Eight of Coins: The Stonecutter's Tale
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2004
The 8 of Coins is a card that has always represented the hard work required to master a skill or craft. Traditional imagery shows a young man seated at a work bench, using hand tools to craft a coin. His head is down and he seems to be truly concentrating on the task at hand, perhaps he is whistling as he goes about his work. The results of his previous work, or perhaps it is work to be fine tuned, are hanging on the wall beside him. Although, he seems to be content with his work and his living, I often think of this card as representing hard work as a way of substituting for what we might not be getting out of other areas of our life. Sigmund Freud said that there are two things that make people happy, work and love. Finding work that you love would seem to be a double blessing for anyone.
We have all had the experience of boredom with our work or our routine. Once you get to the point of mastery and you are practically applying these skills to your work, where do you go from here? Very often being good or great at your work doesn't help you advance because you become too hard to replace. It also gets you a lot more work to do. You take the risk of being enslaved to your work. Once there is no more creative challenge or the satisfaction has left your work, you are merely collecting experience. One wonders if the man depicted in the card is thinking about his future. Is he wondering if this is all there is for him? I guess it is the human condition to wonder what it would be like to be someone else or to achieve personal greatness in more than one area of your life. The following is a lovely little story which reflects this aspect of the 8 of Coins.
Once there was and once there was not a stonecutter. Every day he went up to the mountains to cut stones. He sang while he worked because even though he was a poor man, he desired no more than he had and he had no cares or worries. One day he was called to work on the mansion of a nobleman. When he saw the magnificence of the mansion, he experienced the pain of desire for the first time. He said with a sigh, "If only I were rich! Then I would not have to earn my living in sweat and toil as I do now." Imagine his astonishment when he heard a voice say, "Your wish has been granted. Henceforth, anything you desire will be given to you." He did not know what to make of these words until he returned to his hut that evening and found in its place a mansion as magnificent as the one he had been working on. The stonecutter gave up cutting stones and began to enjoy the life of the rich.
One hot and humid afternoon he looked out his window and saw the King go by with a large entourage of noblemen and slaves. He thought, "How I wish I were a King myself, sitting in the cool of the royal carriage!" His wish was promptly granted and he found himself reclining in the comfort of the royal carriage. The carriage turned out to be warmer than he had thought. He looked out of the carriage window and marvelled at the power of the sun, whose heat could penetrate even the thick walls of the carriage. "I wish I were the sun," he said to himself.
His wish was granted and he found himself sending out waves of light and heat into the universe. All went well for a while. One day it began to rain and he attempted to pierce through a thick bank of clouds but could not. He had himself changed into a cloud and glorified in his power to keep the sun away -- until he turned into rain and found, much to his annoyance, a mighty rock that blocked his path so he was obliged to flow around it. "What?" he cried. "A mere rock more powerful than I? Well, then I wish to be a rock." There he was standing tall upon a mountainside. He barely had time to rejoice in his fine figure, however, when he heard strange clipping sounds proceeding from his feet. He looked down and, to his dismay, found a tiny human being sitting there engaged in cutting chunks of stone from his feet. "What?" he shouted. "A puny creature like that more powerful than an imposing rock like me? I want to be a man!"
He found he was once again a stonecutter going up into the mountain to cut stone, earning his living in sweat and toil but with a song in his heart because he was content to be what he was and to live by what he had.