Hi everybody – I apologize that some of the information on the left needs updating, as I haven’t been holding workshops at The Triple Goddess since the beginning of the COVID outbreak. I haven’t been able to update certain segments of this blog, because the system recognizes me as a user/employee of this blogpost, but not an “administrator.” This is probably because I started the blog while using a now defunct e-mail account/provider, and then Blogger also underwent some changeups when it got acquired by Google. I hope to retire in a few months, and so will have more time then to see if I can fix this problem.
Meanwhile, I’m looking ahead to next Monday, August 5th, 2022, which is Labor Day, and I’ve been reflecting on Hannah Arendt’s observation that labor is a uniquely human expression of the life force. For this reason, I included a candle rite for Labor Day in my book, “By Candlelight: Rites for Celebration, Blessing, and Prayer.” The little candle lighting ritual is accompanied by a recitation to “honor my own labor, … honor the labor of those who have gone before me, and … honor the labor of workers everywhere.”
Because our daily work consumes so much of our time, determines how we channel our energies, and is an expression of our identities, this is something that aspiring tarot artists might think about when creating new illustration designs. Images of work life do seem to be lacking in most tarot decks. For example, in the Rider Waite Smith deck, which I usually find to be the best deck for the range of imagery, the only real scenes of labor are in the Three of Pentacles, which features a stonemason, and the Eight of Pentacles, where an artisan sits at a workbench forging pentacles. However, labor is implied in the Seven of Pentacles, where a farmer gazes at his planting, and the Ten of Wands, where a man is carrying a load of wands toward a destination.
Taking a quick glance at some of my other decks, I find the 8 of Pentacles is the card that most consistently portrays a person at work. Pentacles relate to material world concerns and the contingencies of daily living, while the Eights have to do with how we organize our energies. Applying this to modern work life, I’m reminded of the African-American expression, “making your Eight,” which conveys the idea that if you want to get along in this world, you have to put in your eight hours of work each day.
The Pentacles are the suit most associated with labor, (especially agricultural labor), though because Wands have to do with enterprises, one could illustrate them with some entrepreneurial scenes. Cups suggest social work, nursing, childcare, and hospitality, while Swords suggest military and law enforcement activities.
Also, scenes of labor in the tarot are almost always limited to the Minor Arcana. However, an exception is Joanna Powell Colbert’s “Gaian Tarot,” where The Emperor is shown at work on a wood-carving project, the Seeker of Earth is spinning at an old-fashioned spinning wheel, and the Guardian of Earth is inspecting his corn crop, as seen below:
Maybe because I am a Midwesterner, I like this idea of portraying Tarot royalty and authority figures as also engaged in meaningful work. This is especially a different way of representing the Emperor, (and this portrayal of skilled craftsmanship also expresses a certain Midwestern type of masculinity). These images also affirm the dignity of labor.
While I realize that tarot imagery can’t get too specific and needs to be fairly general so that more people can relate, images of work life give us something additional to think about in relation to the cards’ multi-layered associations.