The Ten of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

Ten of Pentacles - IsleVue One Page Guide to Card Derivations

This is the second of these guides. I’ll be jumping around, taking the minor arcana in random order. These guides will show the Astrological/Qabalistic/Elemental influences upon Waite’s divinatory meanings and Colman Smith’s layouts. The little memo pad callouts represent the end result in divinatory meanings and/or layout. As a Venn diagram, it displays how each of the influences interact with the other influences, resulting in the divinatory meanings, and often, the components of the layout. You’ll find a little more detail on the structure and purpose of these guides here.

You’ll find a download link for an Adobe Acrobat PDF below. It’s been formatted for standard letter size, with an extra space at the left margin, for those who wish to print and save them in a looseleaf binder. There’s also a bitmap that you can click and view (and “save as” if you prefer, though the PDF should print at a better resolution).

We will these introductory pages to post any additional notes regarding the card that don’t necessarily fit into tracing the sources of the divinatory meanings.

Notes on the Ten of Pentacles

Our subject today is the Ten of Pentacles. And what I myself found in examining it more closely is that more than just a well-heeled old guy near death, brooding, it’s really a story about the cycle of death and life, of the cycle of planting. I guess we should be glad that our Celt-maniac friend A.E. Waite didn’t substitute barley for Virgo’s wheat, else poor Pixie would have had to sneak John Barleycorn into the picture!😉

There are a two things in particular regarding the influences upon this card that surprised me. They both involve links to the cycle of death and life. First was the Sephirot emanation, Malkuth. Reading the Golden Dawn and Levi, I had the impression it was first and foremost a culmination, appropriate for ten. But Wikipedia sees it more as the ending, to be followed by a beginning; one gets to the bottom of the Sefirot, and then has to go back up to the first position. In fact, I’m reminded more of how tarot explains the Death card than anything else.

And that explains the reason that both young and old are present in Colman Smith’s layout. The old man covered by his heavy wrap and the child passing by are a circle. That they may very well be an entire family is possible. That then supports the family matters aspect of the divination. There is a related oddity: the dogs who eye the old man. They recall to me the Fool’s dog. Waite, in his text, gives them a slightly malignant aspect, “accosting” the old man. This is somewhat like the Fool’s dog in older versions of the Fool, biting at him (in fact, some past texts imply the Fool is threatened by a tiger). I think Colman Smith was having none of that, however, or perhaps she liked animals. The dogs seem perfectly well behaved to me!

Malkuth also has a relation to money (as if the Earth influence weren’t enough). Éliphas Lévi, in The Mysteries of Magic (1886) states: “in the Kabbalistic tree of the Sephiroth, ten represents Malchut, or exterior and material substance. The sin of Adam was materialism, and the fruit which he plucks from the tree represents the Hesh isolated from the spirit, zero divided from unity. The underlying factors for the themes of wealth, family and related material matters are well established.

The other item that surprised me was how different the sign of Virgo is than what I had thought. I think most people know of the association with Demeter and wheat—the cycle of agriculture, death in fall and rebirth in spring. As an aside, there is also an association with Astraea, the same goddess that Waite puts on the Justice card, though I don’t think she has anything to do with this card. She was the last goddess to leave Earth to go back to Mt. Olympus, and for that reason, Virgo was linked to Earth. There are some lesser origin myths for Virgo, too, but the key to remember is that it has to do with death, life, Earth and wheat.

IsleVue Tarot-Zodiac-Element-Sephiroth Wheel of the Golden Dawn

And with that, we have a second link to the cycle of death and life, as well as the riches again, insofar as wheat and harvest represent wealth.

There are additional links with the Hermit to old age and gifts, Mercury to chance, and the Magician to loss. These are noted on the page, and don’t require additional explanation here.

The download link for the PDF is below. As mentioned in the introduction to this series of one-page-guides, if anyone finds anything in the pages that they feel needs correction, be sure to let me know… you can comment here or send an email. Same goes for suggestions. The pages themselves have a note saying that they’re Creative Commons Attribution licensed, which means you can share them or reprint them as much as you like; you also have to link to the original source for any web based re-publication.

Revision history: updated bitmap and pdf 2019-08-07. “Prettier” circles in the Venn diagram and change of font color in the post-its for improved legibility.

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John Iacovelli

I have spent 30+ years in the computing industry. In it I've pretty much done everything from tech support for elderly people doing genealogy, to documenting compilers, to software evangelist, to direct mail guru, to CIO of an international corporation. And here I am, older and gray, getting interested in Tarot?