The 9 of Pentacles shows Rosalind in As You Like It, by Shakespeare, particularly as played by Ada Rehan, and with the Snail on the image coming from a speech in Act IV, Scene 1.
It signifies self-sufficiency, material gain, riches, all good things to those who are themselves. It is also a card of inheritance in all its forms.
You may be surprised to know that this is the first time – here, on this page – this source has been been revealed, despite a century of people guessing about the card in hundreds of books and thousands of websites.
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The snail that Pamela has deliberately placed on the card as part of the scene is directly referenced by Rosalind in Act IV, Scene 1.
Nay, an you be so tardy, come no more in my sight. I had as lief be wooed of a snail.
Of a snail?
Ay, of a snail, for though he comes slowly, he carries his house on his head—a better jointure, I think, than you make a woman. Besides, he brings his destiny with him.
Why, horns, which such as you are fain to be beholding to your wives for. But he comes armed in his fortune and prevents the slander of his wife.
The Snail is a symbol of self-sufficiency, but also there is a reference to “cuckolding” which was commonly understand as being symbolised by “horns” in Shakespeare’s time. It basically means that the snail – like a man – brings his own risk of being unfaithful or being cheated on – just by himself. We can see that Pamela has cheekily drawn the horns on the snail very noticeably!
There is a photograph of Ada Rehan playing Rosalind – a role never played by Ellen Terry (much to her regret) – that also clearly shows the same “Rose” dress that Pamela has painted.
The play (as many of Shakespeare’s) contains references to grapes, a hunting bird, and other motifs in the card image.
Whilst the play itself is a complex plot and carries many themes, it is the themes of inheritance and self-sufficiency that Pamela has taken from the Book T description of the card meaning to show in this one scene how riches come to those who are themselves – even if they have to pretend to be someone else for a while first!
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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.