Eight of Wands

Tarot Talk

January, 2015

Since we are in an “Eight” frame of mind after talking about the Eight of Cups last month, let’s talk about another Eight, the Eight of Wands. The Eight of Wands is an interesting card, especially if you tend to favor Tarot decks with images on the Minor Arcana Pip cards rather than symbols of the suit, because its traditional image is one of the few Minors without people on it. Let’s investigate the Eight of Wands.

As stated above, the Eight of Wands is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 8, and the suit of Wands. These two ingredients could actually give us enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.

Let’s look at the number 8 first. I see the number 8 as telling me that I need to consciously act or choose the next step, and that I need to believe the next step I choose will bring something good. It is easier to understand the number 8, which is about deliberately reacting, if we understand the number 7, which is causing this deliberate reaction. The number 7 represents the pause that occurs as growth slows and the beginning of degeneration approaches. This pause usually requires a choice of some kind, usually either stick with what we have, or try for more. The number 8 offers the concept of a remedy or a reaction to the pause and approaching degeneration of the 7. The number 8 is kind of a kick in the pants, telling us we already have what we need to move forward, so move already. So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Eight of Wands is going to be a card of action or manifestation.

The suit of Wands corresponds with the playing card suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South, and the element of Fire. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire is passionate in nature, and transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us.

The cards of the suit of Wands teach us about Fiery attributes: creativity, ambition, growth, passion and actions, and how their presence or absence can affect our lives. The suit of Wands represents our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexual passion), and the Wands cards can represent our creativity, our ability to be artistic or to be drawn to beautiful things. Fire often represents Spirit or the Divine Will, and Wands cards also can present the possibility of some interaction with Spirit or the Divine.

We have other sources of information besides the number and suit of our card. The traditional image of the Eight of Wands, as I stated in the first paragraph, usually does not have people in it. Usually, the card will show eight Wands or Spears flying through the air. The Llewellyn Welsh card shows those eight Wands flying through the air, along with five bucks, four of whom are watching carefully, prepared to give the alarm and flee. The Shadowscapes Eight of Wands, one of the few exceptions to the “no people” rule, shows a woman blowing what looks like dandelion seeds into the wind. The Wild Unknown Tarot Eight of Wands shows those eight Wands in a circle, points facing in, with a lightning bolt zapping down to hit them all. The next step here is obvious: those Wands are going to explode outward, probably in a shocking manner. The Thoth Tarot grabs the concept of electricity even more; its image shows eight electrical bolts shooting outward from a central point. Electricity makes a great metaphor for the effects of the Eight of Wands!

Like every other Tarot card, the Eight of Wands has an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Eight of Wands represents the planet Mercury when it is in the constellation of Sagittarius.

In Roman mythology, Mercury is known as the messenger of the gods known for his ability to move fast. The planet Mercury echoes this manifestation of speed, circling the Sun quickly, taking only 88 days to orbit the Sun, spending about 7.33 days in each sign of the zodiac. Astrologically, Mercury represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, a focus on details, rationality and reasoning, and adaptability. Mercury is connected to schooling and education as well as communication, and thus to email, telephone and snail mail, newspapers, journalism and writing. In medicine, Mercury is associated with the nervous system, the brain, the respiratory system, the thyroid and the sense organs. It is also linked to the animal spirits.

Sagittarius, the 9th sign of the zodiac, is often seen as the wanderer, but remember, not all those who wander are lost. Sag the truth-seeker is about knowledge achieved by traveling the world and talking to everyone. They can be seen as enthusiastic consumers of information; the life quest of the Archer is to understand the meaning of life, and thus they are enthusiastic consumers of information who enjoy using spiritual and philosophical disciplines to digest what they learn. Sagittarius corresponds with Jupiter, and the element of Fire; it is a Mutable Fire sign. Those born under this sign enjoy physical activity as much as they enjoy learning about the world around them. Sag is an effective healer, and can be a bridge between humans and animals. Sagittaritus has a philosophical, wide open nature, and an optimistic and generous spirit.

The combination of Mercury in Sagittarius tells of big ideas or visions, a restless intellect that searches for knowledge but won’t be troubled about mere facts, and a mind that defends justice and freedom vigorously. These energies like having room to grow; clutter is uncomfortable but procrastination will prevent a cleanup until things become unbearable. Then, everything will need to go, now. This combination of detail-oriented communication and expansive, philosophic ideas will often dominate the environment, even if that is not the original intention.

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Eights correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Hod. Hod (or Glory) is the eighth sephira on the Tree, the third on the Pillar of Form/Restriction, and represents science, teaching and the intellect. Hod corresponds with Mercury, the planet that receives the most light from our Sun, and working with Hod can stimulate the workings of the mind and provide illumination, but this kind of work presents dangers, too, especially if the process of shining light in the dark corners exposes any shadow issues. If you think about it, the Eights represent some kind of conscious use of the intellect rather than feelings or emotions, often in order to maintain control or harmony.

Let’s sum up what we have found. The number 8 tells of deliberate action or remediation or response to a slowdown that could be bringing some kind of discomfort. The suit of Wands tells of growth, passions, actions aligned with divine will, and with recklessness. The image on the card tells of action, possibly explosive or shocking or electric in nature, that might not be sourced from people. Mercury tells of speed and communication of all kinds, learning and rational thinking, and Sagittarius tells of philosophy and a connection to spirit, an open mind and an ability to view the big picture. The sephira of Hod tells of the intellect and of knowing why something works.

So, the Eight of Wands is presenting lots of sudden expansion. We have transformative Fire, speedy Mercury, expansive Sagittarius, deliberate action of the number 8, and the working of the intellect of the sephira of Hod. This card to me is about taking action, about knowing that now is the time to set things in motion. It is about obtaining the last piece of the puzzle that will bring a grand finale, or about receiving a piece of news that will tie all the loose ends together. It is about striking while the iron is hot and putting plans into action.

When reversed, the Eight of Wands could be telling of a blockage or stagnation or lethargy of some kind, probably along with a warning to look out if that blockage ever lets go. The reversed card could be telling us that we need to think before we act, or slow down a bit. Perhaps it could be telling of some conflict or cross-purpose; imagine all those Wands moving in random, unplanned directions.

The Eight of Wands is a card of action, of quick developments, and of pulling it all together so things can be completed. The energies of this card are fast and strong and sudden, and while the dust will surely fly, the end result should be balance. This one is kind of a Minor Arcana version of The Wheel, which represents cycles of manifestation that are not under our control. The difference here is that the sudden eruption of the Eight of Wands usually occurs at least in part because of our efforts to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The eruption of energy is happening, now, and we need to hang on and ride the wave. Kowabunga!