This piece is normally accessible for Patreons subscribed at the Ace of Pentacles level and up. But it's Spring, and we all need to grow into our best selves this year, so I wanted to share it with everyone.
This series is intended to help folks recognize the Minor Arcana in their day-to-day lives and the lives of the people around them. I’ll generally base my interpretations off Pamela Colman Smith’s illustrations in the Smith-Waