[This post is the fourth of a four-part series on the tarot suits. For a list of the posts on all four suits, click here.]
Describing the Suit of Swords
The way I read cards, predominantly with the Rider Waite Smith deck, I identify the suit of wands with the element of fire. So much of this suit has to do with adventure, creativity, enthusiasm, and all the symbolism associated with fire: passion, heat, vibrancy, volatility. That being the case, this suit can also portray situations that burn hot but die fast, or situations that will literally burn you out.
When we see Wands, we are called to examine the essence of what burning desires exist inside of us as well as externally and how those desires relate to and interact with practical matters in our lives (pentacles/earth), matters surrounding love and emotions (cups/water), or the more intellectual and rational side of our life (swords/air). Wands give us the energy, enthusiasm, and charisma to go after things that may seem only dreams or even impossible. With this confidence and bold courage, we can try new things or take risks we never thought we would, and we can infuse our lives with passion.
The Fool’s Journey through the suit of Wands will show us how these impulsive and exciting urges can move us forward to new heights in our lives, as well as cause us to lose control or go to extremes. Harnessing and finding constructive ways to channel the heat of this suit is one of the major lessons it can teach us.
The Fool’s Journey always begins with a beginning, the Ace, and ends with an ending, the King, with all the steps in the middle making up the lessons along the way.
Ace: Planting a Seed – A New Beginning (From an Ending)
In the Rider Waite Smith deck, the aces show the symbol of each suit being offered by a hand coming out of a cloud, which represents an opportunity for us to reach out and take. Here, we are being offered a wand with lots of small, new leaves growing from it, some of which are already in the air around the wand, as if they have been released from the branch and into the world. There is a chance here for an exciting new adventure, project, or energy that will primarily push us forward in terms of personal growth. Growth starts with the ace, in a tentative beginning. The life force is there to move things forward, but this is just the start, so it requires careful nurturing and guidance in order to blossom further.
Two, Three, Four: Envisioning, Moving, Celebrating
Two: Here we see a critical component of this new stage of growth – the phase when we envision what our heart desires, without fully understanding whether it is even possible in the real world. We let our hearts dream big, and think boldly, without putting restraints or restrictions on where our creative energy might take us. At least in our vision at this point, we have the world in our hands, and we also have some past experience to support us and keep us stable (note the wand bolted to the small wall behind the man). The wand in front represents where we’d like to go now, our next step – but this is essentially a planning stage.
Three: The scene here may look a bit similar to the two, in that we still seem to have a man standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking his horizon, surveying the possibilities before him. However, there is an additional wand now, and it is no longer bound to the wall. There are boats moving on the water before us, and we are ready to travel. We may actually take a journey over water as part of this stage, or somehow be involved in a long-distance project or relationship. Whatever the case, this card tells us that now is the time for us to actually take that step and move forward with our vision. A bit like the Fool’s initial step into the void, we must actually take action on our vision, lest it remain forever just a plan in our minds.
Four: When we reach the four, we are rewarded for our bravery, and we can celebrate an initial victory on our journey through the suit of wands. The energy and daring that we had to harness in order to get to this point has given us a triumph, and we are not alone in celebrating this initial finish line. Fours represent stability through the lens of their individual suit. Much like the four legs of a table, the four gives us a chance to pause, evaluate, find stability, and in this case, enjoy the moment.
Five, Six, Seven: Fighting, Leading, Competing
Five: As the four was only an initial victory, once we get back out on the road of the wands, we find ourselves encountering resistance from others who have passions that burn strong and fiery like our own. Those around us want to convince us that their desires are worthy, but what they want may contradict what we’re aiming for, and the strong conviction and even stubborn determination of individual wills now come together and clash. We won’t get anywhere if we don’t try to see other peoples’ points of view, but the same goes for them. However, hashing it out and even arguing with others is not only an expression of how passionate we are about what we want, it also gives others a chance to fight for their desires as well.
Six: Once we’ve moved past the clashes that marked the five, our strong determination and charisma brings us to a place of leadership, where others are now following us. Not only are we triumphant here (as the figure on the card seems to be leading a sort of victory procession), we also have others looking to us for inspiration, motivation and guidance. The heat of our wands fire has sparked others to join. There’s a shared sense of purpose and mission here, of forward motion together for an objective that holds meaning for those involved.
