This weeks cards are the Six of Swords, the Eight of Pentacles and the Three of Wands.
The Six of Swords is on unfriendly terms elementally with the Eight of Pentacles. The Eight of Pentacles is neutral to the Three of Wands. This makes the Three of Wands the strongest card in the set.
As I look at the Six of Swords today, he doesn’t feel quite so relaxed as he does sometimes. It feels like he has his head up looking at the trees in the distance and that he’s paddling quite fast. I look at the huddled figures in the boat and they seem rather cold. I find myself wondering whether he has blisters on his hands.
Mercury in Aquarius (the astrological counterpart to this card) can be slightly anxious and wired). It feels electric.
I have a new pair of boots and I find that these are gathering static, giving me little electric shocks as I walk around the office. Perhaps it is the ‘unfriendliness’ of the Earthy Eight of Pentacles sitting beside the swords that is prompting me to remember this. The combination is producing static and interference. I feel like the man in the boat is irritated by the wind. He is trying to protect his family by getting to the shore as fast as possible but their distress hampers him. There’s a sense that he has bundled them into the boat insisting that this is a great idea and he’s trying not to notice that they aren’t very happy.
I think the problem is that he is focusing on the goal too much. The tree tops continue to leap out at me. He wants to get there, build a nest, settle in and to know he has achieved what he wanted to achieve. Aquarius in astrology rules the 11th house of friends, group work and goals. Normally the skills we have learned in our career, the success we have achieved in the 10th house of the astrological chart then moves to the 11th house where we distribute what we have learned. Instead of working for ourselves we begin to work for the community.
But I don’t think the boatman has done this. He’s aiming straight for the top
without doing the ground work and this is causing distress.
The Eight of Pentacles as the centre card reminds us that it is important to learn to do the job well. With the Sun in Virgo, this young man willingly gives of himself. There are no airs and graces, no delusions of grandeur. The Eight of Pentacles shows that it is only by hard work, dedication and practice that we can achieve competency and eventually skill. The pentacle on the floor may be flawed but it has not distracted him. He has recognised his mistake and now works hard to correct it and perfect his art. Unlike my feeling of the boatman, this young man has his eyes fixed firmly on the task at hand. Nothing distracts him. He is in the moment and devoting all his concentration to his work. The message from the Eight is practice makes perfect.
It reminds me of playing the guitar and learning new songs. With a lot of fire in my chart I tend to want to be able to do things straight away! I can become irritated with my fingers not moving quickly enough or accurately enough. But I know that repeated practice will fix the problem however dull it may seem.
Malcolm Gladwell postulated in his book ‘Outliers’ that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. So for example if you practice something for 3 hours a day it would take around 9 years to become an ‘expert’. This is the kind of detail the Eight of Pentacles is interested in. Whilst the Six of Swords just wants to get there (wherever ‘there’ is), the Eight has a very clear idea of what it will take to get there. Much like the calluses on my guitar fingers, the apprentice in the card has taught his hands to do the work they need to do. He has worked through the soreness and mistakes to create the perfect piece over and over again.
With this solid growth behind him, the Eight can move on to the Three of Wands. We see the character in this card from behind as he stares out across a wide river into the distance. We wonder if he is waiting for his ship to come in. A mountain range gently peeks across the horizon. There is an expansive feel to the card which suggests to me the openness of the man in the picture. He is open to what may happen on the journey and the journey itself is something to desire. Unlike the Six of Swords, it’s not all about the end result. The Mountains are so far away that it may take many years to reach them but this character seems courageous enough and inspired enough to cross the river into the lands beyond. He is supported by all that he has learned so far (symbolised by the wands) and willing to branch out.
The three wands behind him are strong and in bud symbolising he is embarking on a journey of growth. Three’s also tend to suggest being open to the ideas of others and being willing to share and develop ones own ideas in a supportive environment. Three is a number of creativity – when two people come together and create a child, they become three. This card relates to the creative spark, the urge to spread your seed, vision, the ability to look ahead. Astrologically this card is the Sun in Aries so we have two cards representing the Sun in this spread.
The Sun is about our life purpose. In an astrological chart it’s position shows where we ‘shine’. The Sun is exalted in Aries which means that it works extremely well in this position. The sense of purpose of the Sun filtered through the courageous, go getting, pioneering energy of Aries can be very powerful.
These three cards together seem to be reminding us to be willing to put the work in, in order to reach our goals. Sometimes there is no substitute for hard work. Whilst it is important to be aware of our final goal, it is our actions in the present that will carry us there. Sometimes being overly fixed on an exact vision can hamper growth. We need to be humble and realistic of the skills we have now and what we need to develop and master. By focusing on the now and not just on the future, it is possible that our final goal may shift into something better than we ever dreamed of initially.
Each of us has a purpose and we have an obligation to ourselves to fulfil our
potential. By mastering our skills, the world is opened up to us. We don’t know until we try, how far we can go and how much we can grow.
Note – My reading of the Six of Swords in this spread is based on intuitive impressions. For a more traditional exploration of the card check back to Message in a Bottle 7.