The Foundation Bones: The Herbal Wisdom of the Suit of Pentacles

This is the fifth and last post in Alexis J Cunningfolk’s’ Tarot Herbology series, exploring the elemental and energetic connections between herbs and tarot cards. Read the whole series here!

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We end our journey through the herbal wisdom of the tarot together in the realm of Earth and the suit of Pentacles.

In the northern hemisphere the element of Earth is placed in the North, while it finds its home in the South in the southern hemisphere.

The Pentacles are the suit of foundations, abundance, and security.

They represent the moments we feel most sovereign in our lives. The suit of Pentacles can also represent burden (especially financial and physical burden), stagnation, and the hardening of the spirit through the traumatic experiences.

When many Pentacles are cast in a spread, I pay attention to foundations – are they sturdy or are they falling apart? I ask questions about whether or not the querent feels empowered in their life or if they feel they lack sovereignty.

The suit of Pentacles asks us to seek out the green, abundant spaces in our life. If we lack such places, we must learn to grow them. If they have become overgrown, we must learn to find the sunlight again to nourish our roots. We are asked to look at our own personal garden habitats especially at the edges where we connect with the gardens of others.

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The suit of Pentacles is often seen as the most practical of the four suits, investigating our physical and mundane life, especially the areas of survival including food, shelter, and resources. Money is a keyword that comes up regularly with the suit of Pentacles but that can be limiting when trying to understand the full diverse nature of the Pentacles. Abundance and security of resources add further nuance and depth since we can live abundant lives without an abundance of money because we recognize the security of resources we have access to. I do believe that recognizing abundance in your life (no matter how small it may seem or insignificant to others) is a way to cultivate more abundance in your life and the lives of others. It is about recognizing the resources we do have, especially when faced against overcultures and oppressive systems that seem to have all the money. They might have the money, but damn, do we have the heart and we know how to grow it.

There is also a lot tied up in the concept of worth in the suit of Pentacles.

Am doing work that feels it has worth? How do I feel unworthy in my life or seen as lacking worth in the society at large? Do I feel like I am living in a way that I feel makes my life worthy and valuable to me? When I sit with clients for our first intake, one of the questions I ask them is about the quality of the life and what they do feel they have in abundance. If the question is difficult for them, their homework, along with their herbal remedies, is to explore these questions more in-depth. If you’re pulling lots of Pentacles, you might consider such an exercise, too.

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So what are the herbs of earth and abundance?

In general, herbs that are nutritive, alterative, immunomodulating, cooling, and sedating are considered qualities of Earth. Additionally, I consider many herbs that have been classically categorized as panaceas or “heal-alls” as Earth herbs because they often deal with multiple body systems and are restorative to the body, mind, and spirit.

I think about gentle herbs that are deeply nourishing and will act as the foundation for me to build my recipe on such as Milky Oat (Avena sativa) and Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). 

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is my herb of choice when inviting in the grounding, restorative, and immunomodulating energies of Earth. Elder is known as the Elder Mother and Tree of Medicine in many European folklores and is considered intimately tied with the world of the Good Folk. I can attest to her magick. She is also a badass and is not interested in nonsense – whether the nonsense of a lingering cold or the nonsense of poor boundaries or lack of self-care. Elder is an immunomodulating herb, which means it helps bring our immune system back into balance, and is an incredibly effective protective herb against the ‘flu and other viruses. The herb is chock-full of flavonoids which “bind and disarm hemagglutinins, tiny viral spikes covered with the enzyme neuraminidase, which allows the virus to penetrate cellular membranes” (Brigitte Mars, Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine). This is in part why Elder remains effective against multiple flu strains year after year.

The berries are more grounding, while the flowers are more elevating and are especially good for ear complaints. Elder clears out toxins from the gut and cools and warms body systems as needed to return the body to health. The Elder Mother can be worked with in multiple ways: you can approach her simply for assistance with rebalancing your immune system and as a cold and ‘flu preventative or you can engage her on a more magickal level. (Keep scrolling to learn more under the Mentor of Pentacles…)

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Basil (Ocimum spp.) is a great herb for diffusing an over-abundance of slow, stagnant earth energy in your life. An herb of dragons named after the mighty basilisks that haunt mountains and caves, Basil has a special skill of moving heat and energy through the body. As part of its healing qualities, Basil also stokes our inner digestive fires, helping us burn off toxins and remove them from our bodies. The herb is uplifting and cheering to the spirit. It wakes us up with gentle stimulation and then relaxes the brain and nervous system (you can experience this by tensing your body and then relaxing at once – the relaxation is deeper after the tension). The herb works on both sympathetic and parasympathetic sides of the autonomic nervous system helping the two aspects find balance instead of swinging to one extreme. Basil is one of my favorite herbs for brain fog and to promote cerebral stimulation. I use all kinds of Basil in my practice from the Sacred Basils (Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tenuiflorum) and your common sweet or garden variety Basil (Ocimum basilicum). I actually think Basil and Elder work well together when more heat is needed in the system in addition to immunomodulating qualities (and especially when you need some badassery in your life).

The Pentacles Court Cards

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Page/Seeker of Pentacles: Rosemary

Whether brief or lasting years, many of us have had an experience of feeling sovereign and secure in our bodies. The Seeker of Pentacles is a card of tranquil manifestation where all the parts (the spirit and body comfortably intertwined) come together and what we have desired is coming into being. Yet, many of us know how easy it is for the spirit to be frightened from the body and for reactivity and symptoms trauma to take its place.

