A Tarot de Marseille Thumbnail: 2 of Coins

There is an interesting convergence of ideas between this card and the RWS 2 of Pentacles. Here we have two coins tightly wrapped in what appears to be a ribbon with a decorative floral fringe, while the RWS card shows an off-balance juggler trying to keep two balls in the air (and not a very adept juggler, I might add, since three balls is usually considered the lower threshold of journeyman competence). In Waite’s version, the printed ribbon has morphed into a cosmic lemniscate (derived from the Latin word meaning “decorated with ribbons”), a “figure 8” symbol suggesting infinity that seems to be the only thing keeping the juggler from losing control (in other words, he’s convinced he has all the time in the world to get it right). It makes me think of Scottish economic sage Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” the unseen pressures on supply and demand that regulate business cycles. (“The invisible hand is part of laissez-faire, meaning ‘let do/let go,’ approach to the market. In other words, the approach holds that the market will find its equilibrium without government or other interventions forcing it into unnatural patterns.”) The man in the 2 of Pentacles can only hang on and hope that a higher power will intervene on his behalf; otherwise, he could be in trouble as the tempo of his performance escalates, requiring increasingly fancier footwork. (I should mention that the Thoth version is unremarkable since it is at least visually a TdM clone with a crowned snake biting its tail instead of a ribbon; it’s title, “Change” would, in an ideal world, be taken to mean “orderly, incremental change produced by reciprocal or compensatory action.”)

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At first I thought that the TdM 2 of Coins suggests a boleadoras (or bolas, but more properly a somai of two weights). The bizarre notion that it looks like an athlete’s jockstrap also crossed my mind (hmm, consider the RWS juggler’s conical red cap in that regard). The former is a throwing weapon used to ensnare small game. But on further research I realized that the analogy of a Chinese meteor – a juggler’s stage prop of two weights connected by a cord – is a better fit. This from Wikipedia:

“The meteor is based on the Chinese meteor hammer, a bolo-like weapon made from stones and rope. Approximately 1500 years ago, this hunting weapon began its transition into a performing art. The Chinese circus tradition has featured meteors with brightly colored balls, glass bowls filled with colored water, or pans of flaming oil in place of the stone weights.”

As I’ve said before, the number Two reminds me of the rhythmic sweep of a metronome or pendulum, which travels to opposite extremes but in a balanced system always returns “like clockwork” to dead center before it can fail by decoupling from its pivot point. The ribbon (or lemniscate) serves the purpose of keeping the two coins from flying off in opposite directions, and is thus a regulating device. In practical (that is divinatory) terms, the impression is that of striving to maintain one’s composure under destabilizing circumstances. If too much “rope” (or slack) is fed into the arc of the gyrating stones, chaos will surely ensue. The obvious advice is to keep a firm grip on one’s mundane affairs. There is only tenuous and fleeting equilibrium here, not the stalwart foursquare solidity of the 4 of Coins. So mind your purse strings and don’t overextend; tantalizing come-ons abound, some of them even legitimate but none of them advisable at this point in time. (Them: “Of course we’ll be happy to meet you more than half-way.” Me: “Sure you will, when pigs fly.”) Now is a moment for measured steps, not one to indiscriminately pile on risk. Contemplate the proverb of “the last straw;” despite all appearances, what currently seems nicely poised for success could reverse direction in the blink of an eye unless prudence is exercised. The clumsy juggler seems to be struggling toward Aleister Crowley’s formula “Change = Stability,” but time may in fact be short.

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