Time to return to the Aces, those unique members of the Pip cards. Aces are different from the other Minor Arcana cards, as they are seen as being the seeds of their suit and element, rather than the manifestation of their suit and element. Aces are not material, and there is no measurable manifestation of their effects until they become the Two. Aces are tendencies that are the foundation of the manifestations of their suit; thus the Ace of Wands, our card for this month, is not Fire, but a tendency to become Fire! Let’s begin our process of breaking down this Ace.
The Ace 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 1, and the suit of Wands. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.
Let’s look at the number 1 first. I see the number 1 as representing two concepts: position and potential. Position is most commonly represented by the point or period. The point is a one-dimensional shape; all we know about it is its position. We don’t know what it can do or how it can affect us, we only know where it is. Potential is neither good nor bad because it has not yet moved or manifested or acted. Potential is fertility before it is affected by the catalyst that begins growth.
So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Ace of Wands is going to present a concept rather than an experience. Aces present energy just as it is preparing to manifest, kind of like the moment just before the Big Bang happened in our Universe, or the time in your lungs between an exhale and an inhale. This is especially true of our Wands Ace, because the element of Fire has so many different non-physical associations.
The number 1 is about new beginnings, or better yet, the seeds that bring new beginnings. Every following number is made by comparing itself with or interacting with the number 1. How do you arrive at the number 2? You add 1 to the number 1. You could say that the number 1 contains all the other numbers.
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. All of the cards of the suit of Wands (including our Ace 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 (one of those non-physical associations I mentioned above), 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.
We know now that the Ace of Wands tells of a potential for experiencing spontaneous change, passion, and complete transformation. The change or transformation has not happened yet; all that exists is the possibility for change or transformation to happen.
The traditional image of the Ace of Wands shows a Wand or Rod or Stave being held by a hand that is reaching out of a cloud, showing that the Ace is the first and purest manifestation of its suit, so pure that we can’t affect it or be affected by it yet. Often the Wand has leaves and small branches or blossoming flowers sprouting from it, indicating the fertility of this Ace. Sometimes there are flames around or near the Wand; an alternative to flames can be a glistening crystal. I’ve seen Ace of Wands cards decorated with dragons, phoenixes, and sunflowers, all correspondences to Fire.
Like all Tarot Cards, the Ace of Wands has an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Ace of Wands represents three sun signs: Cancer (a cardinal Water sign), Leo (a fixed Fire sign), and Virgo (a mutable or mobile Earth sign), or the season of Summer.
Cancer, the Crab, can be moody or sensitive, and is often affected by the environment and people nearby. Those born under the sign of Cancer, the 4th sign of the zodiac, have strong feelings and emotions, and they are very protective of those feelings and emotions. Cancer people tend to be very attuned to the past, and they like to have mementos of the times and people of their childhood. Cancer people place a high importance on family, both family of the blood and family of the heart. They nurture and protect those they love. Cancer people are hard workers, and that paycheck is important not only for what it will buy, but also for the security it provides.
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 showmen who are exuberant and passionate, but they are also susceptible to flattery. Watch that ego!
Virgo, the Virgin, is the 6th sun sign in the zodiac. Those born under this sign have a strong sense of service, and feel satisfied when helping others. They sometimes come off as cold or unemotional, but they are actually cautious, sizing things up. Virgos are meticulous, practical, intelligent, reliable, analytical and intelligent; of course, they are also over-critical, too conservative, and harsh. Virgos exist within the mind, appearing calm and collected on the outside, but lots going on inside. They are pure and honest, never malicious, and always trying to figure out how to improve things.
This means the Ace of Wands is about 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.
Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Aces correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Kether. Kether (or Crown) is the first sephira at the top of the Tree of Life. It is the top sephira of the Pillar of Balance, the center or trunk of the Tree, and is considered to be the cause of manifestation; not manifestation itself, mind you, but the catalyst that begins the process of manifestation. Nothing actually exists yet within Kether, but the Source of All awakens within Kether. However, it does not know itself yet because there is no other form from which it can view itself. Once again, we are speaking about the “point” or “position” without any dimension or manifestation.
That is quite a bit of information, all attained by breaking our card down to its basic ingredients. Not so complicated after all!
So the Ace of Wands tells of the initial emanation of enthusiasm or inspiration or passion that could very well energize an entire process or project. Indeed, this card can be seen as a talisman of power; all we need to do in order to access its potential is to take hold of it! The Aces can be seen as containing the other numbered cards of their suits, and that means our Ace of Wands contains the potential to become every other Wands card. In the Tarot, the Aces often are seen as “gift cards,” as they represent the gift of the element associated with the card being offered to the Seeker. The Ace of Wands gifts us with courage, enthusiasm and confidence, and it will push us out of the box in order to connect to our creative potential. Fire can be a truly transformative element, burning away everything and sterilizing the ashy remnants. But of course, the phoenix rises from the ashes to begin anew, and thus the potential associated with the Ace of Wands is amazing.
The sudden and impulsive nature of the energies of the Ace of Wands can be motivating, but they can also be a wee bit uncomfortable. After all, impulsive behavior can initiate calamities of all kinds, and strength and ambition can easily degenerate into cruelty, persecution, and violence. These are all things to consider when choosing to work with the energies of the Ace of Wands.
Aleister Crowley’s deck, the Thoth Tarot, presents a Fiery Wand covered with flames; the Ace of Wands in this deck is seen as associated with the Sun and as representing the Lingam. Placed beside the Ace of Cups, associated with the Moon and representing the Yoni, we have the potential for gathering the energies of the Great Rite and the creation of life. A talisman of power, indeed!