IV. The Four of Pentacles
The end of what some referred to as “the season of the mystic” seems like it came abruptly, but it was actually two distinct stages that resulted in her fall from grace and her eventual exile from the Kingdom of the Swords. She seemed so otherworldly and superhuman after being appointed Head of Agriculture by the royal family of Swords that I suppose we just thought of her as invincible. It’s anyone’s guess what she thought of herself in that unforgiving autumn, but I reckon if you’re human enough to fail, you’re also human enough to feel afraid. I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.
The first rains fell early on in the autumn, before it was cold enough for the snow to set in. No one really paid it any mind until maybe about a week in, when instead of showing signs of easing up, the village was pummeled by a storm the likes of which you maybe see only a handful of in a lifetime. A week after that, some homes were severely damaged as the downpours continued regularly. And another week after that, some homes were gone. All of our automatons were lost in the flash floods that also took with them a good number of homes and livestock. The scarecrows were able to fend for themselves in the violent weeks of rainfall but the mechanical men were just no match for that amount of water.
It would have been stranger trying to rebuild after the crushing blows of the storms had it not been for the scarecrows. In fact, we barely felt the loss of the automatons, sometimes forgetting they had even been there until we’d come across their rusted frames in collapsed heaps, scattered sporadically in the fields. The storms hit us hard, but if that had been all we needed to endure, we’d have pulled through. The scarecrows collected what harvest wasn’t lost in the floods and helped to hold us together through a hard winter.
I wouldn’t say we were prepared for the level of devastation that come from the floods, but stormy weather is a harsh part of life in the Kingdom of Swords. Droughts are not. That’s not to say they’ve never happened but I couldn’t recall a drought in my lifetime, though I’d heard stories of a dry spell when my grandfather was just a boy. With a war declared against the fertile neighboring Kingdom of Pentacles and too great of a distance to the water-rich Kingdom of Cups, we had no reprieve from the oppressive heat and dryness that seemed to wither our fledgling crop before our eyes.
Adding to the brutality, our scarecrows were not faring as well against the dry heat as they did against flood waters. Soon, our scarecrows were painfully dehydrating to mere husks in our fields and any attempts to seek renewals from the mystic fell on deaf ears. I walked to September Hollow myself, waiting until the sun was low in the sky so that I wouldn’t succumb to heat stroke in my travels. Dragonflies cut through the hot air, somehow immune to an inescapable brutality.
I arrived at September Hollow to be greeted by the mystic’s assistant who somberly told me that the crop of pumpkins needed for renewing my scarecrow would not be ready for some time. I protested but the assistant seemed to not even hear me. As I stood there arguing, she wordlessly walked away from me across the cracked, hard earth that once presented the lush pumpkin fields of September Hollow to where the mystic stood. I wouldn’t have even noticed her in the early evening she stood so still and silent. I was startled out of my anger as I watched the assistant place a hand on her mentor’s shoulder but the mystic gave no response. Dumbfounded and out of options, I dragged myself back to the village through the dust and falling darkness.
Somewhere in the bountiful clouds of complaints, I remember telling folks about what I’d seen in the twilight at September Hollow. Naturally, I hadn’t been the only one knocking at the mystic’s door so to speak and it seems. Strangely, others reported seeing a similar scene: the assistant trying to break the mystic from what seemed like a trance, motioning to something on the electronic tablet she always carried. The mystic never responded in any of these accounts. Likewise, no one got a scarecrow renewal, not that we had much for the scarecrows to do.
Desperation was in the air and thoughts were actually turning to storming September Hollow for answers. The strange thing is that, deep down, I think we knew the mystic wasn’t at fault for the hand that nature dealt us. But in those weak moments, it was easier to have someone to blame. I suppose the Swords Family felt the same because we soon got word that the mystic had been relieved of her probationary position as the Head of Agriculture. The Garden of Swords was nothing but wilted husks and dust, much like the dead scarecrows that littered its arid grounds.
The Four of Pentacles was an appropriately scary card for me to work on. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, my work on the cards seems to parallel events in my own life and the Four of Pentacles is a card that can be weighed down with anxiety and a feeling that what we have just isn’t enough. It’s a common theme that runs through everyone’s lives, though it can often be difficult to divorce ourselves from our egos enough to see it clearly. We hold on tightly to what we have, terrified that it’s slipping away. Yet the tighter we hold, the more we lose. This is the hard lesson at the heart of the Four of Pentacles.
A Tight Grip That Can Only Lose
Here, we see the mystic desperately clinging to one of her pentacle coins. It burns its image through her clasped hands. This has a lot of meaning in that she is tightly holding onto something that is bringing her pain. At the same time, her tight grip mars and obscures the image of the pentacle (with the broken pentacle representing disconnect from source, purity, flow, and trust here). The mystic is turned away from the assistant, choosing instead to survey the dry, cracked fields of her failure, the dying scarecrows and rusted automatons, with inconsolable horror.
The Four of Pentacles Cautions Us Against Fear and Illusion
The mystic is trapped in a nightmare of her own making; a mental cage of doubt and desperation. In Native American mythology, the rabbit is a symbol of fear with the admonition that if you hold onto your fears, they will manifest and consume you. A rabbit adorns the belt of the mystic as a reminder of the fear that she’s chosen to live in. Native American mythology also depicts dragonflies as symbolic of illusion; a reminder not to get lost in the labyrinthine hall-of-mirrors that convinces us of a concrete, limiting perspective. At times, we need to disconnect from our illusions and perspectives. We are souls and energy, not the stories that we tell ourselves. Those stories are only truths as dictated by the ego. Instead of holding her pentacle coin with gratitude, the mystic holds it with a sense of lack; a fear-based illusion forged by her ego. The Four of Pentacles asks us to shift away from these illusionary terrors before dragging the nightmares of our minds into our physical realm.
Ignoring the Solution That Taps Us On the Shoulder
The assistant is not immune to the fear but she’s coping with it better than her mentor. She wears a look of concern on her face, though this concern is less about the failed enterprise of Scarecrow Agriculture and more about the mental state of her teacher. The assistant is holding her tablet in her hand which bears a message in the writing of her people which would roughly translate to “DNA.” This is the key to a potential solution to the mystic’s current presumed impasse, but the mystic can’t hear it as she’s so lost in the nightmare and the frenzied struggle to retain what she so fears she’s losing. The assistant’s notes will (fortunately for the mystic) come up again a few cards from now, but for the time being, the solution will remain out of the mystic’s reach through her own actions. This is particularly frustrating as the fear in the mystic’s eyes betrays that, despite her clinging to dying methods and falling into a state of seeming paralysis, she feels a pressure to take a risk on a new method.
The Four of Pentacles introduces us to a bizarre character flaw of the mystic. Despite the brilliant solution tapping her on the shoulder, she stays rooted in pessimism and insecurity which basically anchors her firmly to a sinking ship. These are all sub-themes of the Four of Pentacles: the spurring on to try new methods, the warning not to get stuck in the quicksand of doubt and indecision, the propensity in some of us to stay numb to the clues and signs from the universe all around us.
The fundamental disconnection of the mystic through ego is echoed in the dry, cracked, broken pentacles of the borders and the remaining three pentacle coins strangled and constricted by dry, brittle dead twigs. Rotted, collapsing jack-o’-lanterns (the dead heads of scarecrows) mark the border as well, symbols of the mystic’s dwindling enterprise.