The Three of Pentacles and the Three of Wands, or, The People We Choose To Be

I made some bad decisions recently. I got in a fight and said some things I had no right to say. I spoke out of anger and spite, and even though I was right in that moment I was an ugly version of myself that I’m not proud to have been. I like to think of myself as someone who’s generally understanding, compassionate, and reasoned—who aspires to an ideal of universal love, as saccharine as that sounds. But the fact of the matter is, I behaved in a way that belies that self-image. I acted poorly, and I fell short of the person I try to be.

I am continuing to deal with the ongoing fallout from having gone nuclear, both internally and externally. Internally, I’m angry, hurt, and full of righteous indignation, and I’m having to tease a lot of that apart to try to bring myself back to center. Anger comes easily to me—it always has—but it’s not good for me. So I’m trying to find my way back out of that, because hoo boy, I am angry and I don’t know how not to be. That’s not unique to this moment in time; it’s part of the ongoing capital-W Work that I’ve been doing for years and will continue to do probably for the rest of my life.

Externally, I hurt people and I shouldn’t have. No matter how angry and hurt I was and am, the fact of the matter is that I acted poorly and caused harm to others, and I’m responsible for that. I made choices, and now it falls on me to deal with the consequences of those choices. I did harm, and now I have a moral responsibility to heal that harm as much as I am able.

As one does in this sort of situation, I turned to my Tarot deck for guidance. I did a massive Opening of the Key spread, because this is a big, complicated situation and I wanted the full range of nuance and complexity that the OOTK affords. I won’t walk through the whole thing here, in part because a lot of it touches on other people and I don’t want to violate their privacy, but also because the OOTK is simply too massive to do a full analysis in one blog post. The last time I did an OOTK analysis on the blog, I had to break it up into five separate posts. Still, for those who are interested, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the reading:

The First Operation of the Opening of the Key

First Operation

Two of Wands (Dominion), the Emperor, Ten of Swords (Ruin), the Moon. Significator in the Water pile (under the Emperor). Card-counting produced the Hierophant and the Priestess. Final card after pairing was the Magus.

The Second Operation of the Opening of the Key. Note that all four cards from the First Operation showed up again.

Second Operation

Significator in first house, under Ten of Cups (Satiety). Card-counting produced Seven of Wands (Valor). Final card after pairing was Two of Disks (Change).

The Third Operation of the Opening of the Key. Three of the four cards from the First Operation have recurred again.

Third Operation

Significator in Taurus, under Three of Disks (Works). Card-counting produced the Aeon (i.e. Judgment), Two of Disks (Change), and Five of Wands (Strife). Final card after pairing was Seven of Cups (Debauch).

The Fourth Operation of the Opening of the Key. The cards from the First Operation have disappeared, even though almost half the deck is here.

Fourth Operation

Card-counting produced Queen of Swords, Queen of Disks, Six of Cups (Pleasure), the Priestess, the Chariot, the Devil, Two of Cups (Love), and Three of Wands (Virtue). Final Pairing was Three of Wands (Virtue) with Three of Disks (Works).

The Fifth Operation of the Opening of the Key.

Fifth Operation

Significator in Gevurah, under Nine of Wands (Strength). Card-counting produced Nine of Wands (Strength). Final pairing was Prince of Wands with Princess of Cups.

That’s a lot of information to parse (and it’s not even all the information from the reading), but for our purposes here, I’d like to focus in on the final result of the Fourth Operation: The pairing of the Three of Disks with the Three of Wands. The way I’m inclined to see it (but don’t quote me on this), the First Operation lays out what the basic situation is, the Second and Third Operations expand on that information and provide more nuance and context, and the Fourth Operation tells you what you can do about it; then, the Fifth Operation shows the outcome of the actions prescribed in the Fourth. I found a lot of noteworthy things in the first three spreads that I’ll have to chew on, but as I’m concerned with action, I’m focused on the Fourth Operation.

Luckily for me, this reading couldn’t be clearer on that front. The card-counting process* ends with Love and Virtue, and Virtue is also one half of the final pairing in this Operation. (If you’re not familiar with the OOTK, basically there’s a part at the end of each Operation where you pair the cards off two at a time and interpret each combination as meaningful in some way.) One of the nice things about the Thoth deck is that it can be refreshingly literal at times, and this, I think, is one of those times. The final action prescribed by the Fourth Operation is the Three of Disks (Works) paired with the Three of Wands (Virtue): In other words, putting in the necessary work to attain virtue.

