Love: Connection/Unity, Harmony/Truce, Attraction/Intimacy
The Two of Cups. Love. Intimacy. Connection. Attraction. Harmony. Unity. Joy. Truce. The Two of Cups corresponds to the Sefirot Chokmah, and represents the active, original form and emanation of the idea of Cups. It is the line, the first manifestation of the concept of something other than a singular point, and is the original harmony. The energy of the suit here are not diluted, and this is the first real manifestation of the idea of the suit that we can see.
As such, the Two of Cups represents the best of the suit of Cups as we see it; the suit’s energies in harmony with itself. The idea of intimacy remains at the forefront of this card, and is its primary focus; but the idea of intimacy is also expressed through the similar ideas of connection, attraction and unity. The idea of Emotional Force becomes joy and harmony. The idea of fluidity becomes truce (though not the same extent as the card of the same name). This card is in many ways a less powerful version of the Lovers (VI).
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a man and woman holding their cups together in what could be either close friendship or love, reaching out to each other. The Thoth art depicts two cups each receiving water from the same source as a sign of connection, reinforced by the intertwining of the tails of two fish; this card emphasizes connection, unity, and peace.
In a reading, this card asks you to look at how close relationships with another individual may be playing a role in your life. It is important to remember that this card does not always mean romantic love; it can just as often mean the love between friends. This card also asks you to find joy in the company of someone close to you, to examine your connections to others, to try to achieve harmony, and to look at your attractions to others. Reversed, this card’s energies are blocked somehow; intimate feelings are not being expressed, the feeling may only be going one way, or discord is making union difficult.
The Potential: Intimacy, Fluidity, Intuition
The Ace of Cups. It corresponds to the element of Water, and the Sefirot Kether. Its association with Kether – the point, the seed, the emanation, and the spiritual perfection – makes the Ace of Cups the pure idea and spirit of the suit of Cups. It is the original appearance of the energy of Cups, untarnished by association with with reality. As such, the Ace represents the pure idea of Cups.
The suit of Cups makes up one half of one half of the two dualities of the Tarot (Wands/Cups and Swords/Disks). While Wands represent action and driving passion, Cups represent passivity and powerful emotional intimacy. Wands create, and Cups receive. Wands are ‘masculine,’ and Cups are ‘feminine.’ The Ace of Cups is the beginning of the path that the energy of Cups will take down the Sefirot, and it is this energy that will be changed by the following Sefirot.
The Rider-Waite card shows a hand holding forth a cup, offering its energies to the reader, giving you the energies directly from EinSof. The Thoth art shows a single cup, brimming with water, at the center of an explosion of power. This is similar to the Ace of Wands, but differs in several ways; the Ace of Cups uses blue and green colors primarily, and the very emanations themselves are less sharply defined, made of more gradual curves. The energy of Cups, while still powerful, is not as forceful as that of Wands, and more open to compromise.
In more practical terms, the Ace of Cups symbolizes emotional force, powerful emotions, fluidity (unlike the typical rigidity of Wands), intimacy, and intuition (empathy). The three most important of these would be Intimacy, Fluidity, andIntuition. This card represents the powerful emotions that bring people together, adaptability and willingness to compromise, and the ability to understand and sympathize and empathize with others. It represents the emotional bonds of the universe. These qualities are on in the most positive form, as the Aces correspond to spiritual perfection.
In a reading, the Ace of Wands advises the reader or querent to exemplify the qualities of the Suit of Cups; be emotional, try to see how others feel, don’t be afraid to be emotionally intimate, be adaptable, and be more passive than active. This is not the time for action; it is the time to sit back and go with the flow. Reversed, this card’s energies are blocked or twisted somehow; perhaps you should scale back on these qualities in yourself, or if you think you see the qualities of this suit somewhere you may be mistaken.
While the Ace of Wands is the ultimate origin, the origin needs to have someplace to go; this place is the ultimate womb, the ultimate fertile ground; the Ace of Cups. Wands represent creativity and action, and Cups represent adapting that creativity and not taking any direct action. Cups represent not only emotions and passivity, but also potential; great things might come out of one who exemplifies the qualities of Cups.
Princess of Wands: The Daring Pioneer
The Princess (or Page in the Rider-Waite deck) of Wands is the Earth of Fire; her personality corresponds to the Sefirot of Malkuth. She is the person who embodies the qualities of fire in the most “earthy” way. She is the end of the cycle and also the beginning; she will become the new Queen in time, and so also has a link to creation and birth. The Princess of Wands is a daring and individual; she is an explorer and pioneer, with a brilliant mind. She is, like her other personalities, also passionate and can be quick to anger. Like the Prince, she can be violent and even vengeful if provoked. Her drive is more focused than the Prince, as her life has been set out for her, and she often appears implacable and indomitable. She inspires others, and is a strong believer in her own self-righteousness. She can sometimes become overly theatrical, and is enthusiastic about everything – but still she can remain focused. She can also be sudden and unexpected; being around her can be tiring. A good example of a Princess of Wands in fiction is the titular character of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; she embodies the Princess of Wands.
