This is a multi-part series intended to help folks recognize the Minor Arcana in their day-to-day lives. In this piece we look at the Four of Wands. I’ll generally base my interpretations off Pamela Colman Smith’s illustrations in the Smith-Waite or Rider-Waite deck.
Here at the beginning of Spring we get an opportunity to work with the 2, 3, and 4 of Wands. Many groups have associated Tarot and Astrology. One school of thinking connects the Minor Arcana with the decans of the signs. The Decans are 3 divisions within each astrological sign based on the degrees; Decan 1 is 1º-10º, Decan 2 is 11º-20º, and Decan 3 is 21º-30º (For more information, check out Austin Coppock.)
As we move through the Wands, we will encounter Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, the three Fire signs of the zodiac. The Aces of the suits represent the elemental powers themselves. Aries is the first Fire sign, and so we assign its decans to the 2, 3, and 4 of the suit.
In Tarot, the suit of Wands is often considered to be the suit of Fire.
This suit is where we take a look at issues around our ego, character, and drive. This is where our passion and lust comes through. And we also face our anger here. We look at the roles we play in our lives. This is also the suit that addresses our Will, and what we came here to do in this lifetime. For example, from Ace through 10, we ask ourselves, “Am I going to be a firefighter, or a ballet dancer, or a hobo…?” and we try on a bunch of hats and ways of living. In contrast, from Page to King, we ask ourselves, “Regardless of what I’m doing, what am I Doing? What is the point of my life? What is my trail I need to blaze?”
Aries itself connects to The Emperor card (for more on that card check out The Emperor of Spring.) This is an archetype who represents the pioneer or vanguard in all of us. The Minor Arcana connected to it are the real world elements of how we will begin to “blaze our trail” in our own lives.
*For even more Fire, check out:
Harvesting Lughnasadh Symbols in the Tarot – Leo/Strength
Temperance: Working With the Void of Yule – Sagittarius/Temperance
Four of Wands
In all Fours cards, we manifest the thing. We make it real. In the Four of Wands, we pack our bags and head out on the adventure. We stop dreaming behind the castle walls, we stop wandering down to the harbor and bugging docks people about sailing times. We commit, buy the ticket, and take the trip. There is very little in this card that reminds us of the Emperor card because, by this point, we are focused on our own blueprint, not someone else’s.
The central feature of the card is no longer a person, but a structure made of wands. We are no longer thinking about ourselves in relation to the thing because we are living or doing or being the thing.
We are it.
The staves don’t look like they are growing naturally out of the ground, but they are standing upright and seem to be sturdy enough to hold up a bough of flowers and fruit.
This is the first demonstration of our natural Will, conformed to a purpose. We see the effects of our Will in reality. The flowers might be roses, an indication of our passion, blooming. And the fruit might be oranges, a solar symbol indicating “right” use of power and Will to the benefit of the group. And here, we have another oblique connection to the The Magician card, just like in the Two of Wands. This arbor is the simplest type of structure or shelter, but it is a real world demonstration of our desire to express our Will. Perhaps we pass under this bough, like a gate of initiation.
As we pass through this structure, we pause to look back over our shoulder. Beyond the structure, we see two people. Both wear flower crowns that obscure parts of their faces. One has a blue shawl, one burgundy, but both wear white robes underneath. We see these previous versions of ourselves, still dreaming, still planning, innocent in their knowledge of the world. They wave bouquets, sending us off with blessings and good wishes. Behind them is the castle. We can even see the stretch of wall where we once stood and mused, “what if?” Looking back at where we were, having crossed over the bridge with only this small amount of planning and action, we can already feel removed and distant from our old life.
The sky is the bright yellow of high noon, and the ground beneath us is that strange green-yellow of the atmosphere in the last card. We are walking in the land of creative imagination, and whatever we set our mind to, if we apply our Will, we will manifest it. The heat of the day radiates all around us, like our desire to demonstrate our Will.
The Four of Wands, as the last card of Aries season, is a send-off as we head out into the unknown to create our Empire.
Looking at the three cards together, we see a process that progresses from merely the concept of action to become the embodiment of The Will itself. We have to play at it, try on a bunch of costumes, try out a bunch of hobbies, try out a bunch of versions of ourselves. However, life is not a dress rehearsal, this is all real, and happening in real time.
But for now, let’s just play pretend, and envision our glorious empires.
What are you building out there?