Of Providence and Prudence

Minchiate Fiorentine:

Card 17 Prudence

The word prudence comes from “providence” = being able to see ahead.

So this is the fortune teller’s card about fortune telling.

To me, “seeing ahead” in a shamanic way, “sensing, what lays around the corner, what is going to happen. This however is quite a different thing than the knowledge based weighing of risks versus rewards the 15th century Italians drawing this card had in mind.

In order to find out a little bit more about this I decide to ‘hit the books’ and hit goooogle.

Live and learn 🙂

I find it so very interesting, how each card of a historic deck becomes my guide into a world previously unknown to me.

In reflection I think, the prudence I encountered there is important in counseling and in therapy, guiding a client to make prudent decisions, they can ultimately stand behind and feel good about.

Prudence implies critical judgement, while shamanic seeing needs deep intuition as a springboard and the Ee’rens as Guides to show you, what is ahead.

In more modern every day use I know the word prudence more in context with being prudish, overly cautious, forgoing the soul’s yearning to follow its passions, risk a little to free yourself from constraint and just ”go for it”, in order to be all you can be.

Then of course there is the word prude – inhibited, especially sexually. A problem in itself -? or a virtue?

So, what does prudent Prudence see in her mirror?

The woman is looking into a hand held mirror. This lets me remember, what I wrote about the 4 of Cups, where the Minchiate shows a Monkey starring into such a mirror as well.

But here the theme has a little twist: In her left hand the woman holds on to the tail of a green Snake, who rears up and – from my vantage point- also is looking into the mirror. I looking at the card see the woman’s face reflected, but, by the way she holds the mirror I am quite sure she sees herself in it, as well as the Snake!

To me the Snake is a Spirit of transformation, trance and healing.

Green speaks of healing and personal growth… so a green Snake to me is symbolizing growth through shedding your old skin and growing through learning about healing wisdom.

But I have a sinking feeling, that this is quite far removed from the original meaning this card had in the 15th century in Italy. While in all the different per-christian belief systems the Snake was seen as associated with healing – the reason why we have 2 snakes on the Aesculapius Staff, the symbol of the healer and the medical profession. Sadly to the christians the Snake was a personification of evil, lies and deceit. I suspect they had to give such a powerful symbol as the Snake a bad name in order to undermine it and instill fear of it into the general population, so that they turn away from pagan beliefs and follow the church, give alms and tributes and so feed this giant institution.

It was shrewd – and prudent for them to do so.

For me however it is prudent to view these christian virtues with a lot of mistrust.

I have seen and survived too much………

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2 thoughts on “Of Providence and Prudence

  1. I wonder if this image (coming as it does from Italy) is a hint at the Minoan snake Goddess? In the Bible it was Eve who listened to the snake and brought about the full truth or understanding. Women and snakes have been linked for a long time I think as have healers, shamans and mirrors. Prudence now holds the mirror up and the snake by it’s tail, she sees the possibilities based on reflections of the past and keeps the knowledge or wisdom firmly under her control.

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