Three of Coins β€” Bruegel Tarot

Friday, March 9th, 2012

β€œTell me something about gluttony,” I said with a mouthful of food.


I find it interesting that cards come in groups. I mean, for a while I was drawing lots of fives, especially the five of cups. Then I pulled a bunch of kings in a row while I was finishing up my own kings. Now two days in a row I get the Three of Coins.


When I first learned this card, I learned it as craftsmanship, artisanship, and skill. It was the card of the artist. Looking at it yesterday, I realized I missed something essential: teamwork. And today, this little white book says improvement. First, there’s a dirty-looking scoundrel who seems to be saying, β€œHeh-heh-heh, if I pay off this angel dude, I get to go to heaven! Cool!” Then there’s the middle guy saying, β€œHere, angel, take this coin, for you are of wonderous beauty!” Then there’s the angel who sort-of looks like he’s thinking, β€œGeez, why do these guys keep giving me so many coins?” As fast as he can, he gives coins out to everyone in needβ€” but new coins keep appearing in his arms. It is a progression towards selfless giving.


(Brief aside: as a professional arborist, I must say there’s no way that little grafted twig in the foreground is going to take. If you graft a top onto a rootstock, the two need to be the same size. If you graft a twig onto a tree, it needs, likewise, to be grafted onto a similar-sized twig. And the tree needs to be alive. A vibrant twig dies dead rootstock. If this is the situation, I recommend planting seeds.)


Going back to what I thought I missed: teamwork. The truth is, sometimes it’s really hard to see the rest of the team. The craftsmanship takes total focus. As skill improves toward perfection, the rest of the team may be forgotten. The mason, upon completing a building, cannot forget the architect who drew the plans. Students, upon finishing a book, cannot think themselves top in the field and forget the author of primary research. The seed cannot forget the soil that anchors it. The potter cannot forget the formless mud or the Supreme Mud Former whose actions s/he mimics. None can forget the teacher. In reverse, the architect cannot take pride in how well his plans turned out without giving thanks to the mason. The author would be a nameless nobody without a readership. The soil would erode without anchoring roots. And both potters and gods cease to exist without their creations.


We cannot forget our origins. We do not exist in a vacuum. The definition of β€œindividual” is nebulous. A solitary success implies a team. To think otherwise is pure venom. One could read in the Bruegel Tarot image that when one learns to give without thought of receiving, the gifts received are endless.

King of Pentacles β€” Bruegel Tarot

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Guido Zibordi MarchesiArtist: Guido Zibordi Marchesi


Interpretation: “Experience. Generosity. An old sparrow will not enter a cage. (An expert will not let himself be cheated.)”


β€”What is jealousy? I asked

β€”and drew the King of Coins, reversed.


Jealousy is a strong feeling of envy. It is an intense effort to hold on to one’s possessions and it is often associated with distrust, suspicion, anger, and other negative emotions.


This King of Coins is a powerful man who has an abundance of security, control, power and discipline. He generates a lot of his self-worth from what he has accumulated and what he can share with others. Reversed, he is materialistic, possessive, and jealous. Experience has taught him little about kindness. He will accommodate others only if it is to his own advantage. At times, he will do anything for money.


Easily impressed by social status, this King-Put-Upside-Down will readily fulfill requests of those he deems above him. A social snob, he dismisses those with lesser authority and status. He is a name-dropper and a braggart. He is a user, and will not think twice about the injury he causes others in his pursuit of money, possession, and power. If he is a workaholic it is out of greed and he does not share; otherwise he expects others to look after him financially.


The inverted King is often abusive toward his family, wielding disciplinary power, rigid authority and inflexible control as weapons. Failing to show his love through positive means, he excels at suppressing the spirit of others.


Β β€’1β€’

Jealousy is a Blindfold that lets
the Jealous One run face-first into Greed.
Blind with Envy, he flails his arms
Oppressing those who navigate around him.



The Jealous Sparrow locks its cage
and huddles inside with its seed.
Protected from intruders, a Jealous Bird
will never find its Freedom.


Five of Wands β€” Bruegel Tarot

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Artist: Guido Zibordi Marchesi


Interpretation: “Ambition. Those who rise too high often fall (It’s easier for those who rise too much to fall).”


I learned fives as cards of conflict. While working on my own deck, I have illustrated the cards in mostly random order, depending on which card I am able to embody next. The first card I illustrated was the star, back near the end of the last millennium when I thought I was doing a majors only deck and knew nothing much about tarot. The fives are some of the last cards I have illustrated. The fact that I had such issues illustrating fives shows I have problems with conflict.


I am my own fiercest competitor, my harshest judge, the first one to notice when I have climbed too high and fallen. The battle of the five of wands weaves itself in and out my mind and my environs. It is a clownish battle. The one who cares most about the result is my self. None of this is fun. My conflict is not fun. I wanted to illustrate the fun cards first.


The cards in this deck are strewn with symbols that are truly occult, from the Latin word occultus: clandestine, hidden, secret. They are occult because the artist chose not to publish a book pointing out the meaning of all the hidden symbols in his work. Curses upon him! This leaves it up to us, the readers, to divine what his symbols mean.


Ultimately, symbols in a work of art take on the meaning that the we, the viewers, give them. If we are unable to relate to anything in an image (or a story or a poem or a life), we pass it by. If some one tells us, “Look at thisβ€” look at thisβ€”” we are more likely to stop and look and relate and say, “I see!”


Dare I askβ€” Am I the woman in the green dress: about to step on a rake and smack my head? Have I fallen off a mountain? Am I climbing a tree with a cudgel too large in pursuit of an animal that has already fled?


In the end, we are all peasants, common people wielding the tools of our trade in argument. If any of our weapons should break, we will be unable to work. What are we arguing about? Is anyone listening to anyone else? Are we even listening to our selves?