Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Josephine Winter, author of the new Fire Magic.
My first deck of tarot cards was a gift from a friend when I was a mouthy teenage mall-goth with a cheap pentacle necklace and a thirst for Occult Secrets™. It was Juliet Shaman-Burke’s Mythic Tarot, which uses symbolism from ancient Greek myths such as Jason and the Argonauts, Persephone in the underworld, and others; the first edition images, not the too-bright cartoony ones that came out with later editions. It’s still among my favourite decks today.
The suit of wands in the tarot is usually associated with the element of fire, as it represents primal forces, inspiration/creativity/originality, determination/strength, intuition, creation/rebirth, and primal or unconscious thoughts and energy.
Wands cards also address the deeper, unconscious, or sometimes spiritual levels of our thoughts, actions, and feelings: the ego, the id, the personality, and the concept or mental picture we all have of our behaviours towards the rest of the world. This means that—depending how they appear or are used—the cards can also sometimes be associated with egotistical behaviour, impulsiveness, creative stagnation, mental health issues, etc.1
In the Mythic deck, it’s easy to see that this is the case; the wands suit is usually represented by flaming staves: the mighty Zeus brandishing a huge flaming wand in an upsurge of creative energy; the hero Jason using flaming torches to fight the dragon the guards the golden fleece, only to lose everything as he is overwhelmed and the last spark of fighting spirit within him dies.
In the traditional Rider-Waite deck, the wands are always depicted as branches with new leaves, illustrating this as a suit of life, vitality, and change. Fire symbols such as lions, salamanders, and flames feature prominently on many of the cards. The descriptions I use below are from this deck.
|King of Wands||The King sits on a throne, holding an upright flowering wand. His throne has a lion emblazoned across its back, and a salamander stands unnoticed just below the throne.||A handsome, sometimes weather-beaten person. Often a man. Usually this man is married or has children. He is honest and conscientious, and more often than not lives in (or was raised in) the countryside.
This card can also sometimes mean honesty or unexpected news, especially about a marriage.
Reversed: This can represent someone who is strict or judgemental. It can also point to advice that should be followed, or an upcoming argument.
|Queen of Wands||The crowned Queen sits on her throne, holding a flowering wand in her right hand and a sunflower in her left hand. She too has lions decorating her throne. A black cat sits at her feet and three pyramids are visible in the background.||An animated, confident person. Often a woman. She too usually lives in or comes from the country, and is friendly, honourable and nature-loving.
Sometimes, this card can mean success in an enterprise or mission.
Reversed: This might indicate someone who is strict or unyielding in their point of view. This card reversed can also signify opposition, jealousy, or deceit.
|Knight of Wands||An armoured knight gallops across the plain. His mantle is decorated with salamanders. The three pyramids are again visible on the horizon.||A young person capable of causing conflict, tension or rivalry.
This card can also mean departure, absence, leaving or a change of residence or living arrangements.
Reversed: divisive or divided opinions, discord or frustration.
|Page of Wands||A young page makes a proclamation out on the plains, with three pyramids in the background. His robe is decorated with salamanders and he wears a red feather in his hat.||A young person or child, often with an important message or tidings to bear.
This is also a card of good news, faithful lovers and ringing endorsement.
Reversed: Unpleasant or unfavourable news, indecision or an inability to start a project.
|Ace of Wands||A hand holding a flowering wand sticks out of a cloud. There is a castle or hill-fort in the background, with a river snaking in front of it.||The beginning of a project, creation or enterprise. A birth or the beginning of a family. Sometimes the beginning of a fortune, such as an inheritance.
Reversed: The new project may not come to be. False starts, teething problems, complications.
|Two of Wands||A man richly-dressed in reds and oranges stands on battlements looking out to sea. He holds a globe in his right hand and a staff in his left. The second staff is fixed upright in a holder. There are roses and lilies crossed in the bottom left corner.||Fortune, riches, opulence, and power. Sometimes this card can even represent a literal person who possesses these.
It may also represent interest in scholarly pursuits, especially the sciences.
Reversed: sadness, physical pain, suffering or ill-health. Loss of agency/domination by others.
|Three of Wands||A red-robed figure stands with his back to the viewer, looking calmly out to sea. He wears a headband or circlet and holds a staff in his right hand. Two more staves stand either side of him, closer to the foreground.||This person has accomplished the mission or undertaking that the man in the Two of Wands was just beginning.2
Trade, commerce, success, or strength in business. Sometimes business help from a successful colleague
Reversed: Beware of the assistance that is offered. Erosion of wealth or titles. A warning against arrogance or complacency.
|Four of Wands||Four flowering staves stand in the foreground, strung with garlands of red flowers, tied with red ribbon. Further back, two maidens hold up bouquets of what look like the same kind of flowers. Behind them is a small crowd of people, and a bridge leading across a moat and into an old castle.||New romances or relationships, peace and harmony. The abundance of the harvest home or the warmth of a haven of refuge. Perfected or completed work.
Reversed: In this position this card still usually indicates prosperity, abundance and increase, but to a lesser extent.
|Five of Wands||A group of young people are in combat – perhaps real or perhaps mimicked – brandishing wands.||Strife or fierce competition. The struggle for success. Quarrels, arguments, legal trouble.
Reversed: Compromise, bargaining. New or unexpected business opportunities.
|Six of Wands||A man in a red cloak wearing a victory wreath of laurel sits astride a horse. In his right hand, he holds a staff, which also bears a wreath, attached with a red ribbon. He is accompanied by footmen carrying staves.||Triumph, victory, gain or success over adversity. Welcome news, conquest, or advancement in science or the arts.
Reversed: Delay, sometimes indefinite. Fear of a victorious adversary.
|Seven of Wands||A young person on a cliff or rocky hill holds a flowering staff across their body. Six other staves rise up out of the foreground.||Holding one’s own against adversity or enemies. Competition in business, strife. Success and courage in the face of difficulties.
Reversed: Embarrassment or humiliation. Anxiety, perplexity, or feeling out of one’s depth. This can also be a warning against indecision.
|Eight of Wands||Eight staves fly through the air over open countryside. Far below them is a green grassy mountain behind a river. The staves are angled downwards, as if they are coming in to land at the end of their journey.||Haste, action, movement in a project or undertaking. Messages, letters, fast communication (which these days could be an email or online message). Sometimes indicates a journey by air. Arrows of love or inspiration.
Reversed: The arrows of jealousy or suspicion. Arguments or disputes in the home.
|Nine of Wands||A man with a bandage around his head leans on a staff, looking alertly off to the side. Eight more staves stand to attention behind him. There is a gap in the procession of staves, perhaps hinting that this is a rack of weaponry and the figure has grabbed one to arm himself.||Alertness, preparedness, strength in reserve. The ability to defend oneself when attacked.
Reversed: Obstacles, struggles, delays, or unforeseen complications.
|Ten of Wands||A figure dressed in red and yellow struggles with the heavy burden of ten staves. He is bent over with the effort of carrying their weight towards the city in the background.||A problem that will soon be solved. An oppressive but manageable burden. Power used unwisely or inefficiently. Sometimes this card can represent a person with these qualities.
Reversed: Treason or duplicity. Separation or a change in living arrangements. A warning to be vigilant in a legal matter.
1Kynes, S. Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Correspondences. 451
2Gray, E. The Tarot Revealed. 28
Our thanks to Josephine for her guest post! For more from Josephine Winter, read her article “Getting Started with Candle Magic.”