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Burning the Midnight Oil


showing diligence

  • making an effort
  • working hard
  • applying yourself totally
  • being absorbed in a project
  • dedicating yourself to a task
  • plugging away
  • producing steady results

increasing knowledge

  • taking a course
  • learning a new craft or skill
  • receiving training
  • pursuing greater understanding
  • researching
  • finding out the facts
  • increasing expertise

paying attention to detail

  • being painstaking
  • being extra careful
  • approaching a task methodically
  • getting down to the nitty-gritty
  • handling all the loose ends
  • checking and rechecking
  • noticing the fine points

UPRIGHT: Apprenticeship, repetitive tasks, mastery, skill development.

REVERSED: Self-development, perfectionism, misdirected activity.

The Eight of Pentacles is a card of apprenticeship and mastery. When this card appears in a Tarot reading, you are working hard to improve your skills and become a master at what you do. You may have recently changed your work, education or financial circumstances, and now you are applying your sheer determination and concentration to master the new skill that you are learning. You are diligent and hard-working and you are applying yourself fully to whatever is at the center of your attention. As you do the same task over and over, you work your way towards mastery of your craft, and through your perseverance and unwavering attention, you create success.

The Eight of Pentacles may indicate further education or study in order to hone your skills. You may already be proficient in a particular skill set, but you are now seeking to master those skills. For example, you may be a great home cook, but now you are starting to focus your attention on fine French cuisine. Or perhaps you have learned the basics of Tarot reading, but now you want to become a Tarot expert! You know that it will require a lot of focus and dedication in your studies, but you are willing to work hard and to pay attention to the details. You know that you will not learn these advanced skills overnight, but you are prepared for the journey towards becoming a master at your chosen expertise.

More broadly, the Eight of Pentacles suggests you are working away at the finer details of the various aspects of your life, in an effort to continuously improve your situation. You may be unhappy with your current state, and you know you need to make some important changes in your life to increase your overall satisfaction. This card is a positive sign that you are committed to making those changes and to ensuring that you give yourself the best possible chance. Overall, this is a very hard-working and conscientious energy that is present in your life.

The Eight of Pentacles is an encouragement to keep doing what you are doing as it will eventually lead to success. Yes, it requires a lot of dedication, focus and patience but as each day passes and as you stay true to your values and beliefs, you get a little closer to your goal. It may not be as apparent as you may like but events are unfolding that will lead you to the right path. Continue working on yourself, too, and making ongoing improvements and adjustments to ensure that you are the best person you can be.

If you encounter this card in a reading and are not currently engaged in the active pursuit of your goals, ask yourself what you could learn or create to better yourself or your circumstances. If you are already engaged in the pursuit of new learning, the Eight of Pentacles may be a card of encouragement and reassurance that the energy you invest in your development will be worth your while.

On the Eight of Pentacles we see a young man who is hammering away at a coin. He has finished six and has another coin to go. It is clear that he is in the middle of a project that absorbs all his attention. He’s isolated himself from others (the town in the background) in order to concentrate. In this scene we see the essential elements of the Eight of Pentacles: hard work and attention to detail.

This card often implies a time of great diligence and focus. It advises you to hammer away at the business of the moment, whether a work project, family difficulty, personal goal or unpleasant duty. Sometimes blessings fall into our laps to be enjoyed. Other times we must put out great effort to obtain them. The Eight of Pentacles represents moments when you must give 110%. Just buckle down and do it. Fortunately, this kind of work is invigorating and leads to superb results. The labor of the Eight of Pentacles is deeply satisfying and productive.

The Eight of Pentacles can also symbolize the impulse to learn – to broaden horizons (to use an old-fashioned term). Sometimes we need to develop new skills. We do research, dig out facts or search for expertise. The Hermit is looking for inner knowledge. The man on the Eight of Pentacles seeks external knowledge – the how and why of the material world.

This card can also show the need for meticulous attention. People who are painstaking are often dismissed as nit-pickers, but their extra effort ensures everything is as it should be. It’s a matter of caring – taking the time to check the little details. Now is not the time to be slipshod or casual. Look for errors, and tie up loose ends.

A young man sits bent at a desk working carefully at his craft.  Overhead is evidence of his completed work.  The desk and his air of concentration signify his ability or willingness to continue to immerse himself in this craft.  You are able to develop your potential and get pleasure and satisfaction from your efforts (whether career or hobby).  There is a possibility for compensation for your work as well.  This card may also signify repetitive tasks.

An apprentice or craftsman works on the last of eight pentacles that he has created, the other hanging completed. To understand this card, we might well go all the way back to the Three of Pentacles and the story that developed from there. We saw the craftsman gaining patronage, which led to an abundance of funds to hold tight to in Four of Pentacles. Alas, the craftsman lost it all in Five of Pentacles, but generosity saved him in the Six of Pentacles. In the seven/pents he stood his ground, waiting and watching for a fresh opportunity.

Now that opportunity has come in the Eight of Pentacles. This card could, in fact, indicate a new job or new training. A new investment or new workout program. In some interpretations, the querent might be at a lower level than he was, going through an apprenticeship. This might be a little demoralizing, but there is still gratitude for the employment. Either way, there are clearly no patrons this time to finance him; he is working hard to prove something to himself and his new employer, not to impress rich backers.

Seeing it from another angle, it is working out at a local gym rather than at a expensive fitness center, and working out for your own good not in hopes of impressing anyone. This card is about diligence and limiting your work to a particular project. It is doing your best not to show off what you can do or in the hopes of something more (as in the three/pents for patronage), but because you want to take pride in your work.

To this end, whether learning this skill or already a master at it, the querent will (or should) pay attention to details, research, train, and do whatever else is needed to feel that their work goes above and beyond. Even if no one else notices, they will know that they have taken themselves to a higher level.


The reversed Eight of Pentacles can appear in a Tarot reading when you are focused on self-improvement and personal development. You are highly disciplined and focused when it comes to understanding your inner beliefs and behaviours, and you are dedicated to becoming the best version of yourself. You may have certain ‘rules’ such as only allowing yourself to think a negative thought for 17 seconds (knowing that after this amount of time it begins to have an increasingly negative impact on your well-being), or recalling three things you’re most grateful for before you go to sleep at night. You are ready and willing to do these things over and over until you see results with your well-being and general happiness.

Alternatively, the Eight of Pentacles reversed may indicate that you are focused on creating perfection, but to your detriment. When you focus on every tiny detail, you lose sight of the bigger picture and why you’re doing the task in the first place. Similarly, your need for perfection may be getting in the way of your ability to adapt and change. You may like to have things done in a certain way, but what if the circumstances change? Can you adapt, or does it throw you into a tailspin? Know that perfection is a myth and surrender to the art of imperfection.

The reversed Eight of Pentacles suggests that you are working very hard on a project, but it is not leading to the desired outcome. Instead, you’re feeling frustrated and disappointed by the lack of success and progress. You may be lacking the skills and talent that is necessary to be successful and it simply isn’t for you. Or you might be keeping yourself busy with small tasks, but struggling to make progress towards your bigger goals. It is time to take a step back and assess whether you are indeed focused on the right things, or if you need to shift your focus to bring your activities back in alignment with your broader goals.