Wands and Fire
Wands are associated with fire and with the hot, passionate energy that comes with it. This is a suit of ambition, ideas, creativity, the sparks that excite us and brings us alive. They are inspiration and electric. A person who can fire off a thousand exciting ideas is one expression of fire energy. Because of the intense nature of fire, burn out is a real possibility with this suit. Other things to be on the look out for are impulsiveness, illusions and not following things through.
As you’ll read below, in some decks the wands are referred to as branches, sticks, staves and batons, all of which bring with them particular connotations. The first two feel to me like they are viewing the wands as something which is growing and reaching out and the latter two feel more like something static to hold onto. Both make sense in the context but do give the reader a different angle with which to lean into the cards. The former feels like a flame flickering and getting bigger as ideas and inspiration come and the latter feels more like a steady, strong flame.
As we saw with the ten of swords, the tens are about endings and beginnings, the natural conclusion of the suit. If we look to the five of wands in the wild unknown tarot, we find a card with very similar imagery; again there is darkness and scattered wands although with the five it feels more like they are falling and in the ten as though they have fallen. This gives the five a bit more hopefulness – there is the chance to regain control, to catch the falling pieces and gather yourself up. In other decks, the five depicts people using the wands to fight with; there is a struggle but there is a chance of winning. Learntarot.com tells us that the five and ten of wands are reinforcing cards and its clear to see why.
Another ten to consider is the ten from the Major Arcana, that is the Wheel of Fortune, another card about starting again, about turning the wheel, about moving forward. As I’ve said already, I’ll probably be doing a post about the Wheel of Fortune at some point so we might find a bit more light shed on the ten cards then.
Left to right: Tarot of the Pagan Cats, Wild Unknown, Lumina
“My shoulders hurt just thinking about this card. The figure clutches a cumbersome bunch of wands in the most awkward way possible, limping painfully into their future.”
– Michelle Tea
Tea goes on to ask why the person is insisting on carrying them so awkwardly, why aren’t they using a cart or asking friends. One theory she posits is that the person felt they knew best and got themselves into a difficult situation and are too proud to ask for help or admit that other people might have known better. Perhaps this person is a martyr, insisting on doing everything for himself and possibly moaning about it as well – I’m sure we all know someone like that! There are different reasons why someone might act that way – they might struggle to ask for or accept help or they might think they are the only person who can do something or do it right. In fact, there are very few things where you are irreplaceable.
This idea of being irreplaceable is one that our culture likes to encourage. The idea that we are all so important that no one can do what we do or at least not as well as us. But for me, the realisation that this is a myth, really freed me up. I would martyr myself, struggling to work through intense pain, because I believed this myth. I believed that it mattered that I was in work every day and that if I wasn’t something terrible – no idea what – was going to happen. The reality is that very few of us have roles which are so vital. And whilst this can feel like a harsh lesson, it also shows us that we don’t need to break ourselves trying to chase after the goals of a consumerist society. We don’t need to buy into the idea that being busy all the time makes us good human beings. This card is asking us to look at our motivations. Why are we doing x,y or z? Can we do things differently? Are other people perhaps more suited to the task or might have valuable insight that can help us?
Tarot of the Pagan Cats
The LWB says, of the ten of wands:
“Carrying a large or many burdens. Reversed: Being overwhelmed by burdens.”
Whilst the imagery is similar to the RWS deck, the cat seems to be struggling significantly less, in fact a case could be made that the cat is handling her burdens with grace. The house she is approaching is not too far away and there is a clear path for her to follow. This suggest that the cat has thought things through a bit more than the character we find in the RWS deck. She has accepted her burden but she has set things up in such a way as to minimise the impact and she is heading towards home where help may lie.
The Wild Unknown card for the ten of wands shows a pile of wands, tangled and messy, against a dark, almost rainy background. This is chaos. Where the RWS and pagan cats showed the reader in control or at least handling their burdens, this version shows the struggle to corral them and what happens when you drop them all. It feels a bit like herding a group of cats or taming wild horses. It is hard to see what move to make next.
Perhaps you have too many things on the go or are overextending yourself, maybe you are afflicted with too many ideas or your enthusiasm and zest has imploded. One of the downsides of wands is that the passion and inspiration can come without structure and the process to see things through. This card could be calling you to create a plan and clarify your goals. Add some good thinking air energy and so practical earth energy to your endeavours. This might look like getting other people in to help or it might be about channelling different aspects of yourself. Whatever it looks like, you probably aren’t going to get far if you just rely on wand energy.
