Cryptocurrencies are a hot new item in the world of digital engineering and social experimentations. Bitcoin being the best known, these ‘alternative currencies’ are evolving to solve the challenges an increasingly complicated world that is also increasingly paranoid about both personal privacy and privately held monetary systems (I.e. Big banks).
At its simplest, cryptocurrencies are digital objects, with built-in transactional history that can be verified via complex cryptographic means. Unlike other digital assets, you can’t just copy a bitcoin and give it away; the original and the copy have the same history and anyone checking that history can tell that it has been copied. Every time a digital ‘coin’ changes hands or is otherwise interacted with, that action is recorded in the history of the object, and thus can be verified. There are still tons of legal and social questions surrounding the use of cryptocurrencies, but they aren’t going away as a concept anytime soon.
It may seem strange to want to write about digital alternatives to cash and credit, but the Tarot is also evolving with the times and I’m here to explore those possibilities spaces. So just what do cryptocurrencies have to do with the Tarot? Well it starts with the suit of Coins, naturally.
Coins, Pentacles, Earth energy; all the variants of this suit refer to physical goods, tangible assets, wealth and power. Physical currencies are an abstraction for wealth and make trading and accounting easier; cryptocurrency is just the latest example that started with seashells used in barter. But most of all, if you look at the suit of Coins as a chain of exchanges, then the linkage between the suit of Coins and Cryptocurrency becomes even more important. If one goes linearly from Ace to Ten, one sees a legacy of events and exchanges that ‘coin’ has been involved it. From the decisions of the Two and Three of Pentacles, to the stability of the Four, the fallow times of the Five, and the entrepreneurism of the Six, Seven and Eight, to the accumulation and display of the Nine and Ten; the lifecycle of the suit of Coins show economic life-flow. Remember: that card didn’t just spring, fully formed for economic impact, from the nothingness of someone’s purse. It has been exchanged for work, for goods, for usury and for investment time and time again. It’s history is part of its value: the dollar is strong because it’s done so much, been used everywhere, appreciated by everyone for it’s value.
When you draw a Coins card, consider that it’s face value represents the stage of its economic journey. Perhaps draw again until you have two more Coins cards, and lay them next to the original; this show where the coin came from and where it shall go. While I can’t know the complete history of the quarter in my hand, I can know the transactional history of a BitCoin because that transactional history is part of the very identity of that BitCoin. Since Tarot cards are instances along lifecycles, I can use them to tell the history of something, because that’s part of its very definition; it’s cryptogram.