Spring 2022 Tarot Card Astrology: Five of Pentacles
Mercury zips through the first decan of Taurus between April 11 and 16. The Five of Pentacles is an interesting illustration of the contrary energies of the fleet-footed god and the heavy, unbudging bull. In this article, I contrast the destitution of the card image against the resourcefulness of the astrological correspondence. The Five of Pentacles: Mercury in Taurus explores treachery, trickery, and triumph in response to desolation.
I previously explored this card in my 2012 article, reprinted on this blog as “Meditations of the Five of Pentacles.”
Please see all my articles on tarot card astrology. If you’d like to receive a notification whenever I publish a new post, you can subscribe to this blog using the form at the top of the righthand column. You might also like my astro-limericks, including Mercury Conjunct Uranus and Mercury Square Saturn.
Five Of Pentacles: Mercury In Taurus
- The Five of Pentacles is titled “Lord of Material Trouble.” This month’s card contrasts nicely with last month’s, the Lord of Material Happiness. Whereas the Nine of Cups addressed happiness solely on the material level, we can consider the Five of Pentacles to be difficulties on that same plane. The solitary figure in the Nine of Cups hints at loneliness, while the beggars in the Five of Pentacles at least have each other.
- Mercury represents thoughts, communication, and movement. As the fastest planet (after the luminary the Moon), it is quick and nimble. It rules Gemini and Virgo and also finds its exaltation in Virgo.
- Taurus is a fixed earth sign ruled by Venus. Possessions and material comfort are symbols for the sign. Its common keywords are committed, conservative, cultivating beauty and pleasure, appreciating luxury, stubborn, and enduring. Its symbol is the bull and its glyph looks a bull’s horned head.
- Five of Pentacles: Mercury ruling the first decan of Taurus
- The calendar dates, when the Sun passes through this decan each year, are approximately April 20-30.
- Mercury transited this ten-degree section of Taurus from April 11-16, 2022.
Mercury In Taurus
Mercury is the god of travel and trade, speaking and writing, magic and astrology. His winged shoes and traveler’s hat indicate he’s always on the move. In fact, he had the unique ability among the gods to travel all three realms — wandering the middle world of human beings; up to Mount Olympus, the home of the gods; then down to the underworld, realm of the dead. Case in point, Mercury is a psychopomp, guiding the souls of the deceased to Hades. Despite his solemn duties, Mercury equally excels in the role of trickster and thief. He’s lithe and agile, an accomplished athlete, and a keen competitor. Mercury is quick. Not just physically fast, but mentally agile and quick-witted. Mercury reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, with his lightning quick mind, detailed observations, mastery of disguise, and pugilistic prowess.
Taurus, on the other hand, is slow. Slow to process. Happy to stay put. Preferring to linger over a meal and the late-night indulgences that stretch into a full evening’s entertainment. No jumping up for an after-dinner stroll; donning a smoking jacket and slippers is so much more cozy. Taurus is fixed earth. The element of earth is solid, heavy, unchanging, and established. The “fixed” mode holds and maintains. Together, the element and mode of this sign embody that which is enduring, committed, and unwavering. However, Venus as ruler of the sign brings grace and pleasure, so Taurus never sinks into the stagnation of fossilization. Taurus lovingly lounges in its oldest pair of blue jeans, but as readily suits up in the latest haute couture for the promise of friends, fun, and food.
So what happens when Mercury the known thief crashes Taurus’s fancy party? Perhaps it looks rather like the Five of Pentacles.
Image of the Five of Pentacles
Two beggars walk through falling snow under the warm glow of a church window. I’ve always believed the couple was headed for the church’s soup supper and perhaps a cot for the night. It’s common for Catholic churches to remain unlocked so that anyone can come in to pray. Or perhaps warm up from the cold.
Some cards show the two people sitting or standing. This removes the agency of the couple to pursue their needs. Eventually, I learned that many tarot readers see in this card the stark contrast between wealth and poverty. In this interpretation, the homeless couple is denied the warmth and beauty of the church.