The Rider-Waite art is lacking greatly, I fear, and does not illustrate her character accurately; it merely depicts a young man with a wand looking foolishly to the side. The Thoth illustration, however, tells a different tale; the Princess is dragging her pet tiger forward and onward into the unknown, following a focused trail of fire; she has her mind set on something (though it could be something completely random), and will carry on to its end. Not even a tiger can stand up to her; she dramatically is shooting off down her path.
In a reading, the Princess of Wands asks you to examine how her personalities can be seen in those around you. Is someone going off and exploring new things? Is someone being overly dramatic? Should you perhaps be more forceful and implacable? Does someone have a vendetta? Does someone have so much enthusiasm just looking at them makes you tired? Reversed, this card indicates that these energies are blocked or held back by someone, or can be seen in unusual ways; is someone’s pioneering creativity being stifled? Are they constantly told to tone down their enthusiasm?
Prince of Wands: The Playful Romantic
The Prince of Wands (roughly the Knight of Wands in Rider-Waite decks) is the Air of Fire; Princes are air and Wands are fire. He is the fiery part of the Sefirot Tiphareth’s personality. He is the union of Chokmah and Binah (Knight and Queen), and represents the compromise between the two, being in many ways an exemplar of his suit and a combination of the Knight and Queen. He is driven (Fire) by ideas of Justice (Air), and is very swift and often impulsive. He is proud and courageous like the Knight his father, but also romantic and oftentimes playful in ways similar to his mother the Queen. However, he is young and not full of the “purer” ideas of Chokmah and Binah, and so is also easily-led and indecisive. He has passion, but is too young to be able to channel it effectively, and so ends up trying to do everything. His pride can often become empty boasting, and his play can become sadistic and mocking if left unwatched. Sometimes, his drive may vanish and he may appear lazy; while he has the passion to do things, he does not always have the drive.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a bold knight charging bravely forward at… something. What it is we don’t know, but he isn’t afraid of it. he is bold, impetuous, and proud. He rides a horse, adding a sense of swift movement as well. The Thoth art also has a theme of movement; the prince is seated on a fast-moving chariot pulled by lions, in a pose that might be described as welcoming. He is attractive and likeable, and his chariot is light enough to change course at a moment’s notice. He has speed and drive, but could go anywhere with it.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that a Prince of Wands plays in your life; is someone overly impulsive, given to fits of passion and then moving on? Is someone having trouble channeling their impressive energies? Is someone being arrogant and boastful while not actually doing much? Is there a romantic in your life who sweeps you off your feet with his passion, who acts as the charismatic comedian who everyone loves? All of these are aspects of the Prince, and seeing this card asks you to examine how he may be appears in your life in the people around you; or maybe advises you to adopt his characteristics. Reversed, this personality is blocked or hidden from you; perhaps you love of this person blinds you to his other Princely qualities, or the other way around; look for the Prince in unexpected places.
Queen of Wands: The Proud Ruler
The Queen of Wands represents the passive characteristics of Wands and fire, just as the Knight of Wands represents the active characteristics of the suit. The Queens correspond to Binah, and are the Water of Fire. The Queen of Wands, then, is a proud, adaptable (where Water meets drive), persistent, generous, and calmly inspiring. While the Knight exemplifies Strength and Dominion, the Queen exemplifies Virtue (which also corresponds to Binah, like the Queen). She passively exudes the qualities of the suit of Wands. She can also be intimidating, snobbish, savage, and convinced of her own right(eous)ness (arrogant). She may sometimes be nurturing, but can also be cruel and tyrannical, and may sometimes be disconnected from those she rules. She is quick to anger, and enjoys being in control, and if she loses her authority, her calm facade can slip away.
The Rider-Waite image shows the queen sitting on a throne, looking noble and rather proud, calmly waiting for an audience. The Thoth illustration shows a rather imposing and calm figure, the sun shining out of her head, looking down upon her subjects. Both images show a cat, which is the animalistic equivalent of the Queen of Wands; aloof, calm, proud, and ruler of her own private kingdom.
In a reading, this card advises you to look for the influences of a calm, authoritative personality, who can both be inspiring and intimidating. This person leads not with active charisma as the Knight of Wands does, but by example, keeping the moral standard high. She may think she’s above everyone else, and may oftentimes be tyrannical and arrogant, but at the same time she can also be generous, compassionate, and adaptable. Reversed, this card’s energies are blocked or hidden in a person; look for these traits showing where you may not expect them, or how they manifest in unique ways.
Knight of Wands: The Young Ruler New to the Throne
The Knight of Wands, while not a Major Arcana, is also not one of the ten numbered suit cards. It – and other court cards like it – fits somewhere in between the two. While the numbered cards represent the energies of the suit as they are shaped by passing through the Sefirot, and the Major Arcana represent the path that energy takes between Sefirot, the court cards represent the effects that the energies of a particular suit have on the personality; the four court cards show the different aspects of a suit as they may manifest in the characteristics of a person. Each court card also is associated with a Sefirot; the Knight is associated with Chokmah, as in many ways the Knights embody the symbolic masculine, and the active nature of each suit. Similarly, in the Court Card narrative, the Knight of Wands represents the young prince from a distant kingdom who has overthrown the previous king and married the older queen, and so embodies conquest.
