I. The Ace of Pentacles
No one really knew from where she came. Children undeterred by the August heat in the badlands of the Kingdom of Swords emphatically talked about the day she arrived in her silver rocket, weaving confidently through the barley fields like a sinuous shadow. Grandmothers confined to the shade of porches peered with cautious eyes from dry, weathered faces, whispering about ancient occult sisterhoods that our languages forgot; sororities whose essences floated quietly yet ominously through the recesses of our dreams and our collective consciousness. In hushed tones, they speculated about the obsidian jewel that graced her tan forehead, claiming that it came to life when no human eye was watching. The rumors flowed about her like her regal black robes, initially earning her the nickname “the space mystic” eventually being simplified to “the mystic.” We never knew where she came from and we never found out.
Just as you’d not find a shadow without light, likewise you’d not find the mystic without her subservient assistant, always garbed in similar robes but of purest white. The rumors bled over to this fair yet equally mysterious young woman with speculation that she was the mystic’s lover while others claimed she was simply the quiet disciple of the mystic. The story often went that the mystic was cast out of that cryptic sorority and, when given the choice, her assistant had chosen her mentor over the sisterhood, following her across the universe.
Such colorful speculation imbedded the enigmatic mystic into the tapestry of the lives of villagers travelling the narrow paths that cut across Swords Country. Along those weary roads, we’d see her like a wraith in the pumpkin patches with her diligent pale spectre never far behind.
While almost everything we know of the mystic is built on rumors and hearsay, some details were a little more concrete albeit not as lofty and fantastic. Perhaps the best example: the mystic had a seemingly singular focus on agriculture. It was well known across the kingdoms that the land in Swords Country was nowhere near as fertile as the earth in the Kingdom of Pentacles. But the farms in Swords Country could still turn out a harvest.
Almost immediately after her sudden arrival, it was confirmed that the property south of September Hollow was acquired by the mystic. Had it been anyone else that acquired that land, decent for growing pumpkins, no one would have blinked. But any real news of the mystic was devoured by the locals and quickly cannibalized for the latest rumor. Reliable sources attested to seeing strange lights in the summer night skies over September Hollow in the weeks that followed and a heightened uneasiness formed around the mystic.
People began to take longer routes home to avoid the path that passed by the September Hollow pumpkin patch. But sometimes that path was unavoidable and had it not been for one of those times, who knows when we’d have seen such a thing for ourselves. In that September twilit evening, nearing the Harvest Moon, a prominent farmer’s son was forced to take that road. In the light of the dying sun, he saw a sight that nearly sent the village into hysteria. Because toiling those twilight fields so often patrolled by the mystic and her assistant was a mechanical man. This was perhaps the real beginning of what would come to be termed “Scarecrow Agriculture”; a process that forever changed two kingdoms.
The majority of the villagers were terrified by the automatons that soon populated the mystic’s pumpkin patch, but some of the shrewder among the community approached the mystic’s assistant while she was running errands for her mentor in the village. These men held business close to the chest so the exact details of the transactions remain obscured from the public but soon we saw an automaton in the fields of all the most lucrative farmhouses in Swords Country. It’s assumed these metal men came at quite a price as the only farmhouse to boast more than two automatons was the one by September Hollow.
Word passed from farmhouse to farmhouse about these incredible robot workers. They sowed, they watered, they tilled, they harvested. These were all-purpose farming juggernauts. As will happen in the Kingdom of Swords whenever any sort of revolutionary event occurs, all eyes cautiously turned to the House of Swords in nervous anticipation. Yet, the royal family remained neither seen nor heard during those strange, early days (with the exception of the young Page of Swords who’d not deign to supply the general public with an opinion, preferring instead the company of snowmen).
Without intervention from the House of Swords, the automaton revolution was poised to be an unbridled success in the field of agriculture. Yet, even as her legion of robotic farmhands toiled away in her fields without rest, villagers were amazed to catch glimpses more often than not of the mystic and her faithful assistant, obsessively focused on a singular scarecrow amidst a sea of pumpkin and metal. At any hour of the day or night, the duo could be seen poring over a straw man with a gourd head. We were still so amazed by the mechanical men that we almost disregarded it. Who would have known the gleaming automatons were just a preamble?
