The dynamics of give and take
Following on neatly from the Five, the Six of Pentacles shows us the flip-side of that suffering and disadvantage. Here (in the Rider-Waite-Smith and other traditional decks) the two people dressed in rags are kneeling on the ground, whilst a rich-looking person drops pennies into their outstretched hands.
The Six of Pentacles deals with power dynamics as they manifest in everyday life. The dynamics within charity. The politics of give and take, need and plenty. This is about socialism and the welfare state. It’s about redistributing wealth. It’s about sharing what we have – giving when we have more than we need, and asking for help when we don’t have enough. It can point to healthy expressions of this kind of give and take, and it can point to dysfunctions too. ‘Charity’ is not always a healthy situation (think of the expectation that immigrants be ‘grateful’ or ‘good’.) What is expected in return for that charity? And who is really benefitting – the folks who need support, or the ‘giver’. Who virtue-signals their generosity?
Questions may also be raised about the recipients. It may be that they have become so used to receiving handouts that they have forgotten their own power. The time of needing support may be long gone, yet they do not notice that their strength has returned, and don’t stand up and take hold of their own destiny.
And then, in many decks, we see a set of scales. This is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the many imbalances this card might contain, asking us to look closely at the power dynamics of which we are part.
In a reading…
This card firstly asks you where you stand in relation to this scene. Are you the ‘needy person’, hands outstretched for charity? Are you the wealthier person, measuring out your gift? Are you a bystander, watching the scene but not directly involved? What is your complicity in the complex politics of give and take?
It can of course point to the healthy kind of giving. Maybe you have spare money or resources, and you donate what you don’t need. This can be a fine thing – the Six of Pentacles encourages you to spread your good fortune around.
The same goes for asking for help when you need it. We do not all have equal resources and privilege at the same time. If you need help, reach out. Don’t be ashamed to ask a friend for a bed for the night, or your community to help fund your project.
But, remember the scales. Always be looking at the dynamics. Always be thinking about who holds power and privilege, what is expected in return for gifts given, the perhaps unwritten rules of this exchange.
The Six of Pentacles also talks about power dynamics in our intimate relationships. It asks you to consider the role of balance within your relationships. Are you the person who is always giving? Or the one who takes and takes? Perhaps you are in a codependent relationship that is becoming harmful. Take a brave look at the balances and imbalances within your relationships (we all have them, sometimes!) How can you and your loved one/s address this and bring things to a more balanced and healthy place?
Perhaps you require additional support and care from friends, family or partners – or a loved one requires support and care from you. In this case, the Six of Pentacles points to those dynamics, and any underlying frustrations or resentments that can of course be present within those relationships.
As always, nobody is being judged – this is about taking a good look at what is going on, and ensuring our relationships are as healthy as they can be.