The Knight – or King in some decks, like the Rider-Waite – is associated with the element of Fire; the Knight is the active, passionate court card. The Knight of Wands, then, can be said to be the fiery part of fire. As such, he represents what happens in a person when fire is made larger by more fire. The personality of the Knight of Wands is that of an exceedingly passionate, courageous, charismatic, strong-willed, determined, active, creative, unpredictable, and proud person. On the other hand, he can also sometimes be cruel, bigoted, brutal, rash, and single-minded. He is the exemplar of the nine of Wands; Strength. A bold leader unafraid to do what needs to be done, he leads with passion, creativity, and powerful force and drive. He can, however, become blinded by his actions, and become wrapped up in his own strength, leading him to become bigoted or arrogant. He also sometimes may expect too much of other people, leading him to come off as brutal or cruel. In his belief that he knows what is best, crossed with his passion, the Knight of Wands also is often rash and impetuous – though usually does not mean harm. The personality of the Knight is like that of a young, new ruler, eager to prove himself to the world – and to himself.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man sitting on a throne, holding a wand and sternly looking over his kingdom. In his gaze is the will and drive of his personality, but this art to me seems lacking. The Thoth art, on the other hand, shows a Knight upon a rearing horse, while in the background flames shoot up all around. To me, this embodies what the Knight of Wands is; fiery, passionate, and ready to lead at the front of the line. His rearing horse gives him stature and makes him imposing, and he has the appearance of being ready to charge forward bravely (and maybe rashly). Power just oozes off of him.
In a reading, the Knight of Wands indicates that someone with the above personality plays a strong role in the situation – this person could be yourself, someone you know, or someone you don’t know. Think about how these aspects of personality apply to yourself and those around you. Has someone recently been promoted and is using their new power to assert themselves? Are you?
Reversed, this personality is twisted somehow; perhaps someone around you is really a Knight of Wands though (s)he does his best to hide it, or perhaps these energies are negatively affecting your life. It is bad form to read a reversed court card as representing the negative qualities of the court card, but still sometimes this interpretation leaks out to me; a reversed card represents the energy twisted in some way, and while I don’t read this as representing exclusively negative traits, it makes me more carefully examine those negative traits, and if they are present then it emphasizes them. It also means to me that the traits of the Knight are there, but in forms that you may not immediately recognize.
Oppression: Self-destruction, Burden/Struggle, and Overextension
The Ten of Wands. Oppression. Burden. Struggle. Overextension. Cruelty. Inescapability. Collapse. Blind force. The Ten of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot of Malkuth, which represents Root and Sum of the Tree of Life. Malkuth is the last of the Sefirot, and serves also as the origin of the energy of the Tree upon the Earth. Its effect on the energy of each suit is to ground it in reality. Malkuth is the only of the Sefirot associated with the pragmatic element of Earth; Kether and Chokmah are Fire, Binah is Water, while Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod are all associated with the abstract element of Air. The pinnacle of the Suit of Wands – Strength – is found at Yesod, and is associated with Air. Strength is the ideal of Wands – a mostly abstract concept – and Oppression is thereality of the suit – and Reality is what best describes Malkuth’s counterpart in the Naples Arrangement, 10. Oppression is what occurs when the ideal of Strength meets the practical truths of reality.
As such, the Ten of Wands – a mostly negative card – represents what happens to the Element of fire when it comes into physical existence. A person who embodies the energy of Wands, displaying strength, perseverance, creativity, courage, virtue, admirability, and passion is inevitably worn down by the world; no flame burns forever, and eventually it will die down. Those who are passionate, strong, and virtuous will try to do as much as they can to the best of their ability – and will soon become overwhelmed, unable to continue to effectively carry out the responsibilities that they have taken on. They refuse to give up, displaying their endurance and stamina, but no human will is indomitable. They will experience oppression, and though they may turn to others, their own characteristics will set them apart and leave them ultimately alone. Yet still they will struggle on stubbornly until their flame goes out.
On the flipside, one who exemplifies the qualities of Fire can sometimes becomean oppressor, through the use of Blind Force; using their passion and drive inappropriately, eventually becoming a tyrant.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a lone man struggling to carry a heavy load of ten wands – clearly showing his suffering and solitude. However, his stubborness is revealed by the fact that he still walks despite his terrible burden. The Thoth art shows the grid of Wands turned blue, indicating their loss of the fiery energy of the suit and their submissiveness, in the background while a pair of rigid, warlike wands hover over them, oppressing them. The emanations have returned, but combined with the fore wands and the background, give the card a rather ominous and sinister feel.
