five of wands

Tarot Talk

December, 2016

Last month we talked about the Five of Wands; since we are in a “Wands” state of mind, let’s look at another Wands card, the Two of Wands. The typical image on this card shows a man, or sometimes a woman, holding a wand or staff with another wand or staff on the other side of the image, and holding a globe or crystal ball in the palm of his/her other hand. The person is usually standing in profile, or facing mostly away from the viewer, looking to the beautiful landscape in the background. There are usually mountains in the distance, and often there is some kind of water in the scene as well. Often there is a wall separating the person from the landscape, or the person is standing in a chamber and looking out a large window to the landscape beyond; sometimes there is a road at the person’s feet, leading onward. The sky is usually calm and clear, and sometimes the sun is visible in the sky.

The Two 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. Remember, while on the surface a Minor Arcana card can appear insignificant or mundane, it can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature, and while the image on the Two of Wands seems placid, it is filled with unmanifested potential.

We already know that 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 2, and the suit of Wands. We have other things to consider, so let’s get started.

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 it transforms everything it touches, 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.

All of the cards of the suit of Wands (including our lovely Two of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes, such as 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, or actions or passions manifesting in line with Divine Will. Again, the potential for this last concept is evident within the symbolism of the traditional image for this card.

The element of Fire can be seen as kinetic, or even electric. It has the power to create greatness (when we are inspired to be better than we think we can be), or destruction (when we believe we are greater than we actually are). Fire fuels innovation, but an imbalance or lack of Fire can bring austerity. Action and energy are enhanced by this element, but so are destruction and oppression.

When dealing with the Minor Arcana, perhaps the most important ingredient besides the suit of the card is the number of the card. In the Tarot, the number 2 usually represents balance, polarity, and the energy of “distance between.” The Ace of the Tarot Minors represents the Point and the concept of Position; the 2 represents the Line (the “distance between” two points) and it brings us the concept of comparison. The number 2 offers creative partnerships, duality, tension, cooperation, diplomacy, and decisions; it offers both direction and connection, and can be considered a gateway. In the Tarot, this number represents the first time the element appears as itself, manifested. Within the suit of Wands, we have the potential for experiencing ambition, a focus on nurturing and protecting the family group, or the possibility of leadership within a group of intelligent and motivated creators (the Ace of Wands), and we have the personal power needed to manifest the possibilities of the Ace (the Two of Wands).

The Two of Wands tells us that if we can find a balance or interaction between the ideas that blossom with brilliant colors within our mind and the reality of the world around us and the resources at our disposal, openings or possible situations to our advantage may appear. The number 2 brings balance and a good foundation, and the suit of Wands offers expansion that can take advantage of the balance offered by the number 2. The manifestations that happen here are mostly pure, unaffected by the energies of the cards to follow. All of the Tarot Twos are balanced because of this interaction between the number 2 and the energies of the suit, and because the Two cards are the first evidence of manifestation within the physical world and not yet affected by other energies. In the other Minor Twos we have the ability to balance the mind by shutting out the world (Swords), the ability to open ourselves to some kind of partnership or relationship (Cups), and the ability to keep our physical world responsibilities in balance and at the same time keep a smile on our face (Pentacles).

On the Tree of Life, the Tarot Twos correspond with the sephira of Chokmah, the first actual manifestation after the pureness of Kether (Kether represents the cause of manifestation). Chokmah is found at the top of the Pillar of Force/Expansion. It is seen as dynamic thrust, and as the Ultimate Positive, the Great Stimulator and the Great Fertilizer (one of the symbols of Chokmah is the penis), and thus this sephira is connected to the Wheel of the Year. It represents dynamic male energy and is the origin of vital force and polarity. In Chokmah, pure being becomes pure force (and thus, pure formlessness), and independence is possible. Thus, the Twos of the Minor Arcana show the full power of their element and correspondence, in the purest expression that is not yet influenced by anything else. For the Two of Wands, this purest expression is manifested as personal power, daring, and originality, without influence from the outside world.

Astrology is a tool that can offer subtle effects for us to consider as we analyze this card. The Two of Wands corresponds to the planet Mars, associated with action, spontaneity, aggression, and drive, in Aries, whose energies are action oriented, pioneering, assertive, and enthusiastic.