Making amends is going to suck. It’s going to require swallowing my pride,** making some apologies I really don’t want to make, and letting go of some things that I’d really rather sink my teeth into and hold onto until the end of time. Importantly, it is also going to mean giving up on any demand of contrition or even of admission of wrongdoing by the other people involved. This is, quite possibly, the bitterest pill to swallow. I don’t get to control other people. I don’t get to demand that they admit I was right even though I fucking was. I have to reconcile myself to the possibility that making amends for the wrong parts of my behavior is more important than being vindicated for (what I consider to be) the right parts. That’s what it means to choose virtue.

One of my housemates is very into the mass-market Stoicism that gets peddled on podcasts by the likes of Sam Harris. While I often roll my eyes at him (because holy hell, Stoicism was so much richer and more complex than what it gets presented as), there is a stroke of truth to the catchphrase he likes to spout: Control your controllables. There are a lot of things in this world that I can’t control, and that I don’t get to choose. The one thing that I do get to choose, that I always get to choose, is my own moral character. I get to decide the kind of person I want to be. And I want to be the kind of person who takes ownership of his actions, admits when he’s done wrong, and then does his best to repair those wrongs—regardless of what anyone else has said or done. I want to be a virtuous person, and accomplishing that requires that I put in the work and humble myself in ways that I will inevitably find unpleasant.

I’ve written about virtue on the blog before, a handful of times. Ultimately, my view comes down to this: Aiming at virtue is what guides my moral actions. I try to make choices not based on other people, but based on myself. I try to choose to behave in a way that’s consistent with the sort of moral character I want to have. And that’s the attitude I need to hold as I continue to face down the consequences of this nasty fight I got into. I will do my best to heal the wounds I’ve inflicted and to right the wrongs I’ve done, not because I’m not still angry—and frankly, not because I think the wronged parties deserve it***—but because I want to be the sort of person who would make those amends. It’s an aspirational thing. And though I am (obviously) imperfect and I often fall short of that ideal, I always have the opportunity to choose to be better in the future, and to bring myself closer to it.

I realize this post may come across very much as a self-congratulatory pat on the back, as if I’m praising myself for choosing to be this perfect person. I want to close out by emphasizing that that’s not my intention; clearly, I am not a perfect virtuous person, or else I’d never have done anything shitty to begin with. Rather, what I’m trying to say is that aiming at virtue, trying to choose to have a certain kind of moral character, is what helps bring me out of the pit of self-righteous rage and encourages me to do what I ultimately know is the right thing to do. The goal of this post is not to congratulate myself for supposed perfections, but rather to admit to my very deep flaws and then to talk about the primary way that I work on trying to make myself better.

I’ll leave it off there. This was a very intense, personal post, so for those of you who come more for spreads and card analyses, my apologies. This blog serves more or less as my Tarot journal, and journals sometimes get personal and messy. The next post will be lighter, I promise. Stay well, friends.

*It is worth noting, for people who aren’t longtime readers of the blog, that the method of card-counting I use in OOTK readings is idiosyncratic and is not the same method used by the Golden Dawn. It works for me but please do what works best for you, Tarot is a highly personal and intuitive process, yadda yadda yadda.

**Such a jagged little pill.

***Which, yes, is an ugly thing to admit.

2 thoughts on “The Three of Pentacles and the Three of Wands, or, The People We Choose To Be

  1. I like your blog and writing but this post just smells of privilege and the problems associated with it.

    Don’t you think that the constant strikethroughs and asteriscs negate the whole point of the virtues your striving for? This post doesn’t say that you are striving towards the virtues you speak of as an observer. This post says that your striving for an ~appearance~ of the virtues you want. Everytime you c ome close to talking about the virtue and your mistakes, you retract the focus on the virtue by the underhanded strikethrough, parenthesis and footnotes. Your more interested in appearing virtuous, not being virtuous. The privilege sinks in by you announcing the apology (that is undeserved) and simply making a show so that you are seen as virtuous, and expecting that to be good enough

    Just my 2c, but this post just defeats what you state its purpose to be. I came from an abusive home and these are the apologies i’d get after being beat up because i asked for it


    1. I understand what you’re saying. It’s certainly a question that I was struggling with as I wrote the post. One thing I’ll say is that this post wasn’t the apology itself, but was rather a stream-of-consciousness exploration of my own anger and hurt feelings so that I could process them and bring myself to a place of seeking genuine reconciliation. At the time of writing, I was very raw, and this post is the result of me struggling through those feelings. What you see here is a snapshot of me at a moment of time, still in the thick of things, trying my best to wrestle with my emotions. It is ugly and messy, and you’re right that it’s not virtuous. But it’s a stage in a process of me trying to work through this shit so that I can actually let it go, sans strikethroughs and footnotes.


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