While tarot readers and tarot movements might interpret the King of Pentacles in unique ways… the common view of this prosperous patriarch might not be a pretty picture.
Kings of wealth typically embody the highest form of socioeconomic power. So this card immediately brings to mind an oligarchy or the 1% who controls the rest of the world.
But since kings and royal courts aren’t so much a part of our everyday lives anymore, this card reminds me of the typical hard-working husband who sacrificed his life and soul to a corporate-ruled career in order to attain a high social status as well as provide for his family. (Even a farmer in an “underdeveloped” country is arguably subject to western capitalism.)
Now a King tarot card doesn’t necessarily imply a male gender and Pentacles or Coins do not automatically mean money, depending on how this card shows up in a reading, the particular tarot deck being used, the reader’s perspective or other variables. But traditional tarot meanings do interpret this card as a man “of considerable earthly power, usually depicted as a diplomatic business-man with a lot of practical wisdom.” That’s what I’m addressing here.
This masculine energy which is more familiar to the majority of us is programmed by our environment to prioritize profits over genuine relationships, as well as resist our more creative, emotional or mystical side, as well as stamp out diversity.
It’s that conservative father figure who pressures his kids to go to a high-ranking college, attend his grandparent’s Catholic church, then carry on the family line and ethics of work. If his kids fail to live up these expectations of responsibility, he might just disown that one “black sheep” so they don’t undermine his authority or bring embarrassment to his reputation.
Why Is This Guy So Admirable?
The kicker is that even in our age of enlightenment, this masculine image is often admired for being a slave to his career, or for his patronizing charity bestowed upon his lesser privileged family members or community.
Even in the tarot community, men working hard to stay in control of powerful fields of money, business, and politics while simultaneously suppressing “lesser” genders and others is not only accepted as normal but even noble.
And yet where is the fulfillment in possessing such an imbalance of wealth and power? At some point this patriarch’s kingdom will come to an end. Even his loved ones that he worked so hard to support will die off one by one. Perhaps he would feel a strong sense of vain regret on his deathbed for not balancing his investments with more internal pursuits and soul growth.
Bringing this card closer to home, we can look at this as a warning against an extreme focus on material pleasure and sensuality to the neglect of the rest of the divine feminine, our creative passions, mindfulness or compassion and genuine relationship connections.
Or perhaps it alludes to the pressure to find our self-worth in how well we can exploit others for money, or depend on consumerism to fatally resolve our deep lack of intimacy with our own soul.
The King of Pentacles, along with other feudal system tarot images such as other court cards or The Emperor can conjure up tremendous guilt or insecure feelings of inadequacy or outright failure when they show up in a reading. They can remind us of the pressure we feel every day to suppress our divine feminine soul and buckle down with our marketing strategies so we can pay for that roof over our head.
How Can We Turn This Around?
Is it possible to divorce ourselves, even as healthy individuals, from our culture? Maybe it’s time to face the reality we all experience and call this card, and what it represents, what it is. It could be an opportunity to start dismantling these patriarchal and capitalist structures within our own minds, our own lives and therefore our society as a whole.
If so, this card might not hold the positive “yes for success” view it normally holds, depending on each of our unique life experiences and perspectives. Working hard for a fat pile of cash is certainly a valid life goal, in spite of what that may or may not imply in our current socioeconomic system.
It’s not masculinity, money or hard work that is the problem, but the way they’re used in current social systems to establish a power imbalance as well as disconnect us from our inner evolution and vitality. So for those of us who are ready to move past these antiquated male and money controlled social systems, we have other options.
Alternatives To The System
These other options do not mean glossing over the world’s present oligarchy, the deliberate creation of and exploitation of poverty, or internalized misogyny. We also don’t need to strive to find a less ugly, more positive interpretation of these discriminatory gender and class-biased tarot cards.
We can be honest about how we feel about these cards; and we’re free to not even like them. Isn’t this what tarot is about anyway? Isn’t it intended to bring our personal truths and inner knowing to the surface?
Instead of translating this card as a call to limited views of success, wealth and nobility, I now see it as more of an insecure power trip.
Maybe this card is a message to stand strong on our personal and individual values in the face of these internalized social and systemic inequalities. Maybe this personal strength will inspire others and thereby lead to true power and wealth.
The King of Pentacles doesn’t have to end with doom and gloom of the evil patriarchy or capitalist exploitation. We can thank these systems for the purposes they serve. We can use this energy as the challenge we need to awaken to, magnify and stand strong on our personal values. And we can transform that ambition for wealth and power to tangibly express the goddess within us all. It’s high time.