“Do one thing well”
– Beth, Little Red Tarot
Look at how you manage your workload, break things down into smaller tasks, prioritise, let things go, look at how and where you are leaking energy. And look after yourself as well. You can’t do the work you are here to do if you are burnt out and exhausted.
As with previous card explorations I am going to discuss the fox symbolism a little later and see if it adds any specific insight into this card. In the meantime, for the ten of wands, the lumina deck tells us to accept the support of others. I don’t feel that the imagery here really conveys this as strongly as I find in other decks but we have already seen that carrying burdens can become difficult alone. We can have so many ideas and wonderful visions but sometimes we need the support of other people to share the workload or to bring in different talents and expertise. Carrying everything can lead to burn out and the spark of the wands that once excited us goes out.
As a ten card, the ten of swords reiterates completion and the cumulation of work resulting in achievement. As a wand card, it is full of energy and you may feel inspired and excited about the future, about the next project. But you may also experience overwhelm from the choices ahead of you.
I sometimes see the fox on this card as coming across a little smug. He is sitting on his pile of wands, proud of his achievements and bolstered by them. But he cannot leave his previous projects to start gathering new ones without leaving the old ones. Are you stagnated by your success? Are you holding onto what you have achieved, feeling rightly proud but also tethered to the past? It feels to me a little like an artist who has accumulated a number of works of which she is proud but her attachment to them, and to the approach and style she completed them with, is holding her back and preventing her from trying out new styles and ways of working.
In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, my little white book also says that the ten of wands could be about:
Not feeling at peace with yourself * success that has little reward, for example something that has material gain but spiritual loss * how can I see the bigger picture? * see the support around you, let people in, be vulnerable * take responsibility * immaturity * a failure to understand one’s place in the world
I recently purchased Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot: Modern Variations of Ancient Images which has examples of tarot cards from a multitude of decks. One in particular caught my eye with its illustration of the ten of wands. It was ‘A Poet’s Tarot’ from Jesse Cougar and the wands are referred to as sticks and her ten of sticks includes what Pollack describes as “a sense of fantasy in the snaking branches”. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the image online to link to but it is of a forest with intertwining trees and twisting branches, hinting towards a similar meaning as the wild unknown card. I found the word fantasy interesting here and with everything else we know about the card, I feel this maybe referring to an element of self delusion.
Something that Beth from Little Red Tarot suggests is that feeling burdened is not necessarily the same as being burdened. We often take on other people’s issues and burdens and forget that we can put them down. For women in particular there is this feeling that we need to smooth everything over, make everything ok for everyone else and this can be a heavy weight to carry. If this chimes with you, you may want to read about emotional labour. Compassion fatigue and activist burnout are also areas which may be applicable to your current situation. Know that you are not alone and you cannot support others if you do not first support yourself, even if this means you have to put down other people’s burdens.
“Sometimes, to become empowered, we have to reach a dark rock bottom first, and sometimes we have to acknowledge that for all of our radical power, we too are human and flawed.”
– Cassandra Snow
Alongside this idea of emotional labour and compassion fatigue come the words I must/ I should/ I have to/ it is my duty and so on. We are conditioned to feel a sense of duty, particularly as women, but these are pressures which come from outside ourselves. Beth talks about this in her post on the ten of wands and discusses the idea that we don’t HAVE to. Instead we can reframe things. Turn I should into I could and suddenly a statement becomes more of a question. If you are saying I need to or I have to all the time, experiment with what happens if you change it to I am excited to or I want to. These are not indulgent ideas, they are crucial for preventing burnout.
Let your self-loving breath reignite your fire.
Saturn in Sagittarius
Helpfully this week in In The Stars, we’re looking at Saturn and I have Saturn in Sagittarius so I’ve been able to reflect on this quite personally and in more detail that I might have otherwise. Basically put, we have a planet that tends to be association with constriction, with discipline and a zodiac sign which is about expansion so we have a bit of an uneasy combination here. We could also view this as finding a balance between freedom and commitment, between new ideas and following through with existing plans.
