Time to head back to the Minor Arcana; let’s talk about the Seven of Pentacles this month.
As stated above, the Seven of Pentacles is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. We should remember however that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue; nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.
The image on the Seven of Pentacles can give us valuable information regarding the message of this card. The traditional image of the Seven of Pentacles shows a man (occasionally a woman) leaning on a rake or hoe, standing next to a tree or bush in full bloom, covered with Pentacles. The ground around the man and the tree is usually flat, sometimes covered with verdant and well-tended growth. The sky is clear, and there are often mountains in the distance. The man appears strong and in good health, but a bit tired as if he is at the end of a full day filled with hard work. He is not dressed in royal clothes; rather he appears to be “every man.” He appears satisfied with the fruits of his labors.
One easy way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 7, and the suit of Pentacles. These two ingredients could actually give us enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.
In the Tarot, the number 7 tells of that period of time when effort and growth are running out of gas, and degeneration or a period of ebbing is approaching. A perfect illustration of this concept is the way it looks when we toss a ball in a high arc; at first, the ball soars upward with power. Soon enough, the upward motion slows, then ceases, and the ball travels parallel to the ground for a bit. Then, inertia begins to affect the trajectory of the ball, and it begins its descent to the ground. The Tarot Seven cards describe possible effects during that period when the ball is traveling parallel to the ground; not enough power to continue growth, but enough to keep degeneration on the sidelines. Often, the Seven cards tell of some pause or assessment that happens as growth (created by the Motion of the Fives and the Harmony of the Sixes) begins to approach the end of its lifespan.
All of the Tarot Sevens offer this pause or slowing of activity. We have the realization of something achieved and the fortitude to stay with that achievement and defend it (Wands), we have the pause that comes with a choice between many seemingly beautiful and desirable offerings, each fraught with hidden peril (Cups), and we have the pause that comes when our mind and our intellect perceives the approach of a change that we believe may not be beneficial (Swords). In the Seven of Pentacles, we experience the pause to assess the readiness for harvest of the fruits of our labors.
The suit of Pentacles (also called Disks or Coins) corresponds with the playing card suit of Diamonds, the cardinal direction of north, and the element of Earth. In its natural state, the element of Earth is cool and dry. Like Water, when amassed it has weight; it is able to bind together or shape the other elements. Water and Earth bind together to make mud, and a lake is shaped by the Earth that supports it. Earth energies are tangible, stable, and practical, and they are slow to change.
The cards of this suit are about the physical, earthly world, our physical bodies, and everything we need in order to maintain those physical bodies, including health and exercise. Pentacles cards talk about fertility, prosperity, and the wealth that can bring both physical shelter and mental and emotional pleasure. Pentacles cards can show a possible outcome or end result of our efforts, the product of our labors; they can give information about material manifestations of all kinds. These cards can represent discipline and diligence, and an interest in quality rather than quantity, but they can also indicate the influence of greed and avarice, and the lack of an ability to access or be aware of resources.
Astrology is another available tool that can offer further information about our card. The Seven of Pentacles corresponds to Saturn (discipline, responsibility, law and order), when it is in the sign of Taurus (“I have,” sensual, cautious, stubborn).
In Roman mythology, Saturn is the god of agriculture, the leader of the titans, and the founder of civilizations, social order, and conformity. The planet Saturn takes 29.5 years to orbit the Sun, spending about 2.46 years in each sign of the zodiac. In astrology, Saturn is associated with focus, ethics, lofty goals, purpose, career, great achievements, dedication, productiveness, valuable hard lessons learned, balance, and karma (reaping what you have sowed or divine cosmic justice). Saturn can also represent limitations, restrictions, boundaries, and a dose of reality; it is easy to understand this association when we look at the planet and its famous rings. Saturn also represents time, and thus, long-term planning and foresight. The Return of Saturn in the astrological chart is said to mark significant events in a person’s life.
The sun sign of Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac, is all about reward. Physical pleasures, material goods, and soothing surroundings are all important to a Taurus person; the good life in all its guises is heaven on Earth to those born under this sign. Taurus is a fixed sign, and it represents steady persistence sometimes seen as stubbornness. Taurus is symbolized by the Bull, and Bulls are practical and reliable, happy to plod along slowly but surely toward a goal. Taurus is ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure, which is why harmony and beauty are so attractive to those born in Taurus. Taurus is a loyal sign as well, and slow to anger, like the element of Earth, Taurus is about strength of body as well as strength of heart.
The planet Saturn shows us where we have limitations to overcome, and the sign of Taurus is related to the Earth and physical manifestation. The energies of Saturn in Taurus challenge us to achieve tangible results in our world, results that are often measured as valid or valuable through the lens of money or material possessions. These Saturn/Taurus energies are about reliability, security, unconditional love, and the ability to hold steadfast to the end of a project. No rushing to a decision here, and once the decision is made, it will most likely hold. Reversing or unbalancing the energies can bring fear, insecurity, possessiveness, an “all or nothing” attitude, an inability to compromise, and an unreasonable attachment to the material world, or to the process at hand. Lots of discipline here, but that can be either a good thing or a not-so-good thing. After all, going down with the sinking ship does not always bring a happy ending.
The Tree of Life offers us further insight into the Seven of Wands. All of the Sevens of the Tarot Minor Arcana correspond with the sephira of Netzach (which means “Victory”). Netzach is the seventh sephira, at the bottom of the Pillar of Force (the masculine side of the Tree). When you think about the concept of Victory, you will realize that it tends to bring a bit of inertia into the picture. Often, when we succeed (or think that we have succeeded), we cease focusing on the reason for the conflict and focus instead on maintaining the status quo. Remaining stationary for more than a few moments in a world that always moves forward will create degeneration.
The Tarot of the Sephiroth Seven of Disks shows a tree growing in a cultivated field that is laden with Disks and a shovel stuck into the ground, indicating a successful application of both tools and resources, reaching maturity, and the successful development of a strong foundation. The Gateway to the Divine Tarot Seven of Coins shows a woman with an empty basket standing amid a field of golden wheat and ripe Coins, ready to begin her harvest. This card offers us rewards after hard work, and it also reminds us that this is just the first opportunity to harvest. Right now the rewards might not live up to our expectations, but there is still work to be done and further rewards to receive. The Seven of Disks in the Thoth Tarot is dark and heavy, almost as if degeneration has already begun. Indeed, Crowley describes the card as being “sunk in sloth” because “all Labour has been abandoned.” Crowley sees the Disks in this card as representing bad money; not the kind we want in our pockets.
The Seven of Pentacles is mostly a good card to see, as long as we see its messages in a realistic way. It tells of pauses and choices and assessments, usually after a period of effort within the physical world This process of assessment can be valuable; if we harvest the fruits of our labor before they are ripe, we may not get the most out of those fruits. Yet if we wait too long, the harvest will go bad and we might lose everything.
The Seven of Pentacles card has a heaviness to it that is very apparent when the card is reversed. The number 7 tells of a pause, the planet of Saturn tells of restriction, the sun sign of Taurus is drawn to the pleasure of the senses and presents a tendency to focus on the physical world, and the suit of Pentacles is mainly secure and still. Even under the best of circumstances, the energies of this card don’t want to budge. When reversed, the idea of pausing to assess before determining the next step has gone awry. We should try to remember that while looking before leaping can be good advice, not being willing to step away from pleasurable situations is not good.
The Seven of Pentacles has an interesting way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. When reversed, we might not be satisfied with what we see, and feel overwhelmed to the point of giving up. When upright, the excitement of viewing hard-won progress can urge us to open ourselves to even more opportunities. The choice is ours in the end!