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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Meta-Stories of the Minor Arcana

We are almost at the halfway point through our analyses of the minor arcana Two through Ten cards. This may be a good time to step back and consider the most consistent finding so far. That finding is that it appears Waite and Colman Smith in many cases placed textual or visual representations of the origin stories of the particular Zodiac sign associated with the constellation for the decan to which the Golden Dawn group assigned the card. It is a serendipitous aspect of the RWS deck’s design process, that their basis in these origin stories can be “seen” in the cards still. Story-telling is indeed an excellent means to connect with the querent. It involves the querent in formulating the answer to the question, because everyone likes to participate in a good story. More than just archetypes, stories that have engaged people for literally thousands of years are likely to engage the querent as you interpret the cards and try to get to the bottom of what the cards are trying to tell both reader and querent.

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The Ten of Cups – A One Page Guide

The Ten of Cups is a great card to get in a reading… but it may not be one of Waite’s best. There are three imperfectly executed themes in the RWS Ten of Cups that I believe show Waite’s desire to infuse his mystical Christianity into the card. Firstly, there is an attempt to link the second covenant, by which belief in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth washes away the original sin of Adam and Eve. Possibly related, a second theme links the water and cups to the Holy Grail and the last supper, at which that second covenant was announced. Finally, an attempt to link the alchemical symmetry between heaven and Earth as in the saying “As above, so below.” But these three themes aren’t anchored securely to the astrological, elemental and qabalistic influences, and therefore don’t affect the divinatory meanings strongly. The result is that the Christian mysticism that Waite imbued in other cards’ divinatory meanings could not be “poured” into the Ten of Cups, and upon analysis, it just doesn’t “feel” right.

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The Two of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

The Two of Pentacles presents questions. Why are there dramatic waves in the background when the elemental influence is not water but Earth? Why did Waite go out of his way not to call the figure eight of the string game the Ourobouros, as the Golden Dawn group described it? And finally, and oddly enough, most importantly—what’s with the hat? Since we’re in Capricorn, we’d better take the Goat of Fear, some aliens called the Anunnaki, and Noah’s Flood into consideration as we try to make sense of these seeming contradictions. And contradiction is what makes the Two of Pentacles a tour de force. It communicates Waite’s Christian mysticism by pulling it out from what should be its opposite: spirit from material, Christianity from pagan; first power promising its own replacement by the ultimate power.

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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 Five of Swords – A One Page Guide

The desolation and despair of the Five of Swords contains the seeds of recovery. Note, first, the difference between Waite’s and the Golden Dawn’s divinatory meanings. They’re both about loss, but the GD’s meanings are about personal losses, while Waite’s are communal. Waite has changed the focus and intensified the divinatory meanings. The astrological and planetary influences in particular suggest, through Ganymede, Saturn and Venus, the Trojan War. And the qabalistic influence brings us the fiery left hand of the Almighty. Waite’s state-oriented divinatory meanings of infamy and dishonor recall, possibly, the “traitors” of Homer’s Iliad: one who had a section of Hell named after him by Dante, and another who reputedly invented the game of dice! But the alternative, the hero, may be in plain sight, the “master in possession of the field.” Because for every Ganymede, swept up and buggered by the gods, or for every traitor slinking away by sea, there is an Odysseus, the most famous adventurer literature has ever known, or an Aeneas or a Brutus of Troy, the latter two having founded great empires. This article considers whether Waite and Colman Smith had Troy in mind when they designed the Five of Swords card.

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The Nine of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

Is it about money or sex? Everything is about money or sex, and the RWS Nine of Pentacles is about both. We have a rich lady, a bird of prey in which the female of the species is dominant, a lubricated gender-inconclusive mollusk, a Zodiac sign whose symbol represents the sexual organs, and a qabalistic influence represented by the sexual organs. To put it another way, our lady of the Nine of Pentacles may be rich, but her only friend is a bird, and she spends all her time in a vineyard. We can view and admire the lady’s wealth and beautiful estate as much as we like, so long as we do not forget that Bacchus/Dionysus, Lord of the Grape Harvest, and Cupid may be hiding in the background. Waite appears to supress any sexual connotation in his divinatory meanings, but then, he was a Victorian. For myself, I think I shall re-interpret the divinatory meanings for this card into something along the lines of “successful and accomplished in the material world, but lacking something in romantic happiness.”

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