In a reading, the Ten of Wands indicates that you may have overextended yourself, have too much to do, or are bringing about your own destruction. It advises you to ease back on your load; don’t take too much on yourself, and be careful in your use of force. Reversed, this card to me indicates that the oppression is twisted and is perhaps going the other way; are you acting as an oppressor?
The Nine of Wands. Strength. Endurance. Perseverance. Stamina. Bravery. Admirability. Defensiveness. The Nine of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot of Yesod, which represents Crystallization and Solidification. This Sefirot is the sum of all those that came before it in a way that the other Sefirot are not; it directly receives energy from Tiphareth which in turn receives it from Kether, and also resolves the weakness of Netzach and the reaction of Hod. In the case of Wands, Strength represents the non-degenerate qualities of Valour; courage and bravery remain the same, but instead of emphasizing individual boldness, Strength emphasizes perseverance, endurance, and standing up for your beliefs, while at the same time harkening back to Virtue (Three of Wands) in terms of admirability, the silent quality of the suit of Wands. The Nine of Wands also resolves the swift movement and instability of Swiftness, which in many ways represents the quickly-fading blaze, by instead representing the massive, steady flame that serves as a beacon for those around it. In the case of Wands, Strength is the sum and essence of all that is Wands; it is the solidified and crystallized form of Fire, passion, action, and creativity, exemplifying both the outer and inner qualities of the suit of Wands. In the Naples arrangement, 9 corresponds to the essence of being; to show the qualities of the Nine of Wands is to show the essence of being of Wands.
The Nine of Wands shows all that is good about Wands; Passion becomes Strength, Courage becomes Bravery, Defiance becomes Defensiveness and standing up for oneself, the swift cycle of rapid change becomes a lasting beacon filled with endurance and stamina, acting as a role model and an admirable goal for those around it.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a man with a bandaged head leaning on a Wand, with more in the background; he is clearly tired, but still he endures. This card emphasizes the essence of inner strength and passion that keep one going, even though he may become weary. The Thoth card shows a grid of eight Wands, with a ninth in the center of it. Strong but steady emanations come from the center of the Wands, and the central Wand is not overly different from the others; it shows balance between sun and moon, and is thicker to demonstrate strength, yet it does not separate completely from its fellows like the Seven of Wands does. It serves as an example for what the other Wands have become, and does not abandon them to individualism.
In a reading, the Nine of Wands commends the strength of a situation or your position in it, and tells you not to be afraid. It advises you to stand up for what you believe in, and to endure and persevere; you can make it through whatever might be coming your way. It might not be easy, but by embodying the qualities of Strength, you will win. It can advise you to serve as a beacon for others, or to find a beacon yourself and learn from them. Be passionate, but do not boast and cause situations that might lead to conflict; this card does not represent conquest. It is the culmination of an inner struggle that has resulted in spiritual strength that those around will admire. Reversed, this card shows that the energy of Strength is being blocked somehow; your stamina or perseverance is failing, you are losing confidence in yourself, or you feel like you can’t go on. Push onwards and you can achieve what you need to!
Swiftness: Rapid/Unexpected Changes/News, Fall, and Speed
The Eight of Wands. Swiftness. News. Changes. Speed. Conclusion. Fall. The unexpected. Sudden action. The Eight of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot of Hod, which represents intellect, structure, and weakness – as a response to the degenerate nature of Netzach. The inherent structure of the suit of Wands is actually not very structured; Wands are associated with fire, which is itself not inherently ordered. As such, the ‘order’ and ‘structure’ of fire and Wands is inherently fleeting (unless one’s power and passion blaze on for a long while), and passes by swiftly. The Eight of Wands represents this swiftness and the sudden change that can result from the energy of the suit. In the Naples Arrangement, 8 corresponds to Knowledge and Thought; it is the consciousness of the nature of Wands that define this card, and why its swiftness and speed come to the fore.
The aspect of ‘weakness’ appears in the Eight of Wands in the form of fall; one who is passionate but uses up their energy swiftly will burn out early and will fade rapidly, going from someone to no one in a short span of time. In a similar vein, the Eight also then can represent conclusions, and the end of a period in one’s life. However, it is important to remember that these periods are not major, and the falls are not large – some of the Major Arcana hold those spots in reserve.
The Eight also is a reaction to the nature of Valour; the fall again shows itself, as one falls from grace and valour, and speed as well; the reaction to a perceived flaw in the nature of Wands will be swift, sudden, passionate, and grandiose; leading to a possible conclusion or sudden, unexpected change. In the vein of unexpected change, the Eight of Wands also represents news, particularly surprising news; this news could either be good or bad, but it will certainly be a change.
The Rider-Waite art shows eight wands falling from the sky to the earth, demonstrating motion (likely swift, as they’re falling), and very clearly the idea of a fall. The remind me of arrows in many ways, travelling swiftly from one place to another, like sudden, unexpected news. The Thoth illustration shows eight zig-zagging, energetic wands all emanating from a central point, illustrating the idea of spreading news. Above the wands is a rainbow, which is a representation of the cards role as a messenger.
