The 4 of Pentacles: Of Misers and Martyrs

Extending the theme of stability, maintenance and endurance discussed in my previous posts on the tarot’s Minor Arcana fours, the 4 of Pentacles brings the quality of the suit of fours to bear with the element of Earth. Because Pentacles represent material gain, tangible resources and the more practical concerns of day-to-day living, when coupled with the number 4, focus is placed on achieving success and stability in these areas of life. Money and property are most commonly involved, but to a less extent, health and the (physical) body are implicated as well. Unlike Water, Fire and Air, Earth is more stable element, resistant to change and less malleable than the other three. Different modes of Earth (cardinal, fixed, mutable) indicate different degrees of adaptability but as a whole, those for whom Earth figures prominently in the birth chart abhor change, preferring to stick to routine, never diverging from a set course of action for fear of failure or upsetting equilibrium. It is important to remember that a positive four shows endurance while a negative four represents stasis. With the 4 of Pentacles, the material aspects of life are stable but much of how this manifests depends upon the emotional, spiritual and mental attachments accorded to wealth and gain.

Decks adhering to the Rider-Waite tradition show a man garbed in rich robes, clutching a pentacle to his breast while two more lie at his feet and yet another is placed securely upon his crown. If our heart chakra represents our center for receiving and giving love, and to a lesser degree, an indicator of what we value, then the act of holding a pentacle (symbol of status, wealth and gain) at the level of our heart shows that love is measured in practical and tangible terms. Here, we could equate affection with the receiving of gifts, or attempt to measure our partner’s devotion through the number of resources they are willing to share though we ourselves may not be as forthcoming with the same resources. Note as well the placement of the pentacle atop his crown, indicating a mind that is focused solely on the accumulation of more wealth. At its core, the 4 of Pentacles represents greed, and an all-consuming obsession with the pursuit and acquisition of riches. Our resources, whether they be our time, energy or money, are not shared without lengthy calculation on our part. We then fall into the trap of equating material gain, whether status or income, with emotional and spiritual satisfaction. We become misers who horde our gains rather than sharing them with those near and dear to us, and in the process, we lose sight of the true meaning of wealth: inner peace and security.

Astrological Association: Sun in Capricorn

The Thoth tarot recognizes the 4 of Pentacles as Power, a card of drive, forcefulness and endurance. The square-like structure is a castle with a moat built around it, and the four inner squares represent towers and the corresponding elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Here, Air is representative of mental power, Water of emotional stamina, Fire of dynamism and spiritual vitality, and Earth of physical health and well-being. Together, the image on the card depicts a sort of stronghold of the self. The castle signifies wealth, resources and emotional belonging, which when taken together, are indicators of security and stability. The moat shows the limits and boundaries that oftentimes need to be imposed if this sense of power is to be contained and used effectively. Here, all four levels of control are essential (mental, spiritual, emotional and physical) if we are to safeguard that which is precious to us, whether these be material goods or the relationships in our life. It’s important to remember that power in this context exists not just for its own sake but for the purpose of empowering as well. Through the protection of mutual interests and resources, power can be effectively distributed not just for the good of the self, but for the greater good of all involved.

Individuals born between December 21-January 21 have the Sun in Capricorn, a placement which imbues the ego with a need for material stability. From a very young age, these people are driven to succeed in all that they do, measuring self-worth against the countless goals and accomplishments their families set for them. Conservative by nature, Capricorns have a healthy respect for the rules and regulations that keep a society functioning, and employ cautious, rational thought in the decision-making process. They aspire to positions of power and have a deep admiration of authority figures, especially those involved in politics or matters of national interest. The shadow side of the Capricorn personality is a tendency to be blinded by ambition and to become so obsessed with the pursuit of material riches that their actions can border on ruthlessness. Overcome by their need to seek security, the act of making money can assume complete prominence in their lives and to the detriment of all else. Terrified by the notion of ever being in ‘lack’, these individuals constantly push themselves to greater heights of achievement. Those with the Sun in Capricorn are often gifted with superior executive and managerial capabilities, allowing them to shine in politics, law and business but the shadow side of this placement can bring about tendencies towards unholy means to gaining wealth and status. Here, we need to keep in mind that the methods in which wealth is acquired hold as much, if not greater, weight than how much we succeed in making.

