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Studying non-scenic pips - the Suits: Coins

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 12 Jan 2004, and now archived in the Forum Library.

jmd  12 Jan 2004 
In the thread Studying non-scenic pips - The Elements, the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire are mentioned.

With studying non-scenic pips, possibly the most important aspect, to my mind, is the suit itself - followed by the numbers (for example, three or four as opposed to five, six or seven), followed by the geometrical arrangement, followed by additional depicted details... and then followed by associations such as their possible elementary correlations. Of course, many would not agree, and view the elemental attributions as.... well, as elementary - even though these differ with various individuals, decks, and 'traditions'.

But let's return to the suits.

The four suits in Tarot decks are Circular things, Bladed things, Wooden stick things, and Cup-like things... I'm just trying to avoid normal names in this first instance, for it then permits each suit to be looked at in myriad ways.

But let us first focus on but one of these: 'Circular' things
  • Coins
These are often described as Coins. If one reflects on the various uses of Coins, and the ways they permit circulation of wealth and easily assists trade, much of their 'common' meaning arises.

If one also reflects as to which group of people it may be associated with, then, at least initially, it seems clear that it deals with financiers and merchants - and that involvement as merchants, consumers, financiers and the like in each of our lives.

Thinking of Coins a little more, a question which may very well be asked is why are/were Coins the way they are?
  • Seals
In many ways, they are nothing more than a lump of precious metal - and no other - but also, and very importantly, upon which a seal has been imprinted. Initially, the seal 'guaranteed' that the metal upon which it was imprinted was indeed worth its weight.

Later, the seal itself became of worth, and the metal upon which it was imprinted became irrelevant. Hence its seal appearing on nickel and other 'non-precious' and tarnishable materials - and later still paper, or in our case here in Australia, plastic (our banknotes have been made from plastics for quite a number of years now). Of course, paper notes were probably first used by the Chinese many centuries ago. The importance, again, is that the guarantee was the seal!

The seal, then, whether upon a piece of metal or a piece of paper, in some ways could be described as magically attributing value or worth. In a similar way, a Crown makes the King or Queen, not a person makes the Crown.

The 'Seal' is the magical sigil, or in earlier times (not that long ago) more commonly described as a Pantacle (not, by the way, necessarily a pentagramme, which is only one amongst an infinite number of possible pantacles).

So the suit is a suit of Seals, commonly sealing precious and untarnishable metals, which themselves have intrinsic value - yet this value is guaranteed, or sealed, by its imprinted pantacle...
  • Gold of the Earth
With regards to the metal, again this becomes important for consideration. In many ways, the implication is that the suit is made of gold...

Yet again, let us consider this, and some of the earliest 'seals'.

These were made, literally, of Earth... of clay, upon which was imprinted a seal to communicate what was needed to be recorded - hence, as a side note, one of the reasons why I too prefer to also make a correlation of this suit with the element of Earth.

What is again important here are two factors: the first is that the seal transforms the lump into more than it was, for by taking it to another who can decipher it, it becomes rich in communicating whatever message has been 'encoded'; the second is that this magical act becomes fixed within the body of the Earth - as though an idea becomes incarnated, yet at the same time is deadened by the weight of thte imprint (the written word has long being considered without the life of the spoken word).

Over time, the blackness of the material, in its most 'impure' state, became tranformed to its highest state: from the usage of clay to 'lower' metals to gold...
  • Circle
As to the very shape itself of the suit, each item is one of the simplest: the circle. It may be viewed that each of the other geometrical shapes arises from the interaction of the circle with itself. For example, if two circular planes intersect (imagine two CDs inter-penetrating), their junction forms a straight line. Add a third, and a point results.

The circle also encloses the greatest amount of space possible given a particular perimeter.

Being circular, it also prevents small corners from being chipped off...

But the subject geometry of the circle is a whole area in itself. Generally, it is viewed as perfect, and only true of the divine, everything else below the Moon only striving to reach this transmuted perfect state. Upon the Earth, the only curve which seems to bless us with perfect circularity are the motions of the removed stars, and, importantly, the rainbow... at whose hands, errr, ends, are pots of gold, of Coins upon which are magical seals...

Reflecting on each aspect of this (and no doubt much else I either do not have in my mind as I type, or I have yet to reflect on) plays in the background of the suit... 

Lee  12 Jan 2004 
I like the idea of considering the suits simply for themselves and apart from elemental considerations. Thanks, jmd, you've given much food for thought.

-- Lee 

Alex  12 Jan 2004 
This is probably an idiotic comment but I ain't have nothing more interesting to say about this subject I know so little.

In the US, the dime still, and in Brazil, as far as I can recollect, ALL coins are "serrated" on the periphery. That I know of, this tradition came from the times when coins were made of Gold: people used to scratch the outer rim from the coins, thereby rendering them a little smaller, after their weight had been certified. So serrated corners are an extra warranty that the contend hasn't been adulterated.

All that to say that soon enough people realized the seal alone wouldn't speak for the content.


skytwig  13 Jan 2004 
Thank you Teacher, jmd!! I am enlightened! :) 

kwaw  13 Jan 2004 
In qabalah coins/pentacles etc., are associated with the world of Assiah. The planetary bodies are called 'worlds of assiah'. Interesting that Etteilla in his deck associates the planetary bodies with coins/discs/pentacles/assiah?


jmd  13 Jan 2004 
Thanks everyone... glad to have your posts, reflections and additions.

Mention of the Kabalah with the specific attribution of the Assiatic world - and presumably as a whole Tree - to the suit of Coins, stems, I would have thought, from Golden Dawn views.

The planetary bodies themselves may be linked to the world of Assiah precisely because they are already within the manifested fabric of the World. But I need to go and check that this was, indeed, Etteilla's views... not that I place a high value on his thoughts, and think that many of his modifications to Tarot - as manifested in his deck - somewhat unfortunate (though this is of course my personal view, and one definitely not shared by the numerous who see in his deck a richness 'restored').

I am not very familiar with Etteilla's own works, but find it somewhat strange that he associates the suit Assiah with Coins... interesting - yet I maintain a small reservation of scepticism... good grounds for further encouraging me to dig into some sources :) 

Aoife  13 Jan 2004 
I have read that early Christian writers used the concept of true and counterfeit coinage as an analogy of the spirit, using faith as the touchstone or criterion of truth. The debasement of coinage could therefore be seen as a debasement of the truth.

A similar analogy is of coinage being a symbolic image of the soul; the soul impressed with the mark of God, just as the coin is imprinted with the seal, symbols and image of the ruler. A symbolic link between the spiritual and the material is thus suggested. From this flows the notion that the fineness of coinage is regulated by a spiritual authority........ perhaps a more effective threat against potential counterfeiters and unscrupulous rulers than mere secular punishment?

I have also read that it has been suggested that this spiritual authority was delegated to the Templars, leading inevitably to their suppression by [one or more?] rulers wanting to be free from such constraints, and thus able to manipulate the money supply to their own earthly interests. 

~X~  14 Jan 2004 
Thanks, jmd. The thing I like best about this place is that I learn something new everyday. 

The Studying non-scenic pips - the Suits: Coins thread was originally posted on 12 Jan 2004 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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