Usually, two people are shown in the image. However, it is not uncommon to see a solitary figure. On the one hand, having a friend when you’re down and out makes life a little easier. On the other, being alone streamlines the process of getting back on your feet. It’s more efficient when you have no one to worry about but yourself.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith illustration, the man on crutches has a bell around his neck. During medieval times, lepers wore bells, possibly to warn others away from them. Alternately, some scholars point out that because the disease damaged the larynx, the afflicted sometimes couldn’t talk. Thus they used the bell to attract the attention of passers-by as they begged for food and necessities. The bottom line is that these two citizens don’t just need a job and a place to stay. They need more help than that.
Astrological Dignity by Face
Each type of astrological dignity and debility has a metaphor to help understand it. Rulership by face correlates to the idea of being far from home with no one you know to help you. You have to rely on your own wits and make due with what you have. As a result, dignity by face reminds us that we alone have the power to solve our problems. Each of the 36 decanic Minor Arcana cards (the two through ten cards of each suit) correlates to a planet in dignity by face. So these 36 cards all represent the ingenuity of the individuals to succeed wherever they land, regardless of whether they find themself in ease or difficulty.
When faced with this card, a friend says, “Rock bottom is the best place to build a strong foundation.” As readers, we love to swing a card towards the positive. But as I compare images from many decks, I have trouble swinging this one towards a boot-strap rally. These people are sick. They can’t take care of themselves. They must rely on handouts.
I think of the homeless problem in our country. Of those suffering from physical and mental illness who are denied or unable to take advantage of health care. I think of war-torn Ukraine and the millions of displaced refugees who will never return home. I wonder how those out on the streets will manage through the blazing heat and extreme storms resulting from climate change. And my own tiny flame of optimism flickers against the greater likelihood that the door will be locked.
Can street smarts alone save these people?
Title of the Five of Pentacles: Lord of Material Trouble
Material trouble is an appropriate title for the card. Clearly, the two characters in the scene lack the material necessities of life. They must rely on the kindness of others or do without basic needs.
In a spread, this card turns up primarily to indicate money problems. But the Suit of Pentacles, corresponding to the element earth, is also about security, commitment, and trust. If money is not the problem, explore areas of life in which you feel impoverished, ignored, or the lack of support.
The title reminds us that this card focuses on the physical or material plane. Your mental, emotional, and spiritual levels do not need to succumb to the current situation. You can choose to walk around to the door and join the simple supper.
The Astrology of the Five of Pentacles: Mercury in Taurus
My usual interpretation for Mercury in Taurus as it relates to the Five of Pentacles tarot card revolves around the mercurial energy being abruptly grounded. Taurus is a traffic jam and Mercury is a leadfoot. When Mercury has to slam on the brakes, he loses his usual resources, including his speed, agility, and adaptability. He no longer has his winged boots and instead trudges barefoot through the snow.
However, it’s interesting to note that one thing that Mercury and Taurus have in common is money. Mercury governs commerce and merchants (see his name in the roots of those words?). The Taurean bull brings to mind the use of cattle as currency, referred to as movable assets (as opposed to fixed assets like land). Indeed, Taurus and its ruler Venus are associated with wealth.
The planet for merchants in the sign of wealth? Not what’s pictured! That would make much more sense for the Six of Pentacles. So what’s going on? I think Mercury’s trying to trick us.
The Duality of Mercury
Mercury governs things that come in pairs, such as the hands, ears, and lungs. This duality in turn underlies his trickery. It brings to mind the practice of misdirection in sleight of hand magic. If you snap your right fingers, people look there instead of at what your left hand is doing. Notice, as we consider this card and its correspondences, how often Mercury throws up a blind.
- The beggars arrive at a place of solace! Or, does the church pull its purse strings tight shut when it sees them?
- Having a friend with you is better than going it alone! Or, does the friend drag you down?
- The leper’s bell warns others to stay away! Or does it alert the generous so they can give to the needy?
- You just need a helping hand to get you back on track to independence! Or, are these people too ill to ever achieve that?
- Mercury in Taurus is the merchant coming into wealth! Or is he the Prince of Robbers foolishly invited into the rich man’s house?
