9 of Pentacles and the Preciousness of the Human Incarnation

“We have been given this precious human incarnation in which each and every one of us is a candidate for enlightenment.”

Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith, “Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential.”

A lovely TikTok video caught my attention a couple of months ago. In this video, a young woman suggests a visualization exercise to help you more deeply connect with your own well-being: “If you are having a hard time taking care of yourself, something you can do is to imagine you are a little snail. And you’ve always dreamed about human life, and what it would be like to a human. Then, one day, you are in the forest, and a wizard man comes up to you and says, ‘little snail, I’m going to grant you one wish!’ And you go, ‘Mr. Wizard, I know exactly what it’s going to be,’ and he waves his wand, and you wake up in this human body. You go, ‘Oh my goodness! I’m a human, I’m really a human!’ And, you are so happy and so grateful, because snails don’t know about human beauty standards, they think all humans are beautiful. You’re so grateful to live a human life and be in a human body, that you want to take care of it, you want to make it look cute, you’re so grateful to have a body that works.” (@Cranjis_mcbastetball on TikTok)

Picture yourself as a snail, she says. A snail like the one trailing the ground in front of the figure on the 9 of Pentacles on the Smith-Waite depiction. This young person’s message immediately connected me with the gentle solidity of the 9 of Pentacles. Again, in the Smith artwork, a woman poses elegantly before an abundant set of vines that are lush with grapes, filling the air with a sense of gratitude and plentifulness. A flowy, thick yellow dress enrobes her. It looks sturdy, evoking protection and fullness. Two trees in the background frame the scene, as the woman holds her left arm up, a hooded falcon perched upon her gloved hand. The trained falcon speaks of skill—of skillful living and of mastering controlled flight at the dizzying speeds of life on this plane. The yellow sky, a common tarot symbol for joy, blesses the scene as a tiny, humble snail slowly moves from left to right—from Beyond to the Here.

Like the visualization exercise above, in a sense, one day a wizard truly waved his wand and brought you and me into existence. Out of a river of happenings and coincidences that stretch back to the beginning of time, you and I were born. Within this gigantic flurry of things and events that is the Cosmos, we came to be, born as human beings on the lush garden that is planet Earth. The unique opportunities provided to us because of our complex brains and compassionate hearts are an unimaginable blessing. Speaking on incarnation, the Buddha once said, “And just so, it is very, very rare that one attains the human state.” As humans, we are each given the golden chance to become fully self-actualized beings. In this incarnation, we have the potential to completely awaken to our true nature as individuations of the Spirit of the Universe. Either as individuals and as a collective, we have the capacity to develop skills, ideas, and creations to an incredible level, seemingly without limitation. But, more importantly, as sentient beings woefully aware of their own suffering and impermanence, we have the capacity to become wholly free.

The Snail in the Nine of Pentacles (Smith Waite)

 A human incarnation is very precious. The little snail brings our hearts closer to understanding that truth. And the card where it lives, the 9 of Pentacles, announces life events and invitations that are here to guide us towards that understanding. When this card shows up for us, we are reaching an apex in our comprehension of our existence as human beings of flesh and bone here on planet Earth. We are being nudged towards a place of fulness. We have walked a long road made of our blood, sweat and tears, and we are about to harvest the fruit of our labor.  We arrive at a place of deep appreciation and gratitude. We hone our skills at living and engage in practices that are supportive of our continued journey of awakening. We savor the joy of existence, as much as we can at this stage. We enter a deeper connection with our bodies, breathing in as much health and vitality as we harness. We are thankful for this body that supports our path of self-realization, self-actualization, and complete awakening.

Numbers 9 and 10 in tarot share some similarities in all the suits. See the dramatic despair in both the 9 of Swords and the 10 of Swords. See the comfort and emotional fulfillment of both the 9 of Cups and 10 of Cups. See the final push and struggle of both the 9 of Wands and the 10 of Wands. It almost seems as though the 9’s represent the “inner” apex that will exteriorize itself and outwardly culminate in the completion of the 10’s. In this sense, 9’s and 10’s are, respectively, the inner and outer facets of the same culmination of a cycle. Back to the Pentacles suit, the 10 of Pentacles represents the fulfillment of our personal legacies, our financial well-being (personal, familial, and collective), and the structural betterments that we will leave behind for the world as a result of our creations and of our work. In this sense, the 9 of Pentacles stands for the interior movement that reaches an apex of wisdom, appreciation, and gratitude for our lives within the material realm. We reach new heights of understanding of our existence within the earth plane. Our skills, our bodies, our belongings and our work all come together in an inner climax of plentitude before fully materializing in the form of our life’s very legacy.

All that we will be leaving behind on this planet, all that we are providing for our future selves, and the fulfillment of the efforts of this lifetime depend upon this deep-seated, inner realization of gratitude: upon our realization of the preciousness of this fleeting human incarnation. The 9 of Pentacles speaks of events and awakenings that bring us closer to this wise understanding. Like the little snail, we slow down and ground ourselves in the solidity of this truth. Periods governed by this card’s energies open the door for our enlightenment to come through.