In astrology, Mars is the Roman god of war and bloodshed whose traditional symbols are the spear (or Wand) and the shield. Mars was second in importance only to Jupiter, and was the most prominent of the military gods worshipped by the Roman legions. Mars orbits the Sun in 687 days, spending about 57.25 days in each sign of the zodiac. It is also the first planet that orbits outside of Earth’s orbit, making it the first planet that does not set along with the Sun. Astrologically, Mars is associated with confidence and self-assertion, aggression, sexuality, energy, strength, ambition and impulsiveness. Mars governs sports, competitions and physical activities in general. In medicine, Mars presides over the genitals, the muscular system, the gonads and adrenal glands, and was associated with fever, accidents, trauma, pain and surgery.

The astrological sign of Aries is a cardinal Fire sign that presents a catalyst, a person that inspires others by being totally committed to his or her own vision. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the leader of the pack, first in line to get things going. Those born under this sign prefer to initiate, and they won’t shy away from anything new. Aries people are action oriented, assertive, and competitive. Aries is ruled by Mars, the God of War, bold and aggressive, and able to tap into the focus needed to take on any challenge. The symbol of Aries is the Ram, blunt and to the point, and a sheer force of nature. The great strength of those born under this sign is found in their initiative, courage and determination.

The energies of Mars when in the constellation of Aries are impulsive and spontaneous, sometimes to the point of lacking discipline and patience. This combination is about leadership, the ability to do great things, to be fearless and brave. New ideas and challenges are true joys and because courage is in the mix, going where others fear to go is a natural reaction. Anger may appear, but once the fire dies down, there is no resentment, and holding a grudge is not an option. Because Mars in Aries is not real good at taking the time to prepare, things may not go as planned, but these energies keep burning till the job is done.

The Two of Wands presents an opportunity to look to the future with optimism, and with confidence that we have what it takes to get to where we want to go. The Llwewllyn Welsh Two of Wands tells of the planning and foresight necessary to search out new possibilities and hidden options. This card tells of using intuition and imagination as we brainstorm for solutions and ideas. The Thoth Tarot Two of Wands is titled “Dominion,” and Crowley calls this card “Fire in its best and highest form” and “Will in its most exalted form . . . ideal Will, independent of any given object.” The Shadowscapes Companion Two of Wands tells of viewing our domain in order to see a vision of what might be accomplished in the future if we act with courage and strength (but not to the point that we become intoxicated by our own power).

The Two of Staffs of the Alchemical Tarot tells of the union of differing powers, with one flaming staff grounded in the earth and the other flaming staff being joined to the first, held by a hand emerging from a cloud. This card warns that the two sides are unequal, with the grounded staff being seen as better-situated. The Dreams of Gaia Two of Fire tells of power sharing and partnerships between like-minded individuals, and similar to the Two of Staffs, it tells of the relationship between mentor and mentee.

All in all, this is a good card to see in a spread.

Tarot Talk

November, 2016

Back to the Minors this month; let’s talk about the Five of Wands. The typical image on this card shows five men, each holding a long and unwieldy wand at a different angle, as if each man was saying, “no, do it my way!” I always smile when I see this card, and think about the many times I’ve gone camping and the difficulties just my husband and I have when putting up our tent. I then imagine how it would be if three other people, each with their own way of doing the job, were to try to help us.

The Five 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. Remember, while on the surface a Minor Arcana card can appear insignificant or mundane, it can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature, and the image on the Five of Wands validates this.

We already know that 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 5, and the suit of Wands. We have other things to consider, so let’s get started.

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 it transforms everything it touches, 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.

All of the cards of the suit of Wands (including our Five of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes, such as 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, or actions or passions manifesting in line with Divine Will.

The element of Fire can be seen as kinetic, or even electric. It has the power to create greatness (when we are inspired to be better than we think we can be), or destruction (when we believe we are greater than we actually are). Fire fuels innovation, but an imbalance or lack of Fire can bring austerity. Action and energy are enhanced by this element, but so are destruction and oppression.

When dealing with the Minor Arcana, perhaps the most important ingredient besides the suit of the card is the number of the card. In the Tarot, the number 5 is seen as adding motion to the depth and stability of the energy of the number 4 card, often toppling or destroying that depth and stability in order to prevent stagnation. If we look at the card right before the Five of Wands and follow it through to our card, we can gain some insight into the effects of the number 5.

