unusually, this pagan cats card is notably different to the RWS version. These cats are inside the home, playing with a rainbow flag draped in the background. We still have the two adult cats and two kittens but because it’s cats and not people, we side step the heteronormative image.

The LWB says the following, which feels a little strange to me:

“Happy home. R. Presenting a false face to the world.”

Normally the reversed meaning of a card hints more to the opposite meaning whereas here we seem to be dealing with two slightly different interpretations of the ten of cups. Neither feel wrong but they don’t seem to gel very well. It’s almost as if on one side we have the head of a 10p coin and then we flip it and suddenly we’re looking at the tail of a 2p…

Leaning into each meaning separately, I think we can see that the happy home side of things fits very well with the traditional RWS version – note that they’ve used home and not house here, we are looking at those relationships and meanings and feelings that make up a home. The reverse meaning, presenting a false face to the world, makes me think that the cats are less happy and fulfilled and more focused on ‘keeping up with the jones’s’, something we all know does not lead to a happy ending.

I wonder if this reversed meaning is leaning more to an inauthentic experience of the happy nuclear family from the RWS and how actually, it’s better to feel fulfilled in whatever way is right for you, even (and arguably especially) if it doesn’t look like the rest of the world’s idea of happiness. Tied into this you could read the rainbow as the flag of the LGBT movement – perhaps this card is validation that your own version of family is just as worthy or legitimate as the stereotypical man, woman and 2.4 children.

Wild Unknown

I think I’ve said before that I like the way this deck doesn’t include humans. It’s all much freer in it’s ideas about what we should do and what society expects us to do. Because there are no humans, or animals, in this image, we can think more widely about the concept of home and family that we saw in the other cards. Here we can be thinking about found family and the homes that we create for ourselves which may not actually be buildings. We create communities online and they are just as valuable and just as much your home and family as the bricks and mortar that you might have grown up in.

This card shows a beautiful symmetry, with the top cups, or outer cups filling the bottom, or inner, cups with light and love and rainbows. Just as white light is made of all the colours of light, so too here, joy and love is made of all the different aspects of the rainbow, or aspects of life. Whilst the other cards have featured rainbows, it feels as if here we have a much stronger reminder that rainbows are the union of sun and rain, of love and pain. Light and darkness are depicted in what feels like equal amounts. This version of the ten of cups is not saying that when you reach this point in life, you will be trouble free. It is much more about having the inner and outer resources to cope and get through the harder times.

Lumina

Magnetic fulfilment. Abounding love.

Comparing the imagery for the wild unknown and lumina, we find in both a symmetry. Where the cups from the wild unknown represent both the inner and outer worlds, the butterflies in the lumina do the same. The inner reflects the outer and the outer reflects the inner, they are beautifully entwined. In the wild unknown it is the rainbow which unites them and we will see shortly that the butterfly has a similar role in that the butterfly effect highlights the interconnectedness of the world, and of our inner and outer selves.

The guide for the lumina tarot suggests we pause, take a breath and notice that we have reached the place we were striving for. Our live is full and, having trusted our path and our intuition, we have found our destination. This is a card of abundance, of love, of gratitude and joy. A card which feels like all our loved ones, our made or found family, are holding us in their arms. We are safe here and we are both loved and loving. It also says that “you are a guiding light and an inspiration for what it is to step into your power and truth and become who you know you are”. This is not an easy journey. To become who you are, regardless of what the world says or does to you, takes immense strength, you must face challenges with courage and work through the hard times. But the reward will be so sweet if you do.

On the flip side, maybe this card has shown up for you because you are not following your path, you are not carving your own way and are letting the world push you in a different direction. It is so easily done but to follow other peoples plans and expectations will not result in happiness. Perhaps you are on the career path and are automatically climbing and climbing, seeking prestige and money, when actually the job you most enjoyed was two rungs down. This may be a time to look at why you are making certain decisions and what it is that truly sets you aflame, that inspires your heart and your soul and brings you to life. Often this is not what the world expects from you, but that is ok. At the end of the day, if you are doing what you love, your friends and found family will see that and love you for your courage and honesty and you will set something alight in them too.

General thoughts

For a very different depiction of the ten of cups try the Mary El Tarot, it definitely doesn’t portray a nuclear family! Beth also shows us a number of other interpretations for this card which may chime with you more than the RWS version.

Key words in my little white book include:

happy ending, contentment, alignment, radiating energy, overflowing, positivity, excitement, light, flow, love and support, relationship harmony, emotional fulfilment, wholeness, connectedness and interconnectedness, you do you, go for what makes you happy, live honestly, acknowledge who you are and what you love

Questions to ask yourself might include: what does family look like to you? What does home look like? What does the good life mean to you? What does success look like for you?