Who can say whether anyone was actually there for the first animation? Accounts differ so I’ll only say what can be agreed upon. It was on a late summer afternoon when the sun was blindingly golden. The automatons were focused on the pumpkin patch as if nothing otherworldly were unfolding in their midst. It’s said that the mystic recited some sort of incantation along with a series of dramatized gestures. Purple fog poured from the patch and a torrent of wind gusted from nowhere in particular, seeming to raise the scarecrow into the air as if it were floating of supernatural means. But then the gaunt golem peered forth with a grinning glowing visage of unearthly green. Even in the wake of the invention of the automaton, we’d not have believed it. But again, those were the days before Scarecrow Agriculture.
The Ace of Pentacles marks a different point for me in my tarot project as this was my first work with the minor arcana (outside of some royalty cards). Having had some issues with money and debt, the concept of money artwas inspiring in that it was both optimistic and frightening. Many people who struggle with money have a cleverly camouflaged phobia of money and I believe money art can help to overcome that fear. My journey through the Pentacles Suit was meant to help heal my own terror of money exhibited by strange behaviors of mine; I have trouble making eye contact in business transactions. Even ordering a pizza can be a stressful situation for me because of the exchange of money.
Parallel Themes of the Pentacles Suit
Tackling the Pentacles as my first minor arcana suit was jumping into the deep end but some spiritual work I’d done filled me with faith that it would be integral for me to master properly executed money art before continuing work on the rest of my tarot deck. The parallels to my life during my work on the Pentacles Suit and the cards themselves were even closer than I’d imagined. Without opening the book on my personal life too much: when I began the Ace of Pentacles, I was unemployed and living off occasional odd jobs and the good graces of generous family and friends. By the time I’d finished the illustration portion of the Ten of Pentacles, I had a job that I loved and was pulling myself steadily out of debt.
Ace of Pentacles as the Introduction to the Space Mystic
The Ace of Pentacles is the first appearance of the mystic from outer space who serves as the protagonist of the Pentacles Suit. The mystic is a recurring character in my mythology, though her appearance in the Pentacles Suit is sort of a paraphrasing of her character. In other points of my mythology, she doesn’t have such an intense focus on agricultural advancement. However, the Pentacles Suit finds the space mystic using her magical gifts for agricultural pursuits to keep things somewhat thematic with the Pentacles’ association to earth. I also wanted the mystic to be someone with whom I could identify, thus she is not of the earth but trying to understand the earth. This would symbolize my own challenges with money.
The Symbolism of Scarecrow Agriculture
The artwork for the Ace of Pentacles illustrates the mystic using occult means to raise her first sentient scarecrow laborer from the earth. Her loyal assistant kneels among the pumpkins behind her, dutifully taking notes indicating that this is an experiment that has probably been underway for some period of time. Both the mystic and her assistant wear an expression of joy at the success of the scarecrow’s animation but it is a calm, confident celebration.
You can see the laboring automatons in the background; the mystic’s tried-and-true robotic laborers. The animation of the first scarecrow in the Ace of Pentacles marks an improvement on the robotic farming method. Scarecrows, basically golems of the earth, allow the mystic to use raw materials from the land such as dirt and vegetation to create a labor force as opposed to spending massive amounts of money on building and maintaining technological wonders.
This highlights one of the first aspects of money art so vital to the fundamentals behind the message of the Ace of Pentacles. The mystic’s use of the earth itself to create her first golem is symbolic of using an inheritance or legacy wisely to create future prosperity. The mystic is not resting on the laurels of her past successes. Instead, she’s taken her singular Pentacle and planted it and from it has grown the miracle of the first sentient scarecrow laborer.
The Ace of Pentacles as Money Art
Likewise, the Ace of Pentacles speaks about putting our energies into the earth for growth. This is reinforced by the seeds that lay at the center of each of the Pentacles in the border of the card. Contributing further to the abundant themes of money art as well as the meaning of the Ace of Pentacles, pumpkins are being harvested to present the cyclical nature of giving and receiving.
You’ll also see tiger lilies sprouting from the source of the sole Pentacle from which the scarecrow gains life. The tiger lily is a symbol of wealth. The spirals that decorate the robes of the mystic and her assistant represent creativity as the Ace of Pentacles finds the mystic achieving a novel solution through creation. The robes of the mystic and her assistant as well as the ragged shirt of the scarecrow are also adorned with the rune of Fehu, which is used as a symbol of wealth. All of this information reinforces the potency of this illustration of the Ace of Pentacles as money art.