A Tarot de Marseille Thumbnail: 9 of Coins

Going strictly on visual appearance, the TdM 9 of Coins is the “squashed” version of the 5 of Coins. The doubling of  external suit emblems has compressed the capsule holding the “seed” to a fraction of its former volume, intensifying the conditions for germination and ideally coaxing or “forcing” the kernel to sprout on a schedule that differs from its naturally occurring timetable.  In the Hadar card, the figure now has fourteen lobes instead of ten, resembling a cell culture breeding in a petri dish. This also bolsters my “autoclave” analogy of a sealed retort in which the application of elevated pressure and temperature expedites transmutation of the target substance; the smaller the chamber, the more rapid the rate of change. While this is often viewed as a card of material success, to me it conveys success under duress: “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” A period of rigorous testing is implied.

Like hovering alchemists (or, according to another paradigm, Wall Street analysts), the stakeholders are waiting patiently for the process to come to fruition. The impression of a valuable pearl inside an oyster is even more satisfying here. Other useful concepts are a flywheel or gyroscope that maintains steady-state conditions in the overall structure, or a master gear that drives the rotational speed and direction of the entire train. In military terms, I could see the design as that of an armored car, with weapons fore and aft and a helmeted driver perched on the turret. The central emblem appears to be in the “driver’s seat” and it has more horsepower at its disposal than its counterpart in the Five.


Although I won’t cite my source, the coins have been likened to “whirling disks” rather than static tokens, investing them with a more dynamic potency than they would otherwise exhibit. All of this serves to position the 9 of Coins as a motive force in the world of commerce or finance. I’m reminded of a venture capitalist or a corporate raider who has the wherewithal and vision to turn a somnolent organization around. In divinatory terms, this card speaks of opportunity writ large; it smacks of the sweeping gesture and the grandiose scheme with no patience for doing things by half.

The Nines represent the “completion” of a suit (the Tens already have one foot in the next cycle), and the Greek philosophers considered Nine the “Third Perfection” after the Three and the Six. There is a self-assured decisiveness to the 9 of Coins that the more enervated 10 of Coins can’t match; its sense of finality is that of forceful closure rather than simple exhaustion. The “art of the deal” is a handy way to think of it. The advice would be to get your ducks lined up and then march into the fray with supreme confidence in the rectitude of your cause.

The RWS 9 of Pentacles carries a less compelling bucolic metaphor (a woman standing in a secluded garden) that implies natural abundance, composure and quiet strength in reserve, but also a self-satisfied complacency bordering on smugness. There is none of the disciplined motivational vigor I see in the TdM 9 of Coins. The Thoth 9 of Disks is marginally less passive; its title “Gain” suggests an engineered accumulation of resources rather than a purely fortuitous one. Where the RWS card conveys “living off the fat of the land,” the Thoth version invokes (to steal a phrase from Smith-Barney) getting its coin the hard way, by “earning it.”

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