All right, I admit it. I’m taking some of the easier ones first so as to get ahead of my self-imposed schedule of two or three of these one-page-guides per week. That way if I run into a stumper or two, I won’t fall behind if I need an extra day here and there to think!
Nevertheless, the Eight of Wands has quite a bit of interest. Moreover, it is notable for its differences versus other cards in the minor arcana.
This is the fifth of these guides. They attempt to visually map the Astrological/Qabalistic/Elemental influences upon Waite’s divinatory meanings and Colman Smith’s layouts. As a Venn diagram, it displays how each of the influences interact with the other influences, resulting in the divinatory meanings, and often, the components of the layout. You’ll find a little more detail on the structure and purpose of these guides here.
As usual, these introductory posts convey additional analysis, as well as a link to the PDF version at bottom, which is better to print from.
Notes on the Eight of Wands
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. We are given immediately to understand that this card is a little different.
The second thing we note is that Wands don’t normally fly. Colman Smith is straining a metaphor; she’s usually far more subtle than that. In fact, these 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. Waite textually notes arrows and related words: “arrows of love,” “arrows of jealousy,” “stingings of conscience” as well as a few less obviously linked phrases.
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.
That the Wheel of Fortune is also an influence can be seen in Waite’s statement “towards an end which promises assured felicity.” I’m not sure that the Wheel “assures felicity” in all circumstances, but I do see that as related to the “difference versus other cards” that I spoke of. I noted elsewhere that I see the Wheel of Fortune more as a “modifier” card rather than something which carries its own meaning. And that, I think, is how I see the Eight of Wands. It modifies the message carried by the other cards in the spread in which it is present. It adds “soon,” to that message, in my opinion. I am reminded of long car rides as a child in which my siblings and I would ask “are we there yet,” some dozen or more times. Had Mom and Dad thought to bring a tarot deck with them, perhaps the answer might have been “soon.” Come to think of it, that was the usual answer anyway!
There is also one odd note you’ll find in the Venn diagram, regarding Temperance, the card associated with Sagittarius. I’m probably reading too much into this one. You may recall that Temperance is drawn (and described by Waite) as having one foot on the ground, one foot on water. Temperance, I don’t think, has much to do with Hod or Fire. So I’ve inserted a note to the effect that it’s been “negated” by them, and have pointed out that the wands are all in the air… not touching either ground or water. If it was a conscious part of the design, it’s very clever, but again, I have nothing to cite for it.
Therefore, I will limit my conclusion as to the meaning of this card as “soon” nothing more, nothing less, and appreciate it for the unusual nature of its composition.
Note: the base graphic for the “mash-up” feature image: NASA/JPL-Caltech