The Four of Wands is about building enough to become established, and about the results of harmony and effort and creativity combined. The Four of Wands does not tell us that the job is done; rather, it says that we’ve done some good work so far and we deserve to take a brief moment to celebrate our accomplishments, and then get back to work. The number 5 adds randomness and disorganization, an uncomfortable kind of Motion to the sense of accomplishment of the Four of Wands. All of the Tarot Fives are uncomfortable mainly because of this added Motion. In the other Minor Fives we have the need to control others (Swords), a focus on a negative change while missing the remaining positive (Cups), and the loss of things that we value (Pentacles).

The Tree of Life offers us further insight into this uncomfortable Motion that is causing our troubles. All of the Fives of the Tarot Minor Arcana correspond with the Sephira of Geburah (which means “Might”), the fifth Sephira on the Tree, the second on the Pillar of Form/Restriction. Geburah is also known as both Judgment and Fear, and its effects and manifestations can indeed be difficult. To some, an easy life is an ideal situation, but in the end the easy life offered through never experiencing any true tests lacks the opportunity for growth and evolution, and growth and evolution are the purposes of living.

Geburah is about courage and power and invincibility, and these things can bring us true fulfillment, or they can help to release our cruel side. But unless we are exposed to these temptations, we will never know if we have the will to set them aside when they become unbalanced. Believing that we have the power and authority to make decisions for others is often a recipe for disaster.

Astrology is a tool that can offer subtle effects for us to consider as we analyze this card. The Five of Wands corresponds to the planet Saturn, associated with discipline, responsibility, and law and order, in Leo, whose energies are passionate, dramatic, and egotistical.

In astrology, Saturn is associated with focus, ethics, lofty goals, purpose, career, great achievements, dedication, productiveness, valuable hard lessons learned, balance, and karma (reaping what you have sowed or divine cosmic justice). Saturn can also represent limitations, restrictions, boundaries, and a painful dose of reality. This concept of restriction is easy to understand when we look at the planet and its famous rings. Saturn also represents time, and thus, long-term planning and foresight. The Return of Saturn in the astrological chart is said to mark significant events in a person’s life.

Leo is the 5th sign of the zodiac, located in the middle of Summer. The symbol of Leo is the Lion, regal and strong, magnetic and forceful. Leos are determined, ambitious, and highly motivated; add in their charm and they are natural leaders who attract many friends. They make good organizers and motivators, and the best use of a Leo is as the leader of a large group. Leo is the most expressive sign in the zodiac, and those born under this sign are often showmen who are exuberant and passionate, but they are also susceptible to flattery.

When Saturn is in Leo, a strong need for recognition is present. Everyone involved in the issue wants to be the leader, and everyone involved with the issue has the creative talent needed to lead, but there can be only one leader. Expressing love and humility might be a challenge when dealing with Saturn/Leo energies, but in the end it is these kinds of challenges that teach those dealing with these energies to properly use their personal power, their creativity, and their ego. If balance can be found, life will be filled with excitement and creativity. Otherwise there will be difficulties found within parenting, social lives, romance, and control in general.

The Five of Wands usually indicates a struggle caused by annoying cross-purposes, similar to the idea of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The Shadowscapes Tarot Five of Wands shows a group of foxes in a frenzy as they chase after a wily and elusive rabbit, racing against each other, jumping from each other’s backs, and leaping wildly into the air, as if creating conflict because they enjoy experiencing conflict; meanwhile the rabbit sneaks between their legs and escapes. The Thoth Five of Wands shows ten flames separated by Wands. Lon Milo DuQuette describes this one as “a picture of hot, pressurized magma struggling to reach the surface of the volcano, but frustrated by the sheer weight of the mountain itself.” That makes sense, in a unique “Uncle Al” way.

The Llewellyn Welsh Five of Wands is pretty traditional as far as images go: five men with five Wands, each with a different interpretation of how they should be assembled. The interesting thing about the image on this one is that there are written instructions to be had. However, they are rolled up on the ground and being ignored by these five people who are each absolutely certain they know how to do the task.

The energies of this card are not all bad. Sometimes the discomfort presented by the Five of Wands actually represents growing pains, the “terrible twos” of life. After all, upsetting a stabilized system is never comfortable. If we see the Five of Wands as a “sweet discomfort” that tells of coming growth and evolution, we just might be able to get something good from it. All we need to do is look at the traditional image on the Six of Wands: a victorious leader riding his horse in triumph, with all the Wands lined up in place and parallel to each other.