The Five of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Five of Wands is a depiction of youthful competition and the battle of life. Waite’s divinatory meanings have a major difference in tone, though not of substance, versus the Golden Dawn’s; imitation fighting and strife vs. real. Saturn and the Sun in combination are the explanation for the difference in tone. There was a belief dating back to Mesopotamia that the planet Saturn was pre-cursor of the Sun. Saturn the “Sun-Star” may be a fragment of the story of the Golden Age. Saturn was the grandfather god who may have required child sacrifice; he presided over a (literally) darker planet, though the Earth provided such abundance that work was unnecessary. It is Saturn vs. the Sun, a past “imitation,” lesser Sun vs. today’s real, greater Sun. We have hopefully thrown light upon the RWS Five of Wands, but found nothing that challenges its accepted meanings in any way.

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The Ten of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Ten of Wands, like Maynard G. Krebs’ favorite movie, “The Monster Who Devoured Cleveland” is about ends. The Ends of Ages. People’s ends (bodily ends, that is, not the ends of lives). It is, figuratively speaking, the ass-end of the RWS tarot deck. Seriously. Waite, faced with the conflicting natures in the very mixed astrological, alchemical and qabalist influences, seemingly threw his hands up in the air, and complained that it “cannot be harmonized.” Colman Smith’s illustration is unrelenting. It’s not exactly my favorite card, either. If we start by recognizing that a serf who works on the farm has more to do with Pentacles, the suit of Earth, than with Wands, the suit of Fire, we just might find the key to understanding this oppressive card. And if you never look at this card in quite the same way again, my apologies.

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The Three of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Three of Wands is not just a nice card, it’s a good, understated design. It is a marvelous representation of the divinatory meanings and has just the right touch of transparency that reveals the story and influences that Waite and Colman Smith chose as a setting. As to the divinatory meanings, focusing on the question of the differences between Waite’s and the GD’s, one can ask a further question: are Colman Smith’s ships coming or going? It seems likely that on the one hand, Waite means to convey that when the Three of Wands is upright the ships are going… outbound to Colchis, adventure, and the golden fleece, or in an alternative reading, to the east to bring back exotic cargo. On the other hand, when the card is reversed, that the ship is returning, with the fleece or exotic goods.

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The Seven of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Seven of Wands is one of those cards in the Waite Colman Smith deck where the divinatory meanings are most visible on the surface. It represents a fight, pictured in much the way that Waite describes it in the Pictorial Key. There are clues in the astrological and qabalistic meanings that point to how the divinatory meanings came to be. These clues are not difficult to find. Given Leo, Strength and the Sun, subtlety is hardly obligatory. That Hercules subdued the Nemean lion with a club in the first of his labors complements the themes of Leo and Strength, indicates the endurance of Netzach, and, interestingly, is pretty much the only time the wand/staff is used as a weapon in a real fight.

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The Six of Wands – A One Page Guide

When we look at the Zodiac/Tarot Wheel for the Six of Wands, we immediately recognize a pattern: the king of the gods, the king of planets, and the king of beasts. Tiphareth also has “kingly” connotations. And though there’s no king on the RWS illustration, Waite goes out of his way to tell us the man on horseback might be the king’s courier in the divinatory meanings. Then, perhaps, we notice the divergence between the Golden Dawn group’s and Waite’s divinatory meanings is quite a bit wider than usual. When I traced how Waite treated the planetary component—the Sun— I recalled a piece in a magazine linking the victorious Christ of the Book of Revelations to the Sun card. Long story short, Waite appears to have turned the Six of Wands into a sublimal proselytizing piece for Christian mysticism. Waite adds one more king, namely, “The King of Kings,” Christus Invictus, to the mix. And the message his courier carries is the Gospel. We can trace practically all Waite’s divinatory meanings to this concept. The bottom line for modern readers, though, is not inconvenient. It’s a positive card that pleases pretty much everyone: but it’s not just an announcement of forthcoming victory, success, (or reversed, a warning about an enemy) anymore. For me, at least, I now see the Six of Wands as more about a victory of the spirit rather than a victory in the material world.

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The Eight of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Eight of Wands is notable for its differences versus other cards in the minor arcana. The first thing one notices is that there aren’t any people. If you exclude the Aces, only this and the Three of Swords among the minor arcana depict no people. The second thing we note is that Wands don’t normally fly. At least we hope they don’t. But in this case, the Wands fly like arrows because the astrological sign for this card’s decan is Sagittarius, who is the centaur hunter with the bow and arrows. Both the qabalistic and the elemental influences signify movement and action. Hod even represents the feet, though its hermetic interpretation also includes “motion through the immovable,” which may represent a magical movement. Fire additionally conveys “conversion” as a possible meaning (think of the chemical effect of fire), which may tie into Waite’s stress upon the movement approaching a threshold or end of journey. Jupiter, the planetary influence provides the characteristic of having a purpose or goal, related to and extending that same meaning. The Eight of Wands, therefore, is fairly straightforward in taking its divinatory meanings from its astrological/qabalistic/alchemical influences, though there are one or two minor points of variance, which we’ll explain in the main posting.

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The Two of Wands – A One Page Guide

I think it’s safe to say that very few modern readers bring up Alexander the Great’s world weariness (that’s Alexander pictured in the feature image) when interpreting this card for their clients! This is one of those cards where it’s much easier to stick to the other aspects of the divinatory meanings, i.e., wealth, ambition/planning and worry. With sources in some of the most martial of the Zodiac signs, with the element of Fire supplying its power, and Chokmah, representing the first power of conscious intellect within Creation and intuitive insight, the Two of Wands has a lot of power behind it. You be the judge of whether all those circles and arrows and paragraphs convey that power.

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