|King of Pentacles versus The Emperor
I’ll start out by admitting that I utterly failed to follow through with my personal pledge to post at least one new blog entry per week. In my self-defense, at the time I predicted I was probably setting myself up for failure by being overly optimistic. I’m going with Universal Forgiveness because the main culprit is that apparently I was overdue for an extended break. I went on an out of town vacation back in mid-August, and upon returning, the energy to immediately delve back into my tarot/oracle journey just wasn’t there. At that point I had been working intensely on this endeavor for two and a half years straight, and it was clear that some down time was in order.
That said, I was concerned I had reached the end of the road. But then I felt compelled to do an extensive self-reading on September 10, and I immediately realized I was picking back up right where I had left off. And it was in this context that I encountered the King of Pentacles and the Emperor (IV) in relatively close proximity. Shortly thereafter, this led to a recognition of what I should write about for my next blog topic…
As will always be the case, my intention is not to provide a comprehensive meaning for the tarot and oracle cards I’m discussing. There’s a seemingly infinite number of other resources for such information (I’m actually planning to devote a future blog entry to highlighting some of my favorite resources), and the point here is to discuss unique characteristics of cards considered in certain contexts. Hence, for this entry I’m contemplating the similarities (and differences) between the King of Pentacles and the Emperor (IV), which is why I titled my article The King of Pentacles Versus The Emperor.
Of course, in regard to the pictorial content and their hierarchical positions in the Tarot, there is not much similarity. The Emperor is the “fourth” card (not including the number zero Fool) in the Major Arcana, and if Pentacles are (as considered by people much more knowledgeable and experienced than me) to be the last suit (by hierarchy), the King of Pentacles is, sequentially, the final (i.e., 78th) card in the deck. In other words, considered in a linear context there aren’t many cards that are further apart.
In regard to the appearance, there are some striking similarities. Both cards feature a regal gentleman seated on a very solid looking stone throne that is adorned with the symbol of Taurus on the top corners of the throne back and the front of the arms. Both men wear armor under their robes, and hold a rod in the right hand and a round object in the left. The Emperor is obviously the elder statesman, and although I haven’t encountered this elsewhere, I seriously doubt I’m the first person to view the Emperor as the father of the King of Pentacles. I’m just guessing that in the community of tarot traditionalists, the entire Royal Court of all four suits are ultimately considered to be the extended family of the Major Arcana's Emperor (IV) and Empress (III). Again, I haven’t come across this in my research, but I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t be a known perspective.
In a family tree kind of scenario, I find myself contemplating what is really distinctly different about the Emperor compared with the King of Pentacles? On an obvious level, the Emperor represents the “universal” aspects of life and existence, whereas the King of Pentacles is more grounded in the day-to-day affairs of the material realm. However, this is not the philosophical perspective from which I’m making the comparison. Fundamentally, they both speak to authority, discipline, rules, strength, and solid foundations (among other things). Are there primary keywords for the King of Pentacles that aren’t applicable to the Emperor (and vice versa)?
I suppose this question represents the heart of what intrigues me about such a comparison. For an extended period of time I was very focused on memorizing every pictorial element of Pamela Colman Smith’s artistic depictions for the RWS tarot. While obsessed with my endeavor, I settled on specific titles for each Minor Arcana and Royal Court card that were unique for me. For example, I can’t look at the Knight of Wands without thinking, “Charge!”
For the longest time I struggled to come up with an appropriate personal moniker for the King of Pentacles, being extremely dissatisfied with “The Banker.” Annoyingly, that is the title that popped into my head early on, derived (in my opinion) from the typical “text book” assertion that he is a man who possesses great wealth. This led me to imagine a king who spent most of his time pondering accounting ledgers, endlessly pouring over the details of how every coin in the kingdom was parsed out. I get it that the suit of Pentacles, which is also known as “Coins,” has a lot to do with money on our earthly plane of existence. Economic principles are fundamental to our existence in daily life. I imagine the Emperor, having once upon a time been the King of Pentacles, was formerly obsessed with maintaining the treasury. Now in his later years, he has left the bean counting to his son. This is because as the Emperor, he must focus on the bigger structural issues of the entire world, rather than the financials of just one particular kingdom.
While all of this seems relevant, none of it felt quite right, and I disliked my “Banker” title for the King of Pentacles. Despite his presumably underlying preoccupation with monetary concerns, he looks very relaxed and benevolent sitting on this throne. Conversely, his father the Emperor looks quite staunch and preoccupied. I think this recognition is what finally led me to a keyword title that I like. Sure, Pentacles represent “wealth,” but I do get a bit weary of equating “wealth” to monetary value. Early on it appeared to me that the Queen of Pentacles’ wealth wasn’t so much represented by the money her family had sacked away in the treasure vault. Rather, it was the prosperity and abundance of the natural world in which she had immersed herself. She is surrounded by the beauty of Nature. I could see that the King of Pentacles was immersed in his natural surroundings in a similar manner, but it was in a more practical and masculine sense. Instead of residing in a lush garden like the Queen, where she is most at home, the King’s throne is closer to the castle, where he is most comfortable–and that is when I found the word I was looking for. The King of Pentacles is very calm and relaxed in regard to his prosperity and domain of authority. In fact, he appears to be so well-situated on his throne that he looks like he’s about to fall asleep.
And with that recognition, I had finally settled on my own title for the King of Pentacles: Comfort.