When merging the astrological qualities of Capricorn (Saturn) with the 4 of Pentacles (Power), there can be a danger of tyranny and self-imposed isolation, where the pursuit of wealth is all that is deemed worthy of your time and attention. A castle can be built to protect you’ve earned through sheer hard work and perseverance, but that very same structure can function to keep people out. Richness of pocket does not mean being blessed in love or spirit, so it is essential to keep all four elements of the towers in a perfect state of balance. For what good is wealth without the people with whom to laugh and rejoice in your good fortune?


“It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.” ~ Thomas Jefferson.

 

“Where there are friends there is wealth.” ~ Titus Maccius Plautus.

 

In a country well-governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly-governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” ~ Confucius.

 

The 4 of Pentacles’ appearance in a tarot spread can show a desire to attain (or maintain) a strong financial base and the corresponding danger of sacrificing one’s principles or values to acquire (or sustain) it. A certain degree of possessiveness over one’s resources is associated with this card, as is greed and material ambition. As with people who are forever pushing themselves to greater heights, achievement of one’s goals does not mean satisfaction or contentment. This card warns of being so overcome with the desire for material gain and stability that you forsake the beauty of your relationships and the truth of your heart in your quest for richness. Apart from resources, the 4 of Pentacles can also indicate a tendency to cling to the status quo. In keeping with this card’s astrological association with Capricorn (conservatism, lack of risk-taking impetus), the 4 of Pentacles encourages us not to fear change but rather embrace it. While the traditions and customs that have kept society functioning are to be honored and respected at all times, true progress comes with being willing to accept new modes of thinking and behaving, and not clinging to outmoded styles of living.

In the context of a love reading, the 4 of Pentacles can indicate holding on to a relationship even though it has outlived its usefulness. Here, the querant may be clinging to their partner not out of any great love for the person but because he/ she has gotten used to a certain level of comfort being in a committed relationship/ marriage has afforded them. Fear of change is implicit in this card, and it is important to remember that a deep-rooted fear of abandonment can keep you chained to a partner who may very well be as miserable as you, but is holding on for the sake of financial if not emotional security. When a relationship breaks up, there are a number of factors to be considered. First, if the partner has been the sole breadwinner, than the dissolution of a partnership can effect a drastic reversal of your financial security. Secondly, there are the expectations of family and culture to consider, where pleasing the status quo can be motivation for staying in an unsatisfying relationship. With the 4 of Pentacles, issues of material gain, status and security are emphasized.

In a career-related spread, this card can point to staying in a job that breeds nothing but discontent, but because it pays the bills, the querant grudgingly chooses to live with the ennui. Again, the Capricornian qualities of conservatism come to the fore: it is better to be safe than sorry. Dissatisfaction with current job circumstances are preferable to the uncertainty of unfamiliar opportunities that cannot guarantee concrete returns. In keeping with the theme of the fours and their concern with thebuilding of foundations, long-term goals must be considered if true happiness is to be achieved. Sometimes, this can mean staying in a dull job for the sake of financial security, because the circumstances and the status quo just do not permit otherwise at this point in time.

From a financial perspective, the 4 of Pentacles indicates someone with a miserly disposition. It frequently describes a person who has all the comforts that money can buy but despite their incredibly stable financial status, refuses to share their bounty with anyone. Abundance is infinite, Mr Scrooge, so why so stingy?

In a health reading, this card comes as a sign that any physical manifestations of illness are often closely linked to your attitudes and beliefs about money and security. Capricorn rules the bones, joints, teeth and skin, so ailments that affect these parts of the body can be seen as psycho-spiritual symptoms of deep-seated neuroses. Constipation and migraines are also common, and point to a need to learn how and when to let go. Is their a particular value system you are clinging to?  Do you stay in unhealthy relationships because you are afraid to face the truth that change brings? Or do you harbor negative emotions such as anger, pride and envy? Because of the 4 of Pentacles’ tendency to hold onto things that have outlived their use, the message with this card is to release all that no longer benefits you, be they possessions, beliefs, or memories. Once this is achieved, all your aches and pains will vanish as if by magic.

“The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” ~ Henry Ellis.

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