The 7 of Pentacles shows an Irish labourer leaning on a hoe looking disconsolately upon a blighted potato plant.
It signifies wasted effort, lack of results, disappointment in returns.
Pamela drew upon her associations with Yeats and other Irish supporters for the card image, based on the Golden Dawn interpretation in Book T.
You may be surprised to know that this is the first time – here, on this page – this source and design has been revealed, despite a century of people guessing about the card in hundreds of books and thousands of websites.
The problem has been that everyone has either referred to the writing about the card by A. E. Waite, who was not privy to the designs, nor did he care, or have time to care, or just taken the card to show “a bush” or “greenery” and then not gone back to Pamela’s actual life and experience in detail.
Others have assumed that there is “esoteric” meaning in the designs (which is true in the Majors) and gone straight by the obvious in such of the occult – which is not there other than in a century of guesswork copied and pasted across the entire internet.
Pamela took her experience and influences of the time in 1909 to best design an image for the Book T description used by the Order of the Golden Dawn which reads …
Promises of success unfulfilled. (Shewn, as it were, by the fact that the rosebuds [Golden Dawn version] do not come to anything.) Loss of apparently promising fortune. Hopes deceived and crushed. Disappointment, misery, slavery, necessity and baseness.
A cultivator of land, and yet a loser thereby.
The original high-res scan above is from a rare Pam-A Rose & Lily deck (one of only three surviving such decks) and shows how the withered leaves and disconsolate face are clearly shown and have been slightly lost in later versions.
The Irish Potato Famine (1845 – 1852) was topical again at the time of 1909 when Pamela designed the deck, and a simple and obvious source for Pamela to depict the Golden Dawn interpretation she had been given.
There were many sympathisers to the Irish/Celtic cause within the Golden Dawn and Bohemian circle in which Pamela lived. You can read more about Yeats, Moina Mathers and the influence of many others on Pamela in our book – her life was so rich and colourful.
We can also see that the boots are not differently coloured in the earliest version, which some books have used in guessing some sort of symbolism for the card.
Learn the True Intentions of the Designs of the Tarot
Waite Got It Wrong (Again)
Even Waite said in PKT that the figure was leaning on a staff, not a hoe as Pamela clearly designed. He really paid no attention to the designs of the Minor Arcana and this is just one of several examples which you can discover across this site and in our book.
There are two tools that are not sketched out properly in the deck; this hoe, which has a curious hatch pattern instead (and arguably, a sketch circle below the bottom Pentacle that may have been an original position for the Pentacle), and the Chisel on the 3 of Pentacles.
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Learn More about the meanings of this card in everyday readings in Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot and over at our free sister-site, My Tarot Card Meanings where you can also download a free guide to card meanings and spreads, Keys to the Tarot by Andrea Green.