In a reading, the Eight of Wands generally indicates a sudden change, piece of surprising news, or a fall from grace. It can also ask you to examine your current actions and whether or not a rapid change in direction is necessary, or to be wary of things that might bring you down. It can also advise you to act quickly to seize the day. Reversed, this card indicates that the swift energies of sudden change are present, but are blocked; is something holding you back from making said change? Are you denying the truth of something you’ve heard just because it came out of the blue? Are you trying to stave off a sudden change you feel is coming?
Valour: Individual Glory, Courage, and Defiance
The Seven of Wands. Valour. Courage. Defiance. Aggression. Glory. Individualism. Everyone for themselves. The Seven of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot Netzach: weakness, the degenerate, creativity. Anarchy. Like Geburah, Netzach has a sense of chaos surrounding it, but not the random chaos of first motion; it is ordered, degenerate chaos. The energy of the suit of Wands is frayed as it leaves Tiphareth and approaches Netzach, changing form. As such, the energy seen in Netzach is a distorted, twisted, degenerate form of the energy seen in Tiphareth; the anarchy of unity. In the Naples Arrangement, 7 corresponds to Bliss – in some ways in the sense of rapture and reveling in the quality of being, and lustful abandon.
When one takes the elements and qualities of the suit of Wands and uses and displays it with abandon, one reaches Valour. Valour in itself is not always a bad thing, and many might consider it very similar to Victory and Virtue; but there are key differences. Virtue is a set of passive characteristics, that others see in you without overly much action on your part. Valour is a set of active characteristics, its adjectives placed on you for your bold actions. Victory is triumph as a group, where the preceding elements of Fire come together. Valour has much of this energy, but is instead focused on the individual, not the group. The pride one has as a result of the Six of Wands is the result of group action. As such, the energy Valour represents is the more selfish, degenerate form of the triumph and acclaim of Victory.
As such, Valour represents courage, defiance, standing up for what you believe in (passionately), aggression, and glory (glory is different from pride in that pride is what you have in yourself; it measures self-confidence and assurance, while glory is how others perceive you, and measure your esteem in the eyes of others) – but in the sense of you as an individual. The group is not important to the concept of valour; only the individual. This fraying of the energy manifests itself also in that instead of one unified triumphant group, one has many glorious and brave individuals, and creates an environment of competition, like was seen in Strife (though this competition is not as negative as seen by Strife) – everyone for himself. Let the most valorous man win.
The art on the Rider-Waite card emphasizes this cards aspect of defiance; a man is holding a wand defensively, seemingly fending off attackers from below. He holds the high ground, and keeps fast to his position. He has conviction. The Thoth artwork is very similar to the art on the Six of Wands; the same grid of Wands is shown, but the steady flames of the Six have been replaced by small, short bursts – like the passionate short bursts of flame that represent passionate individuals who do not rely on others. Additionally, on top of the grid is a seventh wand, seemingly ablaze and about to consume itself, and dividing the grid as well. This serves as a warning; the valorous individual (the burning wand) will take down not only himself, but will divide others too.
In a reading, the Seven of Wands indicates the need to examine your individual sense of pride and possibly arrogance, or acting courageously and temporarily taking the glorious path forward. It can also ask you to consider what your strong beliefs are, and to find where you stand and hold your point. Reversed, this card asks whether or not there is enough individualism in you; have you been so subsumed in a group that you have no real individual identity? Have you been hiding? Is it time for you to step forward and use your courage?
Victory: Triumph/Accomplishment, Group Pride/Acclaim, Lasting Order
The Six of Wands. Victory. Triumph. Acclaim. Pride. Nationalism. Accomplishment. Lasting order. The Six of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot of Tiphareth: Conscious Harmony. Whereas Kether is the original harmony of the Suit – the unconscious harmony – Tiphareth is the conscious harmony, which comes to understand that Chesed and Geburah are two sides of the same thing. This revelation brings about Tiphareth, which is in many ways like a toned-down Kether; if one looks at the Tree of Life, you can see that Tiphareth is the only Sefirot other than Chokmah and Binah that receives any energy of Kether. As such, after chaotic motion of Geburah, the light of Kether brings about realization and a conscious, explicit harmony to the Suit of Wands. In the Naples Arrangement, 6 is Experience; the Experience that brings about harmony.
The Six of Wands, then, is the combination of the Four and Five; of Completion and Strife, given a positive, enlightened spin. Conflict (Five) is brought to Order (Four) to bring Triumph and Accomplishment. Adversity (Five) comes together with Celebration (Four) to bring people together into groups, and the sense of Accomplishment (as a Group) and Group Pride rise out of this. Competition (Five) allows for the best to rise to the top, and Security (Four) provides for everyone else, giving everyone Lasting Order. Tiphareth restores balance and stability (as can be seen in the card’s meaning of Lasting Order) to the Suit of Wands and Element of Fire through experience and realization. As the center of the Tree of Life, the Sefirot of Tiphareth also represents the central balance of the suit, as all of the energies above Tiphareth flow into it, and Tiphareth flows into all below it (save Malkuth). As such, in many ways, Tiphareth represents some of the best the suit has to offer (the Sefirot Yesod performs a similar role). It is at this point that the previous elements of the Suit of Wands all come together: the power of the Ace and Dominion, the qualities of Virtue, the joy of Completion and the conquest of Strife.
