The Nine of Wands
(The Four of Wands card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**
This month we will go back to the 9’s of the Minor Arcana and talk about the Nine of Wands. This 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. 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. We can also find useful information within the image on the card.
The traditional image of the Nine of Wands is a figure dressed in a red tunic standing in front of a wall of 8 Wands, sometimes with green leaves sprouting from the Wands. The figure looks tired and is wearing what appears to be a bandage on his head; he leans wearily on the ninth Wand. Wands symbolize support, stability, and singleness of purpose, particularly the Wand on which the figure leans. Behind the wall of Wands are green craggy mountains in the distance, or sometimes rounded hills, symbolizing past challenges already dealt with; the sky is blue with white fluffy fair-weather clouds that symbolize an idea coming from out of the blue. Occasionally, the figure is on one knee, leaning on his wand with his head bowed; one card even shows the figure from the back, as if the observer is standing behind that wall of Wands, looking in the same direction as the figure.
Let’s look at the number 9. I see the number 9 as representing the fullness or completeness of effect or manifestation. We are talking about completeNESS here, not compleTION or the winding up of a cycle. The number 9 represents our perceptions as we reach the limit of our understanding of or experience of a situation, just before we wind up the process and take another step up the ladder in order to begin the whole process again. In our spoken language, we say that we are going to “go the whole nine yards” when we intend to experience something to the fullest, and that is what the number 9 can tell us in the Tarot.
So just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Nine of Wands is going to present an intense experience. This will not necessarily indicate that we are done with the experience, but rather that we are at the “peak of the wave” just before the wave tips over and disseminates its energy onto the shore. Now, we narrow down our interpretation by looking at the suit of the card: the suit of Wands.
For this discussion we will accept that the suit of Wands corresponds to the element of Fire. This is not always the case, depending on the deck being used; some see Wands as being connected to Air. Besides the element of Fire, the suit of Wands corresponds with the playing card suit of Clubs, and the cardinal direction of South. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive and energetic effects. Fire is passionate 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 the Nine of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes like 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; action and energy are enhanced by this element, but so are destruction and oppression.
The astrological correspondence for the Nine of Wands is the Moon in the astrological sign of Sagittarius.
The Moon is our planet’s only satellite, and it is large enough for its gravity to affect our Earth. The Moon actually stabilizes the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, and it produces the regular ebb and flow of the tides. The lunar day syncs up with its orbit around Earth so that the same side of the Moon always faces the Earth. Astrologically the Moon is associated with a person’s emotional make-up, unconscious habits, rhythms, memories, moods, and a person’s ability to react and adapt to his or her environment. It is also associated with Yin energy, the receptive feminine life principal, maternal instincts or the urge to nurture, the home, the need for security, and the past, especially early experiences and childhood.
Sagittarius, the 9th sign of the zodiac, is often seen as the wanderer, but remember, not all those who wander are lost. Sagittarius is the truth-seeker, the enthusiastic consumer of information who loves knowledge achieved by traveling the world and talking to everyone. The life quest of a Sagittarian is to understand the meaning of life, using both spiritual and philosophical disciplines to digest what they learn. This is a mutable Fire sign, and thus while exploration and adventure are a necessary part of life, procrastination is also a danger. Sagittarius corresponds with Jupiter, and is expansive in all things, is an effective healer, and can be a bridge between humans and animals.
When the Moon is in Sagittarius, we have an ability to tap into instincts connected to emotions, dreams and rhythms. This combination of energies is active, independent and optimistic, and not afraid to create a unique path. Being in one place can feel confining, but the solution is to expand and learn and to teach others what we learn. These energies are optimistic, always expecting things to go well. And if they don’t pan out, the mutable Sag/Moon combination is very adaptable, and will go with the flow without hesitation in order to find a new solution.
Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Nines correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Yesod. Yesod is the first sphere out of (and the last sphere into) the sephira that represents the physical world, Malkuth. Yesod is about things such as emotions and feelings, which are directly connected to our physical existence, but not actually physical themselves. Yesod is also the home of our life force, our personality, and the Self. It is only above Yesod that the Tree begins to branch out. This reminds us that emotions and feelings and an awareness of our life force and our personality are natural processes, and that exploring them and understanding them is an important part of our own evolutionary process.
The Llewellyn Welsh Tarot Nine of Wands shows the traditional figure leaning on a Wand standing before a wall of Wands; all of the Wands have leaves growing from their tops. This figure has a bandage on his head and one of his arms is in a sling, and he is gazing off to the side. Behind him are two rounded mountains. The keywords for this card are order, control, planning, experience, guarding one’s assets, anticipating hostility. Here we have a disciplined warrior who has experienced growth and achieved wisdom through successfully traversing a perilous passage.
The Nine of Wands of the Thoth Tarot is named “Strength,” and its keywords are strength (sometimes scientifically applied), power, health, recovery from a sickness. Here we have a steady force that cannot be shaken, and even if injury is present, recovery is not in doubt. While Crowley saw both the Moon and Sagittarius as weak, he still named this card Strength. However, the strength of the Nine of Wands lies in its ability to change. “Defense, to be effective, must be mobile.”
The image on the Wild Unknown Tarot Nine of Wands shows a view from the bottom of a stairway made from nine Wands. The stairway reaches far upward, and it appears that if we can find the strength and stamina to climb to the top, we just might be able to touch the beautiful golden crescent in the sky. This is an optimistic metaphor for the Nine of Wands, showing us that if we can keep focused on our own inner Fire and fine-tune our ability to direct the resulting energy for a sufficient amount of time and in the correct manner, we will make it to the top. Mental discipline and focus, and the right amount of exertion, will do the trick.
The Shadowscapes Tarot Nine of Wands shows a warrior seated on a mighty mythical steed, holding his Wand and gazing into the distance with clear eyes and an alert mind. This guardian is trained and ready but is untried in real life, and yet he sits tall and proud and at attention, whether the sun shines or the darkness gathers. This card is about vigilance, about keeping some strength in reserve, and about being prepared for any eventuality. We are also told to remember that sometimes our most powerful abilities do not show themselves until we are actually put to the test.
The Legacy of the Divine Tarot Nine of Wands shows a figure kneeling on one knee on rocky ground with head bowed, grasping a Wand with a crystal tip. Behind the kneeling figure are eight other Wands with crystal tips that glow in the rays of a setting sun. A large waxing moon shines in the golden sky. This card tells of great strength and endurance that have achieved much but have also taken a great toll. It tells us that we have one more challenge to overcome, and we will need to dig deep in order to struggle and overcome. Here we are told that if something does not kill us, it will make us stronger.
The Naked Tarot describes the Nine of Wands as a castle surrounded by a moat, grueling circumstances, the final push with almost-dead batteries, going the distance, running a marathon, and sticking it out. This card is personified by Rocky Balboa, Murphy’s Law, the Great Wall of China, and the final moments of a close football game.
The Nine of Wands tells of the practical application of wisdom that has been attained through resilience and focus. This card tells us that for the moment, we are in a safe place. We may be battered and exhausted, but now is the time to remain vigilant and focused so we can hold our position firmly for just a bit longer, and we will win the day.
The danger here is that we will surrender to the attitudes, habits or situations that have tempted or derailed us in the past. Unexpected challenges or close calls can make us want to give up, but we need to remember that everything happens for a reason, and we will gain something of value no matter what, if we just fond the strength to hold firm.
There is an overall theme here. The Nine of Wands is not about victory or defeat, but rather it is about putting up a good fight. It is about accepting that sometimes the very thing we are fighting for can’t be seen with the physical eyes because it is an ideal, not an item. Perhaps in the end, the victory we win will be against the stumbling blocks of pessimism and procrastination.
About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.