The essence of Rosemary helps call the spirit back to the body by helping us to re-member (to put back together) our sense of sovereignty and security in the world. The essence is helpful when disassociation has turned from a useful tool for dealing with the complexity of life to a chronic condition where the consciousness exists less and less in the body. Rosemary helps us to be fully present in our body and life, so that we can nurture the garden of our existence.

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Knight/Apprentice of Pentacles: Dandelion

The suit of Pentacles deals a lot with work and the work that we find worthwhile. Through the suit of Pentacles we learn to grow the routine and follow-through of work and step out of or avoid the stagnation that we can fall into. The Apprentice of Pentacles embodies the gifts of routine and rhythm and why both are important for longevity of practice and worthwhile work. When the Apprentice of Pentacles is out of balance they can become apathetic and stagnant, but so rigid that they resist change, which is why an essence like Dandelion can be so useful.

Dandelion flower essence can serve two purposes for the Apprentice of Pentacles: it infuses the spirit with sturdiness but also helps us embrace change. The energy is grounding, but freeing which helps our very earthy Apprentice or Knight remember that they are the movers and messengers of the court cards. The essence is also important if you do any sort of social justice work as it helps us tap into the deep reserves of renewing energy that the earth provides.

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Queen/Artist of Pentacles: Oak

If you ever struggle to connect with the idea of your body and life as a garden that needs care, spend time connecting with the Artist of Pentacles. The Artist of Pentacles is the most magickal of gardeners, tending to the soil, the thorn and flower, and the fruit and berry, with tender care. Their endurance is legendary, their commitment unwavering. They carefully cultivates their resources and has an abundance of nourishing compassion. Yet, they can fall into patterns of overwork and over-giving, stretching themselves thin in an attempt to take care of it all. When offered time to rest and slow down, they say they don’t have the time or luxury to do so, which is why Oak flower essence is such a great ally for them.

Oak helps us to take time off and enjoy the fruits of our labors instead of always feeling a need to give them away. The essence is also very useful for assisting recovery after a long period of illness. Oak helps to lighten the load that the Artist of Pentacles carries.

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King/Mentor of Pentacles: Elder

I’ve talked a lot of about sovereignty so far in relation to developing and reconnecting with your self-sovereignty. The suit of Pentacles, though, also embodies the other side other side of the coin which is authoritative dominance. The Mentor of Pentacles is a wonderful teacher and guide when they demonstrating stability, dependability, self-control, and discipline. They become a tyrant when they seek to dominate others and seek power-over as opposed to power-with. When these patterns arise, Elder calls us out and then invites us in. Elder smashes the idea that to be powerful we must overpower others. She smashes it and devours it and lets it decay.

A wounded Mentor of Pentacles is one with low self-esteem and someone who has lost their sense of worth – in turn they have set about to try and take the esteem and worth of others. Elder flower essence can stop us in our tracks, resetting our destructive powers, and calling us to accountability. Alternatively, if you are someone who has yet to step into your power, embodying the strength of the Mentor of Pentacles, Elder can also be an ally. She won’t mess around or coddle you, but she’ll help you learn how to stand up for yourself, speak boldly in the world, and to know the abundance and worthiness of all your parts.


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Herbal Powders

Herbal Powders are a great way to enjoy whole plant medicine and I have used them as a great alcohol-free alternative to tinctures since the early days of my practice. Not only can Herbal Powders be used internally, but many can be used externally as well. In addition to some simple instructions on how to make your own herbal powders, I’ll also suggest the many ways you can use them, whether homemade or purchased from a reputable source.

Making herbal powders can be time intensive, but very simple. You’ll need some sort of grinding device, whether a mortar and pestle, blender, or electric grinder. Grind down the herbs as much as possible, removing any large chunks of un-grindable bits. Then, using a mess strainer, sift the fine powder from the unground herb. It takes time but it’s quite easy, even meditative, to make herbal powders.

Suggested uses for herbal powders:

  • Add them to smoothies, juices, or water. Adding herbal powders to smoothies is my most favorite way of ingesting them.
  • Mix with honey to make an electuary. You can enjoy spoonfuls of your herbal honey or add it to hot water for an instant tea. I like to • take a small jar of herbal honey with me when I travel as it is a great way to enjoy my daily herbs as well as a sweet treat while on the road.
  • Create your own tooth powder.Tooth powders are amazing!
  • Use herbal powders topically as poultices and drawing powders. Depending on the herb you’re using you can make a soothing • poultice for muscles aches or a drawing powder for wounds and infections.
  • Use them magickally! You can sprinkle and cast them, create sigils with them, carry in charms, or burn herbal powders as incense.

How will you connect with the earth energy of the suit of Pentacles? Post your experiences below as well as any questions you might have about the information already shared. I have very much enjoyed my sojourn these past few months in the Little Red Tarot community and I hope to continue to connect with you in spaces like the Alternative Tarot Network (I’m wortsandcunning on there). Until then, grow wild, clever ones!

All of the cards shown in this post are from the World Spirit Tarot.

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One comment

  1. Laura B says:

    This series is my favourite… so many things to ponder and think about, and I love the description of the court cards with their herbal friends!

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