As such, Victory represents group accomplishment, pride, unity, overcoming adversity, security, and permanence. In many ways, this card is a (weaker) and more stable version of the Chariot (VII). This card showcases many of the best aspects of the Suit of Wands.
The Rider-Waite art shows a very Caesar-esque figure, upon a horse with an ivy wreath upon his head and holding aloft a wand proudly, surrounded by others doing the same, illustrating and stressing the fact that this card is not about individual accomplishment, but rather that of a community or group. The Thoth illustration depicts six wands crossed in a grid, with a steady flame – not violent emanations any longer – burning in the squares of each, telling of strength through unity and stability. It is also interesting to note that the Wands with bird-like heads here are facing up now instead of down (like they were in the Five of Wands) – looking up to Kether’s influence.
In a reading, the Six of Wands indicates that you should be looking to those around you to help you overcome your mutual goals, and have a sense of pride in terms of where you are and what you’ve accomplished with those around you. Embrace your group identities and work with the team; through teamwork and passion you will overcome adversity and achieve victory, and one that will last. Reversed, this card asks you to look at how you may be focusing too much on your individual pride and accomplishments, and to instead look at how you fit in with the pride and accomplishments of those around you; maybe you have achieved a victory, but its effects will not be permanent, or you will have done it by yourself so that you will not have the joy of truly sharing your triumphs with those around you.
Strife: Conflict, Adversity, and Competition
The Five of Wands. Strife. Conflict. Adversity. Frustration. Disagreement. Competition. Struggle. Disharmony. The Five of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot of Geburah, and is the first card that can really be interpreted as negative. The Sefirot Geburah corresponds to upset – essentially, the destruction of the balance of Chesed. As such, the four Fives – all of which correspond to Geburah – are primarily negative cards, and represent the stable energy of their suit being destroyed – and the destruction of stability (particularly the “good” stability of Chesed) is rarely positive. In the Naples Arrangement, 5 corresponds to motion – those actions matter can take once it has come into being. These motions, however naturally upset the previous state of stability and balance, and so Geburah also represents to the first strong appearance of chaos and disharmony, particularly among Wands. The passionate energy of Fire and Wands is shifted from the realm of the positive to the realm of the negative. In particular, the Five of Wands represents a form of chaos in the form of conflict and disagreement; the opposite in many ways of “order.”
The Five of Wands has the distinction, as I said, of being the first “negative” of the Wands. The previous harmonious energy of Wands is thrown off and upset by the motion of Geburah, and so the suits energies now relate to its unstable aspects. As the suit of Passion, situations and individuals charged with the energy of Wands often have strong feelings about things and are very stubborn, and so often might come into conflict, which is the word that best describes this card. When many diverging opinions move (Geburah) and come together, all backed up by passionate and driving wills, discord, disagreement, and competition all will come to the fore, and it is in situations like these that the energy of the Five of Wands is revealed.
A second aspect of the Five of Wands – though related to the first – is the idea of frustration and adversity. Why can’t others see your point of view? Why is this so difficult? With regards to adversity, this card primarily refers to struggles and frustrations with regard to the actions of others, as opposed to the hassles that characterize cards like the Eight of Swords, Interference. Interpersonal conflict leading to conflict, competition and feelings of annoyance and frustration define the Five of Wands: the coming together of passionate, opposing wills.
The art on the Rider-Waite card shows a group of men fighting and struggling against each other, and I believe covers the meaning of the card very simply and with little need for explanation. The Thoth illustration shows, like many of the other Wand cards, crossed wands (signalling strength and passion) on a field of flame. Notice that the emanations coming from the wands are much more subdued than those of the previous cards, and the bright yellow background contrasts greatly with the darker reds of the main picture, signalling opposition. The birdlike heads of the upper back wands also seem to me to be menacing, threatening the wands below them.
In a reading, the Five of Wands asks you to review your current situation with regards to opposing, negative relationships with others; are the causes of your frustrations the actions of others? Is there discord in your group of acquaintances or coworkers? How is competition playing a role in your life? The idea of competition here is the least negative; sometimes from competition and strife, stronger individuals emerge. But sometimes not. In reverse, this card indicates perhaps a lesser disagreement between people, or that you feel like being argumentative but manage to hide it. It could also be that while you feel like you’re in a competitive and strife-filled environment, others don’t – or perhaps others see the environment as that way and you don’t!
