This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll be giving an introduction to each of the tarot suits. It is my hope that these posts will helpful to both those who are new to tarot, and also help further your knowledge if you are already reading.
As I mentioned in my last post, tarot is a divinatory tool made of 78 cards. Sometimes you might also hear tarot referred to as a type of cartomancy, which is just a fancy way of saying, card-based divination. These 78 cards are divided into major and minor cards, 22 archetypes that make up the majors, and has an additional 56 cards that are organized in four suits, almost like playing cards (with cards ace through 10, and then the four court cards). If the major cards in the tarot deck pertain to the larger, overarching issues and themes in our lives, the minor arcana can be thought to be about day to day experiences and situations.
Today I’m starting us off with the suit of wands, which is sometimes also called rods, or staffs, in certain decks. Wands are associated with the classical element of fire. If you familiar at all with astrology, you might also recognize that the attributes of the classical elements are similar to those in tarot as well. When we approach learning to read the cards, knowing these elemental/suit associations will go a long ways towards interpreting them. As I also mentioned in my first post, this is one reason that I am a particularly strong advocate of learning the Rider-Waite-Smith deck first, it makes it so much easier to pick up most other tarot decks that you will encounter.
The element of Fire, and thus wands, is associated with passion (in its many forms), inspiration and creativity, manifestation (that is, the bringing of things into tangible being), strength and power, and spirituality. When we look at what an over-abundance of fieriness manifests as, it can be seen in someone acting brashly, over-ambition (e.g. lots of passion, but lacking follow-through), anger, and sometimes even violence. If I were to translate it into the memes and colloquial speech of our generation, wands would be the suit of zero chill (be it that for better or for worse). Wands are about making things happen and they are anything but passive.
Consider for a moment what a wand is. In a symbolic sense, it is a tool used by a magical practitioner to direct energy. We can think of the suit of wands in much the same terms. (In a lot of ways, tarot symbolism and the associations with the elements, are actually quite intuitive, when you think about it.) In her seminal work, 78 Degrees of Wisdom, tarotist Rachel Pollack refers to wands as “tend[ing] to show the way inner fire shows itself in ordinary life.” Whenever a wand card comes up in a reading I am doing, I always like to consider what is lighting my, or the querent’s fire? What is the catalyst for action? What sparks your passion? What is being energized?
Aces are also the beginning of the suit, so if we think of the suit as being laid out as a sequence Ace – 10, followed by the Page, Knight, Queen, and King, there is also a chronology that is being established. Aces are new and bright and shiny and full of potential, 10s are cards of completions of cycles, and the cards in between them represent the various stage that we go through. The court cards can also be thought of are the progression through various different stages of life, from student, to journeyman, to maturity, to mastery. (It’s a bit more complex than that, but that’s the Sparknotes version.)
Here’s a brief exercise for you to try when acquainting yourself with the cards or in seeking to deepen your understanding of them. It’s somewhat of a longer version of what I proposed with the tarot journal in my first post for this site. Separate all of the Wands cards from your deck and put them in sequential order. Lay out these 14 cards and think of them as if they were a story arc. Try writing a brief interpretation for each card (point form or a few quick sentences will do), using the images in the cards’ illustration, as well as your intuition, and new found knowledge about what the fiery suit means. Next try stringing these interpretations together in order to create a narrative. Framing the suit as both a theme, and a story, will hopefully help make it easier to remember what the cards are about.
It can also be helpful to either meditate on, or do some stream of consciousness writing on the elemental and suit meanings, to come to your own understandings of what each is all about.
Or if you’re feeling a bit stuck, here are some writing prompts to help get your Wands mojo moving:
- What does inspiration look like to you? What forms can it take and how does it play out? How do you bring thing from the realm of the abstract into existing?
- What are the shadow aspects of fiery energy? What are some of drawbacks, or shortcomings?
- What makes you feel powerful or strong?
- In your own life, what do you associate fire with? Describe a person who you think might be a predominantly Wands-type character (it can be anyone – someone you personally know, a celebrity, a history figure). What qualities or characteristics do you see them as possessing that embody this energy?
Until next time, lovelies.
This post was written by Loretta Jean