Associations

Mars in Pisces

The astrological correspondence for the ten of cups is mars in pisces, a fiery planet infusing watery pisces with energy. This suggests strong and powerful emotions are at play and mars can lend energy to Piscean imagination and compassion.

Pisces is a mutable sign and, especially in the wild unknown card, we can see the dance between pulling in energy and putting it out into the world, a dance between the inner and outer that helps to align both worlds. The balance of giving and receiving and the reward of being and feeling authentic when your outer self aligns with your inner self.

A low expression of mars in pisces can be going with the flow and not taking any initiative yourself – this might be the case if the card has shown up reversed or if you are following other people’s idea of your life path. Not knowing what you want can be another characteristic of mars in pisces and if you don’t have an idea about where you are going it’s going to be pretty hard to get there. Perhaps this card has shown up to encourage you to dip into that mars active energy to help you set a goal or figure out what you want.

Alyssa Trahan uses the analogy of white light being made up of all the other colours being equivalent to pisces being made up of the other signs. Given the rainbow symbolism it felt relevant to mention this.

Butterflies and Moths

As well as considering butterflies, I’m going to look at moths as they are so similar but also because I think considering them together sheds additional light on both of them.

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The mother butterfly essentially exists for her potential children. Once she has emerged from her chrysalis, she is very focused on mating and then laying her eggs in the perfect place. She will die before she sees her children but that doesn’t stop her loving them intensely. She looks for a spot where her babies will have the best food and the best chance in life.

Often the butterfly card brings with it a message around change but in the context of the ten of cups it feels more like we have been through the painful process of metamorphosis and we are reaping the rewards. Earlier cards in this suit depict the pain and suffering and turmoil necessary to reach this amazing, fulfilling place. You have been on one hell of a journey and now you get to pause and enjoy the benefits.

Butterflies are associated with joy and happiness and seen as wish carriers and dream bringers.

“Butterflies live so deeply in the moment of being that they can conquer time itself”
– Matthew Oates

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Where butterflies give us to positive side of the ten of cups, the moths show us the shadow side.

Moths are drawn to light but unnatural lighting is drawing them away from their path just as consumerism and capitalism can draw us away from ours. We search for something which will fill the hole in our soul and end up trying to fill it with materialistic possessions that we use to declare our status. Think back to the idea with the pagan cats of keeping up with the jones’s…

Spend some time with the moth and the butterfly as you reassess what you want from life, where you want your own unique path to go. Refind your sense of self, rediscover your passions and your values.

Pause, breathe and be aware of burning out because you are living someone else’s life.

Butterfly: Animal Dreaming

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Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Butterfly

I wrote a rather long post for the Wild Unknown butterfly and the ideas here are very similar, they are about transformation, about metamorphosis and so on.  This particular butterfly may be the Papilio Ulysses, a large swallowtail butterfly who’s wingspan is about 14cm.  Like many butterflies, the underside of its wings are a dusky brown.   There is a time for standing out and being flamboyant, and there is a time for blending in.

There is a lovely story about why the caterpillar goes into a cocoon over winter to prepare for her beautiful spring butterfly body.

In this deck, the butterfly is associated with the number three.  Given the three stages of butterfly life this feels significant.  And as you probably know, three has a lot of symbolism:

  • Maiden, Mother, Crone
  • Birth, life, death or birth, death and rebirth
  • Holy trinity
  • We live in 3-dimensions
  • Mind, body and soul
  • Earth, sea and sky
  • Bad luck comes in threes
  • The rule of three
  • The triple spiral which appears in celtic tradition
  • Three states of being: sleeping, dreaming, waking
  • Past, present and future

A number of these suggest a wholeness created by three elements, a wholeness that you reach when you have been through the stages of the butterflies life perhaps?

 

Butterflies: wild unknown animal spirit deck

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You may be aware, particularly if i know you in real life, that i am doing a year long project about butterflies.  They are amazing!  For this post, even though the card is of the butterfly, i feel it would do them an injustice not to consider each stage (and give me a chance to show off my newly acquired butterfly knowledge!) however I am going to try and keep it brief-ish…

The life cycle

Butterflies start as beautifully constructed, architectural wonders.  Their eggs come in a variety of shapes and designs and are laid at different time of years depending on the species.  They are laid on the plant that the caterpillar will need to eat.

Once hatched, the caterpillar starts a very long feast.  Basically the main purpose of the caterpillar is to eat.  They eat and eat until they are too big for their skin.  Then they moult and eat and eat and eat.  They moult about four times.  Once they’re as big as they’re going to get, they then hang upside down and start building their second marvellous construction; the chrysalis.

Whilst in this safe space, the caterpillar begins to break down.  Once they have reach a sort of caterpillar soup stage, they start to reform as a butterfly.