Completion: Order, Celebration, Security
The Four of Wands. Completion. Order. Fulfillment. Security. Law. Friendship. Celebration. Festivity. The Four of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot Chesed: condensation, stability, and growth. The energy of Wands, when it flows through the Sefirot Chesed, is then solidified and made stable in a way that none of the previous Sefirot do. In the Naples Arrangement, four is the first appearance ofmatter. One is the divine spirit and the point, two is initial manifestation and distance, three is he birthing ground of the idea and the plane, and four, then, is when we as humans can finally fully experience and understand the energy of Wands as it shows itself in our world, as finally there is matter. Completion is the stable, healthy, growing aspect of the suit of Wands, and represents how its positive energies show themselves in our lives.
The Four’s aspect of Order and Law represents that order and law that is given to the people by the individuals described by Dominion and Virtue: these people, driven by the element of fire, go forth and define the world, and so through their actions the energy of Wands trickles down to those who do not necessarily possess the fiery passion of Wands themselves. To go along with this, the Four’s aspect of Security is again provided by the visionary, passionate leaders who shape the world and lay out the law for the protection of all.
And when one is secure, what should one do but celebrate? The festive aspect of the Four of Wands completes circle that brings completion and fulfillment: the joy of celebration and friendship and the security of law and order, coming together to provide a safe place for passion to be expressed. The Four of Wands is the solid manifestation of the energy of the element of Fire, and demonstrates how it plays a role in our lives every day.
The Rider-Waite art depicts a merry group of friends celebrating, emphasizing the festive nature of the card. The Thoth illustration, on the other hand, emphasizes the idea of completion and security, with four wands surrounded by a thick-walled circle, both providing fulfillment and protection – in a way, like a toned-down World or Universe (XXI).
In a reading, the Four of Wands asks one to examine how friendships, security, order, the law, and the passionate joy of celebration (similar to the divine drunkenness of Lust, but toned down significantly) are influencing your life. Reversed, this card tells you to examine how these energies in your life may have become blocked or twisted – is your security really secure? What are the qualities of your friendships? Do you feel complete? Do you go out and celebrate the joy of life enough?
Virtue: Conception, Foresight, and Leadership
The Three of Wands. Virtue. Spring. Blossoming. Conception. Foresight. Leadership. Setting an example. The Three of Wands – or Virtue – corresponds to the Sefirot Binah, which represents duality, passivity, and the feminine. As such, the Three of Wands meets a form of contradiction here; it is the water of fire. It is where the active energy of the Wands meets the passive energy of Binah. As such, the themes of the suit of wands are expressed in more concrete terms here; Chokmah is the energy and force of the duality of Sefirot two and three, and Binah is the interpretation and receiver of that energy, and reflects it back as something new. As the head of the Pillar of Severity, Binah also serves the role of restricting, for the first time, the energy of fire.
As such, while the Two of Wands describes active characteristics in a person, situation, or object, the Three of Wands describes more passive characteristics, yet still reflections of the energetic suit of Wands. Creativity is represented by the “gentler” force of conception and brainstorming, the forces of Will and Drive are represented by replaced by the more passive quality of Foresight, and at the crux of the card as seen in its name, Power and Control are replaced by the idea of leadership, particularly by virtuous example. It takes a man or woman of passion to lead, and so the energy of Wands is expressed most through this aspect of the card.
The Rider-Waite art shows a man standing above a cliff-edge, somehow placed above the world but also looking down on it; he can see into the distance (foresight) better than most can, and at the same time exudes the gentle air of a thinker; he embodies, as the receiver and interpreter of the energy of Wands, how the best of the Suit of Wands and Fire can be seen in the world. The Thoth illustration shows three crossed wands, and while behind them one can still see emanations of power, they are much more subdued than those of the Ace and of Dominion. The Three of Wands, then, represents the “soft” side of the Suit of Wands, while the Two is the “Hard” side – both cards represent one half of the duality of the characteristics of Wands, and one who can harness the power of both will certainly be strong.
In a reading, this card emphasizes the importance of foresight, and can also indicate renewal and blossoming; in this way, one can draw parallels to the Fool and in some respects to the Sun, with their ideas of rebirth and leading out of the darkness. The Three of Wands, also with reference to the feminine Sefirot Binah, also can represent spring and caring to some extent. The card of Virtue additionally tells us about the inherent nature of something about the situation; to look for how it – or perhaps ourselves – can lead by example, or just take on the role of leadership in general. It advises us to look at how the qualities of leadership play roles on our lives. In reverse, this energy is blocked somehow; look at how you are not using foresight, how perhaps others being leaders are overshadowing you (or if this works for you, how this is benefiting you), or perhaps how conceptual and brainstorming energies are being blocked or inhibited.
Dominion: Will/Drive, Control/Power, and Creation/Destruction
The Two of Wands. Dominion. Strength. Will. Boldness. Drive. Exploration. Power. Control. Force. Destruction and Creation. The card Dominion corresponds to the Sefirot of Chokmah; the active masculine, creativity, and wisdom. Chokmah is the first of the Sefirot to be made of something other than the pure, abstract force of the suit; it is the pure idea; however, rather than justbeing the idea, this is the first manifestation of the idea that we can see; as opposed to the more abstract concepts of the Ace, we can see the effects of the Two upon our world much more easily.