Sagittarius is a sign that’s looking to learn, to expand, to move forward – it’s symbolised by an arrow after all – but we have the discipline of Saturn here which guides that arrow to a more focused place. Instead of trying to master everything all at once, Saturn in Sagittarius suggests that focusing on one thing at a time might be a better option in this situation. Instead of clumsily carrying all the wands and dropping them (as has happened in the wild unknown card), maybe picking up one at a time will be a more helpful approach. Saturn also brings structure to Sagittarius, perhaps you need a routine or a project plan to help you achieve what you want.
Another way of reading the symbolism of Saturn in Sagittarius with the ten of wands is around meaninglessness and loss of ambition. There can be self doubt which becomes paralysing and if Sagittarius is not allowed to expand and head forward, they can become disheartened and frustrated and feel a sense of pointlessness. Whilst you might not be able to do ten things at once, make sure you’re doing one thing and do it well.
The Thoth tarot calls this card Oppression and indeed, the heavy burden being carried can be read to be oppressive but perhaps here we are also looking at the burdens we carry because of society such as the emotional labour mentioned above. This is not an individual burden, instead it is one shared by oppressed groups.
I went looking to find out if the associated plant or crystals etc would shed any further light on this card but the only associated plant I found was Prickly Ash Bark which I’ve never heard of. That being said anything which is prickly feels appropriate here! This card is filled with ideas that can be difficult to handle and challenges which can potential rip through us and shred us.
Left to right: Animal Allies, Medicine Cards, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards
We have three very different looking foxes here. The medicine card fox is skinny and feels to me like it belongs in a desert. The wild unknown fox is glowing and seems sure of himself to me, possibly with an edge of conceitedness. And the animal allies fox is looking us in the eye and knows how good looking he is and what fantastically bushing and vibrant fur he has. It is almost as though we have the fox in three different life stages – the medicine card fox is young, the wild unknown fox is a teenager or in early adulthood and the animal allies fox has the confidence of a fully grown adult who knows his place the world and is sure of himself. With this in mind, it feels like the foxes are illustrating the journey that the ten of wands is inviting us to take.
We start off young and naïve, sure of ourselves even when we shouldn’t be and inevitably we overdo things and that shows in the unsure eyes and the skinniness of the young fox. He has been overly confident and now is questioning that. Having experienced that and learnt to ask for and receive help, the teenage fox is basking in the glow of his successes, achieved because he took on board those lessons. He asked for advice and support from those around him and because of it he saw things through but it seems as though perhaps he isn’t confident sharing the limelight here, he isn’t ready to say that he needed help or that he couldn’t have come so far alone. Earlier I said that in my own LWB I have written “a failure to understand one’s place in the world” and whilst I can’t remember why I wrote that in my book, I do feel as though the adult fox has worked through his stuff and come out the other side understanding the interconnectedness of the world and through that, his own place. He has matured and grown as he has taken on board the lessons of the ten of wands.
Mira Sol Wisdom says, of the ten of wands:
“Where once there was momentum moving forward with a goal, this is a time where one has really slowed down and starting to feel the burden of their own creation. This is right about the time where pushing through is most necessary. At one time of immaturity it would have been easy to give up at this point.”
It is this journey of growing up that we see with our three fox cards. The excitable energy of youth, flitting from shiny toy to shiny toy slowly becomes a more sustained interest in seeing things through and basking in the glory and over time, we may come to realise that it is the team which should be receiving the recognition and that drawing attention to team achievements does not negate our own involvement. We can say the team did well and not lose our own place in the world or the project. Indeed, in my own experience, being acknowledged for work done as part of a team can feel more authentic and enjoyable.
Another way to lean into the fox imagery on the ten of wands is as a medicine to the situation. The fox is often considered to be quick witted and cunning, thinking about what is coming. Perhaps channelling this energy will help you to be more decisive and become better at planning the next move. The wild unknown fox is part of the earth suit so may also be able to offer some groundedness to the excitable fire of the ten of wands. It could steady the flame and reduce the risk of burn out.
The Japanese folklore about shapeshifting foxes echoes the potential for illusion and delusion with this card and one of Aesop’s fables shows the fox to be prideful, something we definitely see in the ten of wands.
To complete the series, I’m going to take a look at the ten of cups and then I will get onto the long promised, and much mentioned, Wheel of Fortune card.