The Four of Pentacles reminds me that the gifts of the zodiac signs can also be burdens. The Earth signs of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are known for their conscientiousness, frugality, and practicality. The Shadow side of these are grasping, miserliness, and stubbornness. The rich soil freezes and becomes rocky.
The Four of Pentacles illustrates this Earthy problem. Four, a number of stability and luck, turns sour with both Cups and Coins. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Pre-transformation Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the archetypes for this card, as well as King Midas. In Robin Wood’s deck, this man is crowned with money; he has conquered money (it’s under his feet) and yet, he is not happy. He looks like a gargoyle, existing only to display that one coin over his chest. But, for whom is he displaying it? He’s barricaded himself behind a stone wall, heedless of the celebration in the sunshine going on behind him, indicated by the banners. The Four of Cups could indicate sacrificing friendship, family, and joy to the cult of work. This is also a card that can indicate conspicuous consumption, as well as miserliness. Conspicuous consumption rarely has the desired effect, and people quickly lose interest in the new toys of others. Eventually, the objects cease to be fulfilling. It looks like the temperature in that little gray box is twenty degrees lower than the temperature outside.
The symbolism of Barbara G. Walker’s Four of Pentacles also includes high, gray walls. The door to the fortress is tiny. This is an exclusive club. There are no windows, except for the tiny holes lining the top. The warm, giving nurturing of earth has turned into fallow stoniness and infertility–the grass is brown and the trees are dead. It’s ironic that this fortress was built to protect the green leaves of money, and yet, how does someone living in that fortress eat? The person carrying the golden sack is bent under his burden, struggling up the well-worn, sharp-angled path to the tiny door.
As seen on this card, the Four of Pentacles can signify being overworked and under loved. It can indicate sleepless nights and crappy food while slaving in a cubicle. The imagination and senses starve.
To be fair, that fort would be the safest place to be during the zombie apocalypse.
Here, in Mary Guinan’s illustration for the Celtic Tarot, we have a bit of a separation from the more typically Earth behavior of hoarding and hiding, and the Four of Pentacles becomes bullying and threatening, wanting to add more to the wealth under his feet. If violence is associated with the Four of Pentacles, it will be subtle and involve an attack on someone’s financial security. The Four of Pentacles can warn a questioner of someone whose motives are not in his best interest, or that the person they are dealing with is unethical.
Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is pensive here. Kris Waldherr’s deck is the only deck of mine that has a Four of Pentacles that is a sign of luck, financial stability, and wealth. This is very interesting to me, as all my other decks use the Four of Pentacles that money should be handled with care. Go with your intuition with the Four of Cups, and use the surrounding cards to figure out whether the meaning is positive or negative.
Reversed, the Four of Cups can indicate that the questioner is being a little too free with her money. The Four of Pentacles may not necessarily apply to money–it may mean that a person is being too stingy (or too free, as the case may be) with his or her time, talents, and goodwill. There is a feeling of boundaries in this card. It calls on the questioner to ask which boundaries are too open, which are too closed, and find a balance, like the perfect square the four represents.
the conspicuous consumer
Aesop’s Dog in the Manger
corrupt CEO types