“Live long and prosper,” the Vulcan saying from Star Trek, is a blessing that’s existed in some form within artifacts across cultures and eras: the Torah, ancient Egyptian texts, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, to name a few. In the tarot, this mortal story about the drive to achieve prosperity appears as the suit of Pentacles.
In addition to the overarching themes of the Major Arcana, the tarot contains four minor dramas represented by the four 14-card suits in the Minor Arcana. These are the Pentacles, Swords, Wands and Cups. You can think of each suit as a plotline in the soap opera of a life. Generally speaking, the Pentacles plotline is about handling material resources and finding a sense of safety or security.
What does it mean to be prosperous? A literal interpretation of the word would involve money and wealth. As you explore the Pentacles, however, you’ll find that this suit draws on deeper abstract associations, just as all decisions involving money are influenced by underlying motivations such as charity, comfort, and belonging.
General Associations with Pentacles
First of all, what exactly is a pentacle? Before the early 20th century, this suit was known as the coins, and many tarot readers still refer to it as such. Pentacles, like coins, are often round metal disks. Unlike coins, pentacles are also explicitly magickal talismans worn or used for protection.
When A.E. Waite designed the Rider-Waite-Colman deck, he evoked the pentacles to acknowledge the occultists who influenced the tarot. The choice also helps us understand the suit as more than just a simple symbol of money. Pentacles are, after all, a protective blessing much like “live long and prosper.”
I suggest creating a list of your unique responses to the idea of the coin. Does it make you think of luxury and abundance? Relief from worry? Or are you likelier to think of greed? It might also help to create a separate list of your associations with the idea of “protection.” What makes you feel safe? Financial security might be on that list, but you could also include factors like community, trust, and lineage. Remember that safety and how we attain it are also part of the story of the Pentacles.
The following general characteristics are related to the Pentacles:
- The Greek classical elements of earth, which is associated with the body
- The astrological earth signs Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn
- The character traits of dedication, perseverance, and practicality
- Situations involving security, career, financial assets, and health
- Passive energy
- The season of winter
- The waning crescent moon phase
- Action happening within years
- The direction of north
The list above contains indicators of time, place, personality, circumstance, and energy. The cards around the Pentacles cards in your spread can help you determine which indications are most appropriate in the context. You can also rely on your personal understanding of the Pentacles to guide your intuition.
Brief History of the Suit of Pentacles
The coin imagery in the earliest known tarot decks came from even earlier playing cards. For example, a card game from Egypt that included a suit of coins likely arrived in Europe in the 14th century. In this deck and subsequent European versions, the suits represented social values or statuses. In medieval European society, the coins and related suits came to symbolize the merchant class. Merchants weren’t nobility, but the growth in trade in the Middle Ages meant that some workers became wealthier—and even more powerful—than nobles.
In this way, the coins represented a means of gaining security and social influence even if you weren’t born with high social status. While this emblem of the merchant class exists in the Pentacles, the tarot suit of Swords holds a vestige of the nobility’s story: it’s a suit of higher purpose and so-called “noble causes.” In your tarot readings, Pentacles and Swords probably don’t directly indicate specific social classes. The suits now simply suggest different focuses even though both can involve ambition and power.
Positive Aspects of Pentacles
Imagine Pentacles energy as the slow growth of a well-tended garden. This suit is steady, nourishing, and regenerative. It can create great beauty and abundance in our lives, making hard things feel possible and easy things feel especially enjoyable.
When Pentacles represent personality traits, the strengths of the personality might include steadfastness, practicality, and business acumen. These types are traditionally good with financial and career decisions, and they have healthy ambition and the motivation to succeed in their endeavors.
But balanced Pentacles personalities aren’t concerned only with themselves and their work. They readily share their resources and gifts. If you’re seeking advice in your work life, they make excellent mentors. Just don’t underestimate the pleasure that this hard-working suit can bring! A Pentacles person gives invaluable practical guidance while also often offering a jolly good time.
Negative Aspects of Pentacles
When Pentacles energy is stagnant, the weaknesses of an earthly influence are more apparent. Change might be difficult or slow, even if it’s necessary. Complacency, stubbornness, or overindulgence can become more dominant traits.
Someone who is particularly skilled at handling material resources can be miserly if they’re too fearful of scarcity. For this reason, left untended this energy might also lead to selfishness, greed, or denial of emotional and spiritual needs.
Meaning of Pentacles in a Reading
When your reading contains more Pentacles than other suits, your situation involves concerns or conflicts about the material world. Some examples of Pentacles-heavy circumstances include the following:
- Sharing resources
- Taking care of your health
- Making business decisions
- Buying property
- Providing for family or friends
- Collaborating with roommates in a living situation
- Deciding whether to pursue continuing education
Of course, these decisions involve other motivators too. Your values, your creative energy, and the quality of your relationships might appear as the other suits. The placement and type of Pentacles cards help you understand how material concerns are influencing other elements of your life and vice versa.