Seven: Inevitably, once we find ourselves in a position of leadership, as they say, it can be lonely at the top. In fact, power tends to draw competition from others, who may want what you have. You now have to fight for what you want or for what you have, beating back those who would take it from you so they can have it for themselves. This effort to defend what you have or what you want can be worthwhile, or futile, depending on the circumstances. The important thing is to distinguish if what you are fighting so hard to maintain or to gain is actually worth your precious time, energy, and devotion.
Eight, Nine, Ten: Speeding, Persevering, Struggling
Eight: There are no human figures in this card. Circumstances are now moving so fast that it may feel as if things are happening to you, and you are no longer in control of the events around you. You may be called to make quick decisions without time to reflect. The Eight of Wands sweeps you up in a speedy whirlwind. The seeds of growth you have sown thus far are now producing results, and all those wands are pointed back at you, requiring you to flow with their energy and the real-world situations that energy is producing.
Nine: All this forward motion dedicated to adventurous growth and fire has not been without its challenges, and its wounds along the way have left some visible scars. So much has happened so fast that it may now seem as if you can’t let down your guard and trust that everything is going to work out ok. It may feel like another attack is just around the corner, so the wands become a sort of defensive protection, almost like a weapon at the ready to beat back anyone who might try to take advantage of you or hurt you or your goals, objectives, and dreams. Your progress feels threatened, and you are wary, but still standing. You refuse to give in or give up. The fire within you gives you the spark to continue to face whatever life throws your way, even if it risks hurting you, causing you pain, or knocking you down.
Ten: The growth you have cultivated is threatening to overwhelm you. There are so many obligations and burdens that you have taken on, both by choice and against your will, that it feels like an uphill battle just to walk forward. This may be, practically speaking, just an illusion (after all, the ground in this card looks flat despite the fact that the figure seems like he is trying to walk uphill with the bundle of wands before him), but what really matters is that it feels real. What would it take to put down some of those wands that are causing so much strife? To lighten the burden and get back to the joy shown with the budding leaves on the Ace? This card calls us to reckon with the completion of the cycle from 0 to 10, when the wands need to be pruned in order to let the fire get new oxygen to breathe and grow once again.
Page, Knight, Queen: Initiating, Venturing, Radiating
In the wands court cards, we see how creative energy and adventurous risk-taking are channeled through a maturation process that involves initial exploration and leads to quiet but vibrant satisfaction and confidence.
The page now holds the initial wand offered in the Ace and can admire for himself the growth he has created. He’s looking up at the top of the wand and beginning to imagine where he wants to go next. It’s the start of yet another adventure, with all the enthusiasm and hope that entails. Just like a young person headed out for their first trip by themselves, the Page of Wands embodies yet another level of newfound autonomy and confidence. This page will draw on his innate creativity to manifest outcomes in the real world. In terms of your journey through the suit of wands, this card means that another new adventure is on the horizon, with the idealism and trusting spirit of youth but also the hard-won knowledge gained from experiences thus far.
The Knight of Wands is confidence embodied, almost to the point of being cocky. He’s not racing off on a mission like the Knight of Swords, nor is he planted firm and stable like the Knight of Pentacles. Instead, it’s as if he’s showing off, letting the world see his charisma, charm, attractiveness, fire. He’s more than confident of his ability to go out and get what he wants, and what’s more, this knight is going to have fun doing it. At this point in your journey, it’s truly the journey that matters more than the outcome itself – gathering experiences for the sake of having experiences. There is also a very restless spirit here, the sense that there’s no time to stay too long in one place. This knight feels there are simply too many people and too many things to see, taste, feel, hear and speak to – he is not willing to or interested in “settling down.”
Once the need to get all the restlessness and adventure out of your system has subsided, there comes the calm yet still exciting and even sensual nature of the Queen of Wands. She exudes confidence, but in a way that communicates stability without having to show off. She has a sort of magnetism that doesn’t require specific effort on her part, because her confidence now shines and radiates from within. She has a creative mind and an optimistic outlook, and having been on the journey of wands, has weathered the volatile ups and downs of an unconventional, out-of-the-box life full of people and experiences.
King: Reaping What You Have Sowed – An Ending (For a New Beginning)
The King of Wands, portrayed as facing the left (and in tarot, this represents the past), is ready to pass his wand on to the next generation. He has reached a sort of self-actualization in terms of his creative life and inner fire, as evidenced by the ouroboros on his cape, now a completed circle. The salamander at his feet seems to beckon to the next person coming up in the journey of the suit of wands to seek out the creative completion of the ouroboros as well, as if this king can teach his wisdom and secrets to help another, thus recommencing with the Ace.