The Two of Wands shows how the suit of wands first appears in our lives, and is the original harmonious idea of the suit. Like the Ace, the Two is mostly abstract, and instead of being an emanation, like I said, is a manifestation. The suit of Wands and the element of Fire in their pure idea form are molded into personality traits and characteristics in the Two; the creative force of the Ace becomes the act of creation and destruction, the active force of the Ace becomes will, control, and power, while the passionate force of the Ace becomes also will, drive, and exploration. The Ace’s aspect of pure courage becomes the somewhat less abstract boldness, as well.
Essentially, the two of Wands is like a diluted version of the Ace; still with many of the ideas, but slightly more tangible and toned down. It still has great power, however, and a special place as the first manifestation of a suit’s energies. As Chokmah, the two also represents the line, and the first concept of distance. The point of Kether is an abstract concept in the nothingness, infinitely small, but the line represents the first thing that can be measured and seen, and these qualities express themselves in the Two.
In a reading, the Two of Wands generally points to the issues of power, boldness, acts of creation and/or destruction, and will or drive. It also can indicate the desire or need to explore new paths or territories, to travel down uncharted seas in the journey of life. Reversed, the Two indicates to me that these energies are struggling to be expressed, or advising that they have become too dominant in you and suggesting you to tone them down.
The art of the Rider-Waite card depicts a man holding the world in his hands suggesting power and control, while simultaneously looking out to sea; which to me always suggested exploration. The Thoth illustration is not quite as easy to interpret, and my interpretation of it comes mainly from Crowley’s theories and the Sefirot; two crossed wands with lines of power coming from them; a sign of strength, control, and power.
The Origin: Passion, Action, and Creativity
The Ace of Wands. It corresponds to the element of fire, and the Sefirot Kether. Kether is the eternal spirit, perfection, unity, purity, force, emanation, and the seed. In terms of the Naples Arrangement, Kether is the point; the first manifestation of the idea of position in nothing. As the first emanation and appearance of the suit of Wands – and the element of Fire – the Ace of Wands represents the unified ideal of the suit of Wands in its most spiritual, pure, and abstract form.
So then, the Aces of Wands can be said to represent the pure idea of the suit of Wands. What, then, is this pure idea?
Wands represent fire. Fire, in turn, represents passion, action, and aggression. It is in many ways the opposite of Cups (Water), representing one half of one of the two dualities that define the four suits (Action/Passivity, Abstraction/Practicality). The Ace of Wands is the beginning of the path that the suit of Wands will take down the Sefirot, and is untainted by the influences of the Sefirot below Kether.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a hand coming forth from a cloud – emerging from the realm of the eternal spirit (Kether) to give the bearer the Wand – this symbolizes the pure, untamed nature of the Ace, and its origins as outside of the world (not to mention the idea of the ace as the origin of the suit). The Thoth illustration of the card shows a very red, yellow, and orange (the colors of fire) wand, with zig-zagging, lightning-like emanations coming from it, representing the force, power, and otherworldly origins of this card. The presence only of these fiery hues also represents the card’s purity.
Now, the abstract is all well and good, but practically, what words best represent this card? If it comes up in a reading, what does it mean to me? Of course its meaning depends on its position in the spread, but generally, this card to me means Passion, Action, and Creativity. It represents the most powerful and pure form of extreme passion, the active manipulation of one’s surroundings, and the burst of energy associated with the first forays into the act of creation (Creative Force). There is nothing negative about this (or indeed, any of the aces), as they represent perfection. To a lesser extent, this card also symbolizes courage, confidence, and enthusiasm, though these qualities appear at the “lower” end of the card, nearer to the influence of the other Sefirot.
When used as practical advice, the Ace of Wands office is encouraging the querent to exemplify the qualities of the suit of Wands – encouraging them to be active, creative, and passionate – or to look at how these qualities are affecting their life, and possible acknowledge their presence if they are there already.
A reversed Ace of Wands (I read reversed cards as “blocking” the flow of energy of the card, so that the energy may be there, but will be lessened, hidden, or distorted somehow) could indicate a need to scale back the qualities of the suit of Wands, or that the energy of this suit is struggling to express itself but somehow finds itself blocked – or that the pure energy of the Ace of Wands has become twisted somehow, and that one should see if they can correct the twist.
The Sefirot of Kether also has an elemental association with fire, which makes the Ace of Wands the origin of fire of fire, which earns it a special place in the Tree of Life and the Tarot. To me, the Ace of Wands is also the ultimate origin; it most purely represents the Sefirot of Kether, the divine spirit and perfect emanation. The card itself represents the divine spirit and energy, and can be said to be behind Afflatus Divine, the passion of the act of sex, and the dominating will of God. The Ace of Wands, then, is truly the start of the Tarot, and the origin of the rest of the cards, containing more energy than the others, that allow it to give birth to the Tree of Life.