Pentacles in Love Readings
Yes, money matters in love! And relationship commitments are a type of investment.
This suit in a love-focused reading indicates maturity in the stage or quality of the relationship; typically, relationships with Pentacles energy are committed or long-term relationships, and they might offer significant material benefits. For example, the querent who receives them in reading might be married or sharing finances.
In questions about love, they could reveal that social status and material resources are strong motivators. They also indicate issues with balancing work and love, handling joint finances, co-parenting, and so on. When this suit represents the querent or their partner in a love reading, there’s evidence that this person is loyal, responsible, and a good listener—or that these qualities are needed but not expressed.
Pentacles in Work Readings
Pentacles have an obvious relationship to work. Although each card holds specific guidance, the focus when many Pentacles appear is often the financial situation, work relationships or bureaucracy, or a task that requires hard work over time. You should assess your situation to see who provides stability and who threatens it (and why). You also might need to reconsider a business decision or investment.
For ideas on some good spreads to start with you should check out our examples for 10 three card spreads.
Journey of the Pentacles
In this suit, the ten numbered “pip cards” tell a story about the material results of dedication to a meaningful task. Sometimes, the task literally involves work. The duty could also be a labour of love or other decision that affects finances and resources.
With your deck, arrange the pip cards of Pentacles in numerical order. Notice how the imagery shifts as the coins stack up from the ace to the ten. What expressions or body language do you notice? What backgrounds or tools appear? By creating a story using the Pentacles, you can explore the ways that this energy appears in our lives.
The table below includes some keywords to guide you. I’ve also demonstrated one story you could tell with the Pentacles cards. Although there are infinite possibilities, my story involves a querent who decides to have a biological child.
|Card||Keywords||Story Meaning: Example|
|Ace||Opportunity, new investment||During your pregnancy, you prepare yourself and your home for the child.|
|Two||Prioritizing, balancing||After birth, you balance household chores, caregiving duties, and work.|
|Three||Collaboration, mentorship, recognition||With time, your small family and your balance of resources begin to feel secure.|
|Four||Conservation, greed, fear||You develop a fear that something bad will happen, so you buy many expensive childcare products. However, you don’t socialize with others or frequently leave the home.|
|Five||Hardship, loneliness||You feel isolated within your family unit.|
|Six||Generosity, resource sharing||You find a group of parents who support one other in your community. You can share resources and child care.|
|Seven||Diligence, discipline||It’s difficult to raise a child, but you do it.|
|Eight||Passion, improvement||As your child grows, you become motivated to return to your writing career.|
|Nine||Self-sufficiency, refinement, ease||Both you and your child are exploring your independence and sense of individual expression.|
|Ten||Abundance, prestige, security||You publish an important text, and your child decides what they want to do after graduating. You feel proud of yourself and your family.|
Court Cards of Pentacles
The four court cards often represent people, including you, whose astrological signs are Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorn. If not earth signs, these people might instead have the traits traditionally associated with earth energy.
Who in your life has a Pentacles personality or is in a Pentacles-related stage? The descriptions of the court cards below offer general outlines of these people.
Page of Pentacles
This Page is for a youthful person who might be a student. Their appearance is often stylish and attractive, and their attitude is studious or pragmatic. This is someone dedicated to learning a skill or art, likely someone who practices that skill every day. The Page of Pentacles can also bring financial news, such as the receipt of a scholarship or a raise at work.
Knight of Pentacles
The Knight is often a person in an early stage of an important enterprise. Their approach is methodical, and they have faith that the plan they’ve established will result in long-term success. Of all the Knights, this one moves the slowest, but their steadiness is often rewarded. (Aesop’s fabled tortoise comes to mind.)
Queen of Pentacles
This Queen knows how to treat herself well—there’s a real appreciation for the finer things. But the luxurious lifestyle is usually earned, and it isn’t a great satisfaction alone. This Queen is often passionate about empowering others and creating safe spaces. You might find her starting a community garden or creating opportunities for less experienced people at work.
King of Pentacles
The King of Pentacles has earned an established name and status. He knows what he values, and he’s achieved all the goals that the Knight of Pentacles is planning and working toward. At their best, these Kings are generous and use their influence for the greater good. They might offer lavish gifts without expectations, and they always tip well.
Questions of the Pentacles
The Pentacles raise questions that might take time to answer. They also encourage us to take action without instant gratification. Reassuring us that our faith in our abilities, passions, and promises is deserved, especially when the path toward our goals is hard. This is the gift of the Pentacles.
After you receive them in a tarot reading, ask yourself the following questions when you journal or meditate:
- What do I want, and what do I need to achieve that?
- How is my lifestyle helping me attain my goals?
- Who or what makes me feel secure and certain as I move forward?
- Do I need to make changes to my plan or follow it more closely?
- Who else in my community has needs, and how can I help them?
- When can I take bigger risks, and when does a conservative approach make more sense?