The Mythology of the Five of Pentacles
I find the Five of Pentacles to be tricky. In most of the decanic pips, the astrology supports the card image. In this case, there’s a definite gap between the two. Am I looking for a Mercury in Taurus story, of cleverness in the face of difficulty? Or the story of the disaffected, unable to find the support they need? Perhaps the right story is something even more sinister as we explore the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Accordingly, I chose three stories for you.
Hermes Steals Apollo’s Cattle
The story of Hermes himself could easily be a Five of Pentacles variation. It stresses a theme of overcoming hardship through both cleverness and trickery. Born in a dark cave on a snowy mountain, Hermes was the son of the god Zeus and the nymph Maia. The day he was born, ever precocious, he left the cave and started getting into trouble.
Hermes decided to steal Apollo’s cattle. He drove the cattle backwards so that later when Apollo noticed the loss, he’d be confused as to what direction they went. That way their hoofprints would appear to be going home instead of away. Pretty clever!
Hermes didn’t want his mother to live in poverty. After his busy first day of life, including inventing the lyre and stealing a herd of cattle, he snuck back to their cave and lay down in his cradle. His mother scolded him for being out late. He said to her:
…I will try whatever plan is best, and so feed myself and you continually. We will not be content to remain here, as you bid, alone of all the gods unfee’d with offerings and prayers. Better to live in fellowship with the deathless gods continually, rich, wealthy, and enjoying stories of grain, than to sit always in a gloomy cave. …If my father will not give it to me, I will seek–and I am able–to be a prince of robbers.Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes (trans. Evelyn-White)
Like the best white collar criminals, Hermes’ ingenuity and bald-faced lies let him off the hook. Even after Apollo solved the mystery and took Hermes before their father Zeus for punishment, Hermes ended up keeping those cattle. Before stealing the livestock, Hermes had designed the lyre from a turtle shell. Apollo was so enchanted with the beautiful sound that he gave the cattle to Hermes in trade for the stringed instrument. Enterprising Mercury was caught red-handed and still made a profit.
The Little Match Girl
Hans Christian Andersen writes poignantly and lyrically about death. His fairy tale, “The Little Match Girl,” tells of a girl sent out by her abusive parents on New Year’s Eve to earn money selling matches. She loses her shoes and walks barefoot through the snow past all the brightly lit homes. As a Five of Pentacles story, it highlights the complete despondency of a no-win situation.
She doesn’t sell a single match the whole night. Afraid that her father will beat her, she finds what shelter she can in the corner formed of two houses. She lights a match to keep warm and has a beautiful vision. She repeats this twice more, each vision more beautiful than the last.
Overhead she saw a shooting star. Her grandmother told her that when a star fell, a soul went up to God. She struck all the matches in the box to try to get a long vision of the one person who had most loved her. The matches blazed brighter than daylight and her grandmother never looked so grand and beautiful.
She took the little girl in her arms, and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth, very, very high, and up there was neither cold, nor hunger, nor fear-they were with God.The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Hansel and Gretel
The third Five of Pentacles variation, Hansel and Gretel, emphasizes shrewd resourcefulness and teamwork in overcoming difficulty. This story, collected by the Brothers Grimm, tells of a brother and sister abandoned by their parents in the woods.
Lost, hungry, and tired, the two children wander through the forest. Eventually they come upon a house made of bread and cake and rejoice at the promise of food and shelter. But the story takes a turn for the worse when they discover that a witch who eats children lives there. She cages them and feeds them abundantly, hoping to fatten them up and eat them. Gretel, uncaged so she can do chores, overcomes the witch and pushes her in the oven that was intended to cook her and her brother.
This version of the Five of Pentacles seems to question whether there are any strings attached to the soup supper. Even more pessimistic than the Little Match Girl, it suggests that the haves only share in order to entrap the have-nots. In this case the children take advantage of the handouts, building their strength until they can rise up against their oppressor. The children trick the trickster!
What’s Your Five of Pentacles: Mercury in Taurus Story?
How do you interpret the Five of Pentacles? What story would you choose to illustrate it? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!