Reinterpreting Tarot in Contemporary times:
The Suit of Coins: Needs and Wants in a consumerist society
With thanks to
Wald and Ruth Ann Amberstone for sparking the idea
Professor Yuval Harari for setting the stage
While the earliest known Tarot decks may reflect the European Renaissance, we, in the twenty first century are living in a very different world. Authority has shifted from what the ‘gods on high’ decree, we, liberal humanists are taught that art is in the eye of the beholder, governments in the hand of the electorate who vote their feelings, and behavior based on what we feel is right rather than doctrine decreed by an outside authority.
As contemporary seekers, re-interpreting the Tarot for the times in which we find ourselves is always possible and fruitful, and the reason the Tarot, an organic oracle, thrives. Today, the Suit of Wands becomes an invitation to equate the significance and validity of intuition with intellect; the Sword, doubled-edged symbol of thought, invites us to balance thinking and be-ing, recognizing we can do both — just not at the same time; Cups represent emotions that result from our thoughts and color every action we take, while the Suit of Coins reflects the physical plane in which we, spiritual beings on a human journey, get to play.
We manifest what we believe in the physical realm— the most visible to our dimensions for ourselves and others. This material plane draws together not only our beliefs (composed of a blend of what we think and what we intuit) but also our emotions that color our inner landscape. Our resulting actions reveal how we manifest what we believe and desire in the world of nature— and all is reflected and symbolized by in the suit of Coins.
After hearing the Amberstone’s presentation, “Lordy, Lordy . . .’ for The Spiritual Path of Tarot Teleseminar 4 sponsored by Kim Wilborn, it seems timely to revisit the traditional understandings of the suit of Coins. The Sacred Mandala Tarot, used in this article, illustrates an ethnically diverse society in which Knights ride motorcycles instead of horses, some characters are non-gender specific and the character in the 4 of Coins included here, has a tattoo. This card, as interpreted by the Amberstones in their presentation, started this train of thought.
Explaining each of the cards with their earlier subtitles— this one ‘Lord of Earthly Power’ we were offered the chance to interpret the additional lines of text for each card. For those of us who are feminist by inclination, and used to translating ‘Lord’ into non-gendered names and images for an awareness being in the presence of the numinous, can look at the second part of each phrase and consider a contemporary interpretation of each card.
Prof. Yuval Harari, in his explosive book, Homo Deus, reminds us that the present global consumerist society whose ‘religion’ is based on the power of the dollar (fill in the name of any currency that fits) it is decrees that we as consumers, we should ‘buy, buy, buy,’ keeping production lines going and economies growing. As the accumulation of waste increases and Nature’s resources are depleted, our polluted natural world is reaching a crisis. How does this effect the way we read the cards in the Suit of Coins regarding our relationship with nature and our actions, in the work we do, the vocations we love and the money we handle— by saving, sharing or spending.
Just as the Suit of Swords asks us to find balance between thinking and being, perhaps the Suit of Coins invites us to consider differentiating between our needs and our wants. Harari shows that the line starts to blur— take the smartphone for example. 10 years ago it fell into the category of ‘want’ and now, all over the world, has become a ‘need.’
If we consider the Ace of Coin as the gift of manifestation that is gifted to us, perhaps we start by asking how do I use this gift for the highest good of all concerned?
Card 2 show a young woman weighing her options, determining her needs v. her wants.
Card 3 describes the ideal cooperative venture that allows each one to participate and give the best of all they have, for the joy of giving and for the benefit of the whole. Working well in a group also demands we receive with appreciation what each one in the group brings to the table.
Card 4 (the card that started this train of thought and is shown above) shows a young person who has so much to give— rather than passively holding on it all that they have, this can be seen as a pause— a time of appreciation for all that has been garnered and the moment of deciding where best to give of the largesse that has been successfully accumulated. Interesting that this card, on The Tree of Life, is placed in the ‘cosmic chakra’ of Compassion while the next card is opposite in the sefirah of Strength.
Card 5, as mentioned above, is in many ways the opposite of the 4— it indicates there are times in our lives when we feel bereft, and in need of assistance. For those who are much better at giving than receiving, how graciously can we ask for and receive help? We learn to be strong when things are challenging and in learning to ask for help and willing to receive it, we step into our own power.
Card 6, like all cards in the Minors is a card of balance— a celebration of our ability to give and receive. In this suit, balancing wants and needs for self and others presents opportunities for generosity and wholeness— for both parties, in the giving and the receiving.
Card 7 again is a moment of reflection— as the garden we manifest is growing, how content do we feel? Do we find purpose in our actions that continue to satisfy our own creative needs and the wellbeing of others around us? Is it time to alter the course of our actions or buckle down and bring this to its natural conclusion? This may the most important question of our times— when do we realize that ‘things’ do not fill us— meaning does. Is the work we are doing meaningful? How do we understand meaning and purpose in a material world?
Card 8 is an indication of a decision to enjoy the fruits of our labor by continuing to take care of the details necessary — all that has brought us success and still require our time and attention.
Card 9 is the moment of fulfillment of all that has been accomplished and the joy experienced in a task well done.
The most important figure in Card 10 is the older woman in the left corner, who encourages us— at the moment of celebrating our material success— and asks: And now? In enjoying the benefits of our efforts, what do we have to share with the larger society? Where will we put our efforts now that we are empowered to know what we can achieve?
Reading nuanced and contemporary meaning into the Tarot is what breathes life into static images and make the dance with the intuitive sense fun, meaningful and vital for a full appreciation of the gift of life.