The period spent in the chrysalis involves a lot of hard work.  You can see the process in this youtube clip:

The newly formed butterfly then breaks out of the chrysalis and starts life as an adult.  But, they can’t fly straight from hatching, they have to pause a moment.  This allows the blood to enter veins in their wings and harden to provide strength.  They can’t do this whilst a chrysalis as there isn’t enough space to spread their wings and if they don’t, their wings won’t be strong enough to fly.  This isn’t a long process but it is an important one.

We often think of metamorphosis as a beautiful thing, and it is, but I’m sure it can’t be a painless process for the caterpillar.  And in terms of human transformations, any major change is likely to involve pain as well.  This process is as much about letting go of your current self to make space for the new self.

This isn’t a case of having a little rest and letting yourself grow or going to a spa retreat and coming out feeling new.  This is about breaking down who you are and completely transforming yourself.  This is a MAJOR change.  And change this big is complex.

As the butterfly is a creature of the air, she asks you to change your thoughts, your perspectives and to create your own chrysalis to support your transformation.  However, the butterfly also knows there is a time for everything and you can’t go through metamorphosis early.  First you must shed your skin like the caterpillar does.  This pre transformation stage is a time for growing, taking up space and getting ready for the next stage by literally or metaphorically feeding yourself.  Once you are ready, she suggests that you create your own safe place, surround yourself with love, nourish your body, seek support and be gentle with yourself.  This is a tough process.  You are literally rebuilding yourself – without pain, you will not reach the beautiful state of the butterfly.

The butterfly, the arts and mythology

Butterflies have captivated us for a long time, featuring in art and stories and as a, possibly overused, metaphor.

Butterflies: the enjoyable insect by Gareth Brookes

Oh see the butterflies a-caper
Fluttering like torn up bits of paper
Enchanted I do stand agape
If they would but take human shape
I’d take the out
For a pint of stout

Give no retort as I exhort you to cavort
Amid the butterflies, oh what sport
No film I’ve watched could be such fun
Neither Spiderman 3 nor Cannonball Run
Oh watch them in the sky a-soar
The butterflies, oh crikey! cor!

In complete contrast to the modern day ode above, we have the Christian association of the butterfly with the resurrection (although the more I learn it does seem like they will use almost any animal to symbolise this…).  In ancient Egypt, gods were thought to escape death through metamorphosis.  In other ancient cultures, it was believed that the human soul becomes a butterfly as the body dies and the butterfly then transports the soul to the afterlife.  Indeed, the Greek word for butterfly, psyche, also means soul and Psyche, the Greek Goddess of the soul, is depicted with butterfly wings.

Their life cycle inevitably means the butterfly has been used as a symbol of rebirth, immortality and the fleeting nature of life.  The short adult life span further emphasises the birth, death, rebirth process that we all go through numerous times in our life.

As beautiful smile provoking delights, they are also linked with joy and happiness, as wish carriers and dream bringers.

Life as a butterfly

These enchanting winged creatures of the day are a species of variety – some live only briefly and others can live many months.  Regardless, like the moth, their main purpose as adults is to feed and mate.  Butterflies are generally assumed to drink nectar but they are also known to feed on dung, drink sweat from humans and other animals for nutrients and even decaying flesh.  They are not entirely about beauty and glamour but try not to think about that the next time you get butterflies in your tummy…

The wild unknown tarot

The wild unknown uses butterflies for three of the cards and I’ve found these images to be pretty powerful at different times.

There are no caterpillars in the deck so it seems most fitting that we start with the 8 of Swords, pictured on the right, with it’s chrysalis (if I’d thought this through I would have paid more attention when I took the photo… I would retake it but my deck has been shuffled since and I can’t be bothered finding them…).  This card is about being in a precarious situation – if the butterfly stays in the safety of her chrysalis much longer, it will fall into the collection of swords below.  Comfort zones are great, we need them, especially when we’re going through big things, but we need to leave them as well.  What is keeping you stuck?  Sometimes this might be actual things but often, our thoughts and our perceptions keep us trapped.  How can you free yourself from the chrysalis which was once so necessary and safe and is now threatening to suffocate you?

Once you’ve broken free of your chrysalis, we have the 2 of Pentacles (on the left) which shows a butterfly with outstretched wings and symbolises change and balance.  I feel like this is the butterfly warming up it’s wings and getting ready to fly.  That pause before it takes the leap.  The infinity symbol echoes what I mentioned above and the symmetry of the image speaks strongly of balance as does the use of black and white, yin and yang, light and dark.  This delicate creature appears strong in this card, you are stronger than you think you are.

The 6 of Wands, in the middle, is about rising up, moving on, you’ve been given your wings and they’re strong enough to use, where are you going to fly to?  You have faced the adversity, the pain of transformation and now you have your freedom.  You are leaving the darkness and entering into the light.


“Butterflies live so deeply in the moment of being that they can conquer time itself”
– Matthew Oates