Original photo, Waite-Smith Tarot images, needlepoint by my mother, Diane Hamblin.
Recently, a conversation sprung up in one of my favorite online tarot groups about the Ten of Cups and the Ten of Pentacles. Many of the tarotists who commented felt these two cards to be very similar, even to the point of being interchangeable in a reading, or for magickal purposes.
I have taught beginning tarot students that these two Tens both speak of happy families and happy homes, but the Ten of Pentacles has more material wealth than the Ten of Cups. This mirrors what I took to be consensus in the group.
For beginning students, this is not a bad way to get a handle on these two cards. Advanced tarotists, however, are likely to see the significant differences between these two cards, as well as their similarities.
It’s true that many tarot cards have similarities one to another, these two cards included. These similarities are helpful in readings. If similar cards appear in a reading, their message is strengthened and affirmed. If similar cards appear differently aspected, there may be a clear decision to be made, or a struggle involving the energy of the cards.
At the same time, the more we can derive from each card, the more information we have. The more key words we have for each card, the more precise our readings will be.
The Ten of Cups and the Ten of Pentacles are the two “feminine Tens” of the Minor Arcana. Their esoteric titles are fairly similar. The Ten of Cups is “The Lord of Perfected Success”, while the Ten of Pentacles is the “Lord of Wealth.”
From that perspective, we might ask ourselves this. What is the difference between “perfected success” and “wealth”? Is the “wealth” in the Ten of Pentacles material wealth alone? Does the “perfected success” of the Ten of Cups include financial security? For me, the wealth in the Ten of Pentacles includes the kids, the dogs, and the coat of arms. Often, we see our greatest wealth as our children, rather than our bank accounts. Likewise, I don’t see poverty in the Ten of Cups, but I also don’t see a focus on financial gain or worry.
We can find a clue when we look at the astrological associations of the cards. The Ten of Cups is Mars in Pisces, balancing an active energy within a passive energy. The Ten of Pentacles is Mercury in Virgo. This can speak about order and organization. Here we begin to see some clear differences between these two cards.
In the Waite Smith deck, the Ten of Pentacles has a specific distinction. Regardless of the deck I am using at the moment, I will always remember and honor the fact that the Kabalistic Tree of Life appears on the Ten of Pentacles, and on no other card in the Waite Smith deck. This fact gives the Ten of Pentacles a lot of extra juice for me.
What does that extra juice look like to me? It goes back to the idea of structure and organization. In the Waite Smith Tarot Ten of Pentacles, we see the grandfather, two generations of his progeny, his dogs, his castle and his coat of arms. We see what has come before, and what will come next.
This helps us understand two keys words for the Ten of Pentacles that do not really apply to the Ten of Cups; “legacy” and “ancestry”. The Ten of Pentacles can speak of bloodlines, family wealth and genetics; the things that are passed from generation to generation. This mirrors the energy flow of the Tree of Life for me, in an “as above, so below” sort of way.
The Ten of Pentacles is also traditionally known as the “castle card”. A picture of a home is featured in both cards, and both cards can refer to a happy home. However, the Ten of Pentacles, being the card of structure and order, more clearly refers to the physical structure of a house, or a “castle”. In this way, the Ten of Pentacles becomes the card of real estate.
From that perspective, the Ten of Pentacles can be a career indicator for those people who work selling, building or designing homes. During the housing market crash I saw this card ill-dignified quite often, for my many clients who were underwater or in foreclosure, or whose housing-related businesses were tanking.
The Ten of Cups, on the other hand, may speak more to the emotional dynamics of a happy home. Often, for me, the Ten of Cups speaks of true love, romance and marriage. Certainly, an actual house can often be part of that scenario, but not necessarily the focus of the card’s energy. There is a fairy-tale quality to the Ten of Cups, promising the possibility of living happily ever after.
Overall, in my tarot practice, the Ten of Cups speaks more of the emotions of the family, while the Ten of Pentacles speaks more of the structure of the family. The Ten of Cups speaks of immediate nuclear family, while the Ten of Pentacles speak of many generations of family. Both astrologically and elementally, there are clear reasons for this to be so.
When these two cards appear together, the focus on family can be the most important aspect of the reading.