Three of Wands – Everyday Living in the Minor Arcana Tarot

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 Three 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. (Read about the Two of Wands.)

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

Three of Wands, Smith-Waite Tarot
Three of Wands, Smith-Waite Tarot

Three of Wands

In this card, we see a significant shift from the twos. We are no longer pondering what’s behind the safety of our walls, we are out in it, getting some mud on our boots and sniffing the air. In the threes, we move to the next part of the idea phase; planning. In the Three of Wands, we see a person (probably) looking out over a bay. If we are going to be Emperor someday, we better start doing some experimentation in the field now. Here we see the person in the card is standing on real Earth, getting up close to see what is going on for themselves.

The person stands with their back to us. They are looking out to sea at three ships. Perhaps they are patiently waiting for their fortune to arrive, planning what they will do with all the goodies they are about to receive. Or, they are deciding which ship they will embark, based on the direction it will be headed. Either way, we see a person unconcerned with whatever is going on right here at the moment and is fully concentrated on what is “out there.”

Their clothing tells us a lot about where this person is at in their process.

Their black hair and white headband are a connection to The Magician card. They are still unaware of the spiritual nature of their quest. They approach the situation from a logical point of view, weighing their options from a wisdom/intellect axis. However, their muted burgundy cloak has changed to a hot, bright red. Our connection to our own Will or agenda has deepened somewhat in this card. Finally, we are beginning to see that this new adventure may really be something important. We are getting fired up.

The one arm we can see is blue, and it reminds me of the one blue arm we see on the Emperor. The Emperor is wearing steel armor, and so we may infer this person also has put on some armor to protect themselves as they head out to create their empire. They have tossed a light green shawl over their shoulder. Green often relates to Venusian effects, so this person is also showing a bit of vulnerability here, and saying, “Hey world, I’m new, I’m excited, and I don’t care if I look a little goofy!”

Looking at how the suit itself is represented, again we see a significant departure from the twos.

All three wands grow naturally up out of the ground, and so, are fully capable of supporting themselves. This is very different from the staves-for-show back at the castle like we saw in the previous card. In fact, the person in the card can now reach out and lean on one of these wands for assistance. In other words, even in just the first few motions of planning and investigation, we can see our own Will begin to establish itself. 

The sky has changed from grey to an almost green-yellow, as if a fog was burning off in the growing heat of the day. Out here, as we try on our new roles and makes plans around how to go forward, we see that past experiences will not necessarily help us in new experiences. We’re also able to get out from under others’ influences. Our creative imagination begins to kick in. Our intellect begins to sharpen up and pay attention. We can see that new skills are on their way and we not only need to be paying attention but be innovative what we do with the latest information. 

When this card comes up in a reading, I always think of it as a high 5 from the Universe. It’s like a little nudge forward, telling you, you have everything you need to survive, but you can’t prepare for everything… just go!

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