A Tarot de Marseille Thumbnail: 10 of Coins

In the TdM 10 of Coins, the “seed” shown in the 9 of Coins has gone straight to flower and the sheltering husk has dissolved. The flower now takes center stage and the converging triangles of the 5 of Coins have been driven apart by a blocking square, while the four leaves that were tightly clustered have now unfurled. The grasping nature of the 9 of Coins has relaxed into an acceptance of whatever comes, not exactly fatalistic but comfortable with the status quo.


With the elimination of the center cell, the doubling of the “Five” pattern has produced two instances of the “3 + 2” isomorph rather than the single “4 + 1” array we saw earlier. As I mentioned then, 3 + 2 according to the numerology of Saint-Martin represents “opposition to progress, fixation in a stagnant state, cessation of unfoldment, ” and in Joseph Maxwell’s words implies a kind of veiled “menace.” (Hmm, I was wondering why Pythagoras considered 3+2 to be symbolic of “marriage.”) However, the four coins of the square hold the contradictory triangles apart, imposing a form of “King’s peace” on the situation (in the Anglo-Saxon law of medieval England, it meant the general peace secured to the entire realm by the law administered in the king’s name). The design suggests an uneasy truce, but I’m thinking that neither side has the energy or resources to continue the hostilities so it may be a truce of necessity rather than diplomacy. The addition of the flower unites the opposing quinaries in harmonious accord, burying the hatchet for the time being. The design also makes me think of a “crowded house,” and the flower suggests a matriarchal presence that, with a light, joyful touch, keeps order in the household. Given that Four is the number of the Emperor, it could also hint at the “power behind the throne.”

In another sense, the flower could signify the One that is hidden in the structure of the  Ten (numerologically, 1+0 = 1, a return to the original unity). It is the promise of a new cycle aspiring to its fruition. In the 10 of Coins, the suit’s (and the entire deck’s) saga  has reached its final chapter, with all momentum spent; the image resembles a dormant field in which new life has just taken root. Thus, the end embodies its own fresh start but, as I see it, that start does not partake of the essence of the Coins, which has grown stale, but rather of the suit of Batons. The life-force flowing through the flower draws on the natural vigor of the Batons, about which I said in an earlier post “nature is more puissant than artifice.”

There is another interesting correlation that is worth noting. Although none of his works are known to have survived, 1st-Century Greek philosopher Aetius of Antioch is attributed by other writers with the following observation about the decad.

“Ten is the very nature of number. All Greeks and all barbarians alike count up to ten, and having reached ten revert again to the unity. And again, Pythagoras maintains, the power of the number 10 lies in the number 4, the tetrad. This is the reason: If one starts at the unit (1) and adds the successive number up to 4, one will make up the number 10 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10). And if one exceeds the tetrad, one will exceed 10 too…. So that the number by the unit resides in the number 10, but potentially in the number 4.”

In this exalted numerological sense, the square of four coins prefigures its elaboration in the ten. One source gives the definition of elaboration as “blossoming, flourishing, flowering,” which provides another enlightening insight into the meaning of the central flower. I’m beginning to think that some of the pips (and especially this one) may have had a philosophical basis after all.

In any situation that involves setting the stage for the next phase of growth, the 10 of Coins can show the groundwork that must be laid to ensure a successful launch. It is like compost that has aged and mellowed to the point that it can now furnish nutrients to augment the soil for replanting. In that sense, although the “old guard” will soon depart the field, preparations must be made for installment of the new administration. The aforementioned feeling of “menace” or dread may only be anxiety generated by having to face the unavoidable transition.

The RWS 10 of Pentacles echoes the “crowded house” metaphor while also showing three generations suggestive of family history. It is a good card for enjoying the fruits of ones labor in peace and quiet; the somewhat passé concept of a blissful retirement is displayed to perfection. This is one RWS card with which I have little quarrel. In divination the implication is one of restful but unexciting circumstances, something the old appreciate far more than the young (for whom it could portend only stultifying boredom). The Thoth 10 of Disks is titled “Wealth,” and the image is one of its robust accrual; there is an antique quality to it that makes me think “old money.”

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