Chapter V: The Five of Pentacles
You’d be hard pressed to find a single family that wasn’t dealt a crippling blow by the odd weather that wrought its unwavering cruelty on the Kingdom of Swords during the Season of the Mystic. But nature’s war against us was further compounded by the human war that had been growing in fury for some time. The Kingdom of Swords had been in conflict of varying degrees of intensity with the neighboring Kingdom of Pentacles for as long as any of us could remember. It was in those darkest of days when we were rationing our meager food supplies and praying for rain that we received unexpected news the likes of which we’d never have expected. A cloud of Sword Knights had descended upon the Knight of Pentacles and extinguished his life. While we didn’t have much material to throw together a celebration, a celebration was required nonetheless. So, we danced through the hot night, drunk on cheap pumpkin wine. With each swig of the bottle, I felt like I was not just toasting the death of our enemies in the Kingdom of Pentacles, but also the death of Scarecrow Agriculture and the ultimately long, hard fall that came with it. We swallowed the spiced swill gluttonously, as if it were made from the corpses of the scarecrows themselves. Blinded by booze and bitterness, we never saw her go and that was in her best interest. Amidst our revelry, the mystic and her assistant vacated September Hollow, presumably through the decaying industrial remnants of the rusting factories that line the crumbling roads leading out of the Kingdom of Swords and into the Kingdom of Pentacles. That evening we passed out with curses on the family of Pentacles and the mystic on our cracked, dry lips.
*Thus ends the accounts documented by the people of the Kingdom of Swords. What follows is transcribed from the records of the Kingdom of Pentacles.*
While we know that the royal family of Pentacles had been observing the woman who we, the public, only know as “the mystic” for some time, we do not have full access to those royal notes and can only speculate upon what the family has confirmed. However, we should mention that had it not been for the astute Page of Pentacles’ curiosity of Scarecrow Agriculture, our fates may have been different. While we have no doubt that the Kingdom of Pentacles would eventually triumph over the Kingdom of Swords, the path to success would have certainly been slower.
Reports began to trickle in of the mystic’s arrival before she’d even officially arrived in the Kingdom of Pentacles. She was seen stumbling through the industrial zone toward the periphery of the Kingdom of Swords where faded advertisements for the wonders of Scarecrow Agriculture met celebratory propaganda of the tragic fall of our army’s general, the Knight of Pentacles. All reports painted her as barely capable of trudging forward, desperately clutching a cheap bottle of pumpkin wine in her hands, followed by her subservient, yet no less concerned assistant who seemed to have refrained from completely obliterating her senses with soothing chemicals. The mystic stepped over the collapsed husks of vagrant drug addicts, almost unaware of their presence while her assistant kept a singular focus on her.
It shows real vision that the Page of Pentacles actually saw opportunity as the first impression we got was that this staggering drunk could never hope to touch the heights of the tales that preceded her. We didn’t see an otherworldly mystic. We saw someone who had given up hope and lost her way…assuming she’d ever had a way to lose.
There’s a lot to be said for letting go in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges but this response was rarely encouraged in my own life. I spent a lot of time pressed up against a problem, suffocating myself with it, pummeling it with my fists until they were bloody tatters of uselessness. Doing our best is not always the same as trying in the face of a challenge. Life gives us signals to be still, to go within, to travel with the flow, to take the path of least effort. Sometimes we don’t take the path of least effort because we don’t trust that the path will lead us where we want to go. In my life, a refusal to relax in a stalemate has resulted in some miserable experiences where I end up collapsed and immobilized anyway. A universal scenario would be the worker who pushes himself to show up to the job day after day despite a developing cold. Typically, that worker will reach a point where the cold will consume him and he’ll be much worse off than had he just listened to life’s signals early on and rested. The Five of Pentacles illustrates that point of resignation; a point where the mystic has pushed herself past that point, bitterly clutching her dwindling pentacle coins only to end up destitute and penniless.
The Subtle Trajectory of Life
Here, we find the mystic driven from her farm/lab in September Hollow to the cold, decrepit industrial zone bordering the Kingdom of Swords. At the top of the illustration, a chipped and rusted sword skewers four pentacle emblems also tarnished with rust. The sword is actually pointing the mystic forward to indicate the world beyond us propelling us in the moments when we are resigned and, in a sense, standing still. While the mystic is literally walking forward, in the greater sense of her story, her vacating the Kingdom of Swords is actually her resignation; the moment that she settles and begins to fall into place in her life’s trajectory.
The Unique Resignation in the Five of Pentacles
To further show that the mystic has given up, she is seen clutching a bottle of cheap pumpkin wine, staring off in drunken vacancy with unfocused eyes. It’s not immediately obvious in the illustration, but the poster victoriously advertising the Knight of Pentacles’ death presents an opportunity to the mystic. Likewise, the vagrant youth she has just stepped over embodies a key to yet another great opportunity. All of this will become clear within the next few Pentacles Suit cards, but at this junction, we are as much in the dark as the mystic herself. However, the mystic would maybe have noticed the potential in the death of the Knight of Pentacles and the vagrant youth had she not dulled her senses with cheap wine, choosing to get lost in the labyrinths of her sorrows. Drinking to dull pain is not quite the same as resignation to a situation but luckily for the mystic, the Five of Pentacles finds her doing a little bit of both. In the Four of Pentacles we saw the mystic lost in fear, ignoring the ideas of her assistant. The Five of Pentacles finds her collapsed in intoxicated hopelessness, blinded to opportunities hinted at by the world around her.
The Haunting of Past Achievements Through Filters of Failure
The bitter dregs of her past achievements haunt the mystic in the Five of Pentacles. She has just passed a faded advertisement trumpeting the benefits of Scarecrow Agriculture from a previous time when success seemed tangible. She rakes swigs of harsh pumpkin wine produced from the dregs of whatever meager crop her efforts managed to yield. She is literally drunk on her own failure.
The Support of the Universe Through the Assistant
The mystic’s assistant has more optimism than the mystic and has chosen to face their situation in sobriety. However, she is ignorant to the opportunities around them as well because she is blindly following her mentor and also spending her energies trying to make sure the mystic doesn’t hurt herself in her drunken state. Here, the assistant is a reminder of the cradling hands of the universe; despite the darkness of the mystic’s situation she has a competent individual ready to care for her if necessary. Though the mystic is nearly oblivious to her assistant at this point, it doesn’t change that such reinforcement is ready to catch her if she should fall.
The Otherworldy Haunts of the Five of Pentacles
The rabbits reappear in both the rusted metallic thorny rose borders of the advertisement posters and the borders of the Five of Pentacles card itself. This continues upon the rabbit image on the mystic’s belt in the Four of Pentacles but in the Five of Pentacles we are not met with the mere silhouette of a rabbit but instead rusted, gruesome corroded nightmare versions of the creatures manifest. In the borders, the rabbit heads are presented upside down, inverted crosses being used to indicate an over-the-top, otherworldly horror; a reality infiltrated by demons we tried to suppress desperately in the Four of Pentacles. The Five of Pentacles finds those demons running free over our immobilized bodies. However, this is a momentary darkness as we’ll see in future cards in the Pentacles suit.
Cracked inverted pentacles in the border were intended to indicate a total reversal of the fortunes of the first three Pentacles cards. I later learned that an inverted pentacle does not mean a reversal of fortunes and can, in fact, magnify fortunes. With this knowledge, inverted pentacles were later used with such sentiment in my Queen of Pentacles card. However, through my ignorance, the inverted pentacles in the borders of the Five of Pentacles were meant to indicate a reversal of financial fortune and since they were forged with this intention (and such an intention remains in the symbols and mood of the rest of the Five of Pentacles illustration), such an intention remains.