Bohemian Gothic Study - Four of Pentacles

swimming in tarot

I can't hold a candle to what Lilija already said in the Scariest Card thread, but I have been meaning to start a thread on this card for a while.

We have here a woman (my friend thinks she looks like a man) of years, decked to the nines with pearls, and we know they're real ones. She has on a tiara over a brown wig, heavy make-up in an era when respectable women didn't wear make-up, an off-the-shoulder dress, and a red-nailed left hand bedecked with ostentatious rings on every finger but the ring finger. In this hand she holds a carved walking-stick. She is outside a la-di-dah stone mansion with all the expensive stone ornamentation you can think of. It is nighttime, and there are stars in the sky. Light from the unseen moon bathes all. What is the woman's expression? Is it coy? Questioning? Arch, with arched eyebrows and all?

I see here a woman making a pretense of youth, of mutton dressed as lamb. I think she has enough money that she doesn't need to worry about what others think of her, so she piles on the makeup. Perhaps she is an aging courtesan, who got to where she is with her youth and beauty, now faded. This is not said in prejudice against older women. I see no soul-beauty emanating from this person! She looks bad-tempered and used to getting whatever she wants by virtue of her wealth. The red claws...surely symbolic of clawing other people. She looks like she expects to be treated with a lot of respect or kowtowing, especially from men, who will be expected to play the role of gallant to her, for her vanity's sake. I dare say she is pleased enough not to be married, for this affords her independence in an era when women were expected to be dependent; and if I recall correctly, they were (in England, at least) not legally "persons" and therefore not allowed to own property. If she was a courtesan, she had many sources of financial support. To gain "independence", she has stepped beyond the boundaries of society; she is a demi-mondaine. Perhaps she was an actress. Still not respectable. But that's her choice. She looks like she knows she can't take her money with her, so she's going to enjoy every spending it on herself...but what she doesn't seem to realize is that her youth and beauty have passed, and she has nothing to replace them with, except tyrannical denial. Her cane is her only admission of aging, and doubtless she uses it to demand the respect due to the aged, as much as for walking.

Where is she looking? What role do the stars play, that the creator is making sure are visible?
Any thoughts?


Well, the 4/Pents is usually about holding on tight to what you have. And this woman is, as you say, holding onto her youth, riches, home, everything she's ever gotten. That she's piled on the pearls, tiara, rings and such shows that she can't put any of it away in a jewelry box. She must wear it, and so hold onto it, as she does her walking cane.

I think the look she's giving is one that hears someone coming, perhaps? My guess is that, whether she has any reason to or not, she is always watching and ready to swing out that cane at whoever may try to take anything away from her...even her illusion that she is still powerful and beautiful.



Just to add, there's a very strong resemblance between 4/Pents and 9/Pents. Both wear wigs, tiaras, elaborate jewelry and clothes. Both are angled the same, both have a stone manor house in the background. I'm sure this was deliberate, as Karen has told us that many of the cards are "echoes" of each other. This is certainly one of the strongest echoes.

I postulated in 9/Pents that the young woman in dress-up there might have "inherited" what she has, mansion, fine clothes and the rest, after doing away with it's original owner who might have been her employer. This because the dress and wig and such seemed to come from another era. They seemed more like hand-me-downs rather than suiting the younger woman as her own clothes and such might. It's pretty easy to imagine that the young lady in 9/Pents might have been servant, companion or nurse to the elderly lady in 4/Pents. If we take the two side-by-side, we see the results of the older woman holding tight to what she has while flaunting it. Perhaps if she's shared a little, or made herself less of a tempting target she wouldn't have lost it all to this younger model there.

Likewise, our younger model fails to see that things don't make the woman. For all that weirdness of the older woman in 4/Pents, we believe she's the real deal. She is the Lady of the Manor. The younger woman, IMHO at least, believes that the accouterments make her the lady of the manor. With her trusty bird there to take out anyone who objects, I'm sure she gets no disagreements on that score. But the truth is, things can't make her a lady if she's not really a lady. Anymore than that wig on the older woman's head can make her young and pretty. (It's most interesting that the 4/Pents older woman wears a brown wig in an attempt to seem younger than her years, while the younger woman in 9/Pents wears a white wig in, we assume, an attempt to look older than her years).

There seems to be a strong message in most of the pent cards that things can't make you what you're not. They can't make you young, or a lady, they can't make you respectable (our old man in 10/Pents is probably a thief and wealth doesn't make him any less so), or take away your respectability (as the proud woman in 5/Pents seems to think, and so she won't accept charity). What you own or don't own does not define who or what you are.

Which is certainly one of those messages that's as true now as it ever was.

swimming in tarot

Four of Pents vs. Nine of Pents

I've been hesitant to draw parallels between cards, because it's been my impression that some are not traditionally "compared", and I'd obviously be grasping at straws or attempting obscure erudition. But you've shown that if a comparison works, it's its own justification! Thank you, again, for your insight.


swimming in tarot said:
I've been hesitant to draw parallels between cards, because it's been my impression that some are not traditionally "compared", and I'd obviously be grasping at straws or attempting obscure erudition. But you've shown that if a comparison works, it's its own justification! Thank you, again, for your insight.
Well, Karen did say that there are parallels between cards, and we can see the use of things like the bone chapel in several. But then, we do make comparisons between cards in even Rider-Waite when we see parallels between things like the Lovers Card and the Devil.