You can read an introduction to the light & shadow series and find links to its other installments >> here! If you aren’t yet familiar with my interpretation of the Fish you might want to read up on its meanings before you continue with this article.
Traditionally, the Fish seem to be thought of as a predominantly positive card, pointing at wealth, at (financial) profit. For me, the card is very, very obviously ambivalent. All the main meanings it has (according to my personal interpretation) have both positive and negative implications.
On the one hand, the Fish can indeed represent productive, positive, issues and goings-on.
One of the Fish’s main meanings is high quantity, abundance, and profit. High quantity (or abundance) is likely to be experienced as something positive if there is a lot but not too much; and as long as that of which there is a lot is something we find pleasant, e.g. “a lot praise”. And it will be productive, too, if it is not just pleasant but also appropriate, healthy, e.g. “a lot of deserved praise.” Profit we will experience as something good if the person who profits is ourselves or someone we think deserves to profit; productive it could well be, too, as long as the profit was made by honest, morally sound means, and as long as profiting hasn’t become an obsession, an end in itself.
Apart from abundance, the Fish can stand for something (or anything) that is of value to us. Valuing something can be good and very productive – if that something is healthy for us. A good example would be the valuing of friendship. For as human beings we need close emotional relationships with other human beings in order to thrive. And if we value friendship we will invest time and effort in our friendships. Our friendships will thus prosper – and we will thrive. Valuing friendships would therefore be productive. Another important meaning of the Fish is livelihood, our job, business, or, more general, “to work on something”. If the person the Fish relate to is able to relax in their free time, to allow themselves time off when necessary – or, if the person tends to not take their job seriously -, the Fish can probably be read positively, as the advice to pay more attention to one’s job, to invest more time in one’s business. If the Fish relate to a person who is lazy, who has a sense of entitlement, the Fish are likely telling them that working harder would do them a whole lot of good.
On the other hand, the Fish can also represent negative, destructive issues and goings-on. Take the Fish’s main meaning; high quantity, abundance, and profit. High quantity can be experienced as something truly overwhelming, even negative, if there is not just “much” of something but “too much”, or if that of which there is a lot is something we find unpleasant, e.g. “a lot of negative feedback”. And it will be destructive, too, if it is not just unpleasant but also inappropriate, unhealthy, e.g. “a lot of undeserved negative feedback.” While we will probably experience profit as something good if the person who profits is ourselves or someone we think deserves to profit, it can still be very unproductive if the profit was made by dishonest, immoral means, or if profiting has become an obsession, an end in itself.
Furthermore, the Fish can also represent an unproductive mindset of “quantity before quality”. Especially if they relate to a person who tends to be fearful of losing something, or of getting not enough of something, the Fish probably point, negatively, at greed, an inability to share, or at an inability to truly appreciate the very things one is desperately trying to accumulate.
Above, I mentioned that valuing something can be good and very productive if that something is healthy for us. On the other hand, valuing something which is not healthy for us can be highly destructive. A good example would be the valuing of restrictive gender norms. Valuing restrictive gender norms leads to judging other people and oneself very harshly, and to suppressing those parts of our own nature which don’t conform with them. And that’s something that will cause a lot of damage.
If the fish represent our livelihood, our job, business, or, more general, “to work hard on something”, this can be quite negative if the person the Fish relate to is unable to relax in their free time, or doesn’t allow themselves time off even when they are exhausted – in short, when the Fish refer to a workaholic. In such a case the card probably hints at something very destructive. It says that this person is working so hard that they are neglecting their emotional and physical wellbeing, and probably also their family and friends.