CHALLENGES, LESSONS AND ALCHEMY - what the Fives in Tarot have to teach us.

The Fives in the minor arcana are some of the most difficult cards in the tarot. Fives are the midway between the pure potential of the Aces and the manifestation of the Tens, a place of tension and uncertainty. 

The Five of Cups show a time of emotional challenge. In my card you see a frozen,  bleak landscape, with a river of ice under a grey sky. A bereft woman walks away from three overturned cups with red liquid spilling out. Two Ravens are reflected in the wine or is it blood? I painted this card when I was feeling the pain of my sons departure from home. Although parents knows the pain and loss of the empty nest syndrome, we all experience the grief of change, lost love or death of a beloved. But up ahead there is a small bridge to the other side where two cups remain - full to the brim. I know my sons needed to "fledge" and that there will still be loving times. The symbol of the waxing, full and waning moon on the cups remind us of the cyclical nature of feelings. 

The Five of Pentacles are about physical difficulties, whether it is caused by financial concerns, ill health or a difficult environment. Here in Santa Fe, in all sorts of weather, one can see a group of desperate day labourers waiting to be hired. Perhaps they need to send money home to Mexico or earn enough to feed themselves? It breaks my heart to see them rush up to a vehicle who may only hire one for a couple hours of dirty, heavy work. But then I see where they stand beneath the gaze of Guadalupe outside the oldest church in the USA dedicated to her. I painted the five pentacles on her cloak to emphasize her message: "Listen, put it into your heart, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear any sickness, nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the cradle of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you. Am I not here? I who am your Mother. You are under my protection."

The Five of Swords is a divisive mental challenge. In my card you see a young boy who has done something naughty with his sword - perhaps lopped off the flower heads. His father yells at him, while the mother sends passive aggressive thoughts to the father, unable to defend her child. It is a scene where nobody wins. The message though is to listen to the stories of your opponents, give up power-tripping and victimization and free ourselves from polarities that serve no-one. 

The Five of Wands is a call to action, to use energy to create change. The activists in my card protest against practices that goes against their ideals and beliefs. Even though this is a card of struggle, there is a positive message that one can use passion to make a difference in the world. 

The Hierophant is number five in the major arcana. The word means "he who shows". The Hierophant is a spiritual authority, a teacher or counselor. When I painted this card the Dalai Lama was on a speaking tour at college graduations in the United States. Here was a Hierophant that spread a message of love and compassion. The Dalai Lama's teachings are based on the teachings of Buddha, who taught that looking within through the practice of meditation is the greatest teacher of all. That even though there is suffering in life, we can learn from our trials. We are not alone when we face challenges, there are lessons everywhere. 

Finally the card Temperance is the overarching card of the Fives. When adding the two digits of Temperance - fourteen, we get five. Temperance is the card of art and alchemy. It is the card of the creator, the card of grace. The angel in my card is formed by the action of wine and water poured over fire. This card is about different opposing elements coming together to create something new. Just as liquid and heat cause steam, challenges and teachings combine to propel us toward spiritual growth.