Ten of Wands
(The Ten of Wands card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**
Let’s look at the last of the Tens of the Tarot Minor Arcana, the Ten of Wands. If you haven’t already read the articles on the Ten of Cups, the Ten of Swords and the Ten of Pentacles, now might be a good time to check them out. As always, here is a bit of basic foundational information about the Tarot Minor Arcana.
A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements, with numbers from Ace to 10; the Minors usually deal with day-to-day issues.
The Ten of Wands is a part of the Minor Arcana. 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 10, and the suit of Wands, and understanding these two categories of information will give us a good initial understanding of our card this month.
First, let’s look at the traditional image of the Ten of Wands. The image on this card usually shows a man with blond hair and a red tunic, viewed from the rear, back bent and head bowed, struggling to carry a group of ten wands with leaves sprouting at their tops, across a flat surface toward a village in the distance, all under a clear blue sky. Some cards show the Wands as torches, and some cards show the Wands being held on the shoulder of the figure, or held on the bent back of the figure, rather than awkwardly in his arms.
The number 10 represents the end of one cycle and beginning of another or a transition point from one cycle to another, closure, a plateau or rest before moving on, culmination, and attaining the level of perfect combination of the 1 and 0 energies (as the number 10 reduces to the number 1, 1 + 0 = 1). Within the Minor Arcana, the Ten cards are usually seen as offering the concept of the end result of the application of the element, the sum total of everything accomplished and learned from the Ace of the suit (which for the Ace of Wands represents the possibility of dealing with passions, the Will, and personal power), or the physical vehicle of the previous nine numbers. In many ways, the Ten cards can be seen as the opposite extreme of the Aces of their suits. The effects of the number 10 are different from the number 9, which represents the completeness of the experience of the effects, rather than the completion of the process.
The suit of Wands corresponds with the element of Fire, the playing card suit of Clubs, and the cardinal direction of South. All of the cards of the suit 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.
In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire 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 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.
Like the other cards of the Tarot, the Ten of Wands has an astrological correspondence. The Ten of Wands represents the planet Saturn when it is in the astrological sign Sagittarius.
In Roman mythology, Saturn is the god of agriculture, the leader of the titans, and the founder of civilizations, social order, and conformity. 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 dose of reality; it is easy to understand this association 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.
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. Sitting for hours talking of philosophy or religion is heaven to those born under this sun sign. 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.
You may think this is a pairing of opposites, as Saturn is about restrictions and Sagittarius, ruled by expansive Jupiter, loves to explore and experience new things. However, this transit has its benefits. Exploration and study are still happening, but Saturn helps to keep us focused on and dedicated to our current project, without distractions. Ethics are important to both Saturn and Sagittarius, and combining accepted rules with the courage to stick to our core values no matter what others think brings good results, every time. Sometimes when opposites get together, we are gifted with a pause as the energies balance out. This combination allows us to consider deeper areas, beliefs and situations, giving us a reality check and perhaps a glimpse of what is holding us back. Neither Saturn nor Sagittarius is afraid of hard work, and both are concerned with doing what is necessary to maintain their good reputation for being ethical, honest, and open to learning.
Minor Arcana cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Ten cards correspond with the sephira of Malkuth, along with the Pages of the Court Cards and the element of Earth. Malkuth is the bottom sephira on the Tree, corresponding with our physical world, and opposite of Kether at the top of the Tree, corresponding with the purest form of Deity, mostly unknowable by physical world beings. Malkuth is located at the bottom of the Pillar of Balance and is receptive in nature; it receives emanations from all the other sephiroth on the Tree. This sephira and the Tree itself show us that the physical world is created by traveling downward through the sephiroth of the Tree, and these two sephiroth can be seen as one representation of “as above, so below; as below, so above.”
The Wild Unknown Tarot Ten of Wands is a dark card, but the darkness is caused by the many Wands acting like dark brambles, blocking the light that is in the background of the card. Just the anticipation of attempting to push through those brambles to the light beyond them, or even to cut them away in order to allow the light in, is overwhelming. Granted, the end result could be beneficial, but from this vantage point all we can see is an almost impenetrable blockage, the overcoming of which just might take more effort than we have available to us.
The Naked Tarot offers this about the Ten of Wands: this is the card that represents the mom who says yes to everything, even though her calendar is already more than full, the guy who works overtime all the time, even though he makes a comfortable living, the writer who submits three book proposals at a time, then scrambles to get them done when they are all accepted. To Janet Boyer, the author of The Naked Tarot, the Tens all are “over” something, with the Ten of Swords being “overkill,” the Ten of Cups being “overjoyed,” and the Ten of Coins being “overabundance.” The Ten of Wands is about overextension, over-commitment, and overwhelmed. Enthusiasm is one thing, but sometimes we need to learn to say “no.”
The image on the Thoth Tarot Ten of Wands reminds us of prison bars, and that is exactly what Crowley and Lady Harris want us to imagine. This card is about Oppression (the apt name for this one) repression, obstinate cruelty, and “lust of result.” Crowley sees the power of Fire and Will as being used for selfish reasons in this card, or perhaps a failure where the opposition is just too strong to fight any more. All is not dark here, though, for this card can also represent self-sacrifice in order to obtain a goal.
The Llewellyn Welsh Tarot Ten of Wands has a traditional image, and tells of rising to a challenge, not flinching in the face of hard work, and asserting oneself. It reminds us to carry our own weight, and perhaps to temporarily suppress our own needs in order to complete a task.
The Legacy of the Divine Ten of Wands image shows an interesting twist to traditional symbolism: the man in the image is crawling on the ground, burdened with ten Wands bound together in the shape of a cumbersome triangle, the symbol for alchemical Fire. Along with the more traditional keywords, this Ten of Wands reminds us that while doing it ourselves may be the original goal, sometimes we need to reach out for help. Also, if we allow our passions to blind us and weigh us down, we might end up being crushed by the burdens presented.
Even though the traditional image on the Ten of Wands makes us think of gargantuan efforts or insurmountable challenges, it is not all bad. Yes, this card tells of heavy responsibility, of duty that cannot be avoided, but it also reminds us that we have the strength and the focus of Saturn and the belief in a result that will be for the highest good of all, thanks to the influence of Sagittarius. We will always have challenges in life, and sometimes that challenge is to carry forward our intentions and the results of our past actions, no matter how heavy, so we can gain the strength to deal with them.
Since the Tens represent the completion of the effects of the other Wands cards, this card can be said to contain the experiences we had while living through the other nine Wands cards. The Ten of Wands could be letting us know that things will be challenging for a little while, so we should prepare for some struggle or stress. On the other hand, this card could be warning us that we need to rest for a bit in order to not burn out.
The Ten of Wands can be seen as representing the manifestation of negative thought forms into reality. The man in the card image, burdened by his arm full of Wands, must surely be thinking that his burden will overcome him, and we are warned not to visualize failure no matter how dire the circumstances may seem, as that visualization has power. In a more subtle way, this card is about renewal. When we struggle and push ourselves to the end of our endurance, we end up stronger than we were before we began. This strength is the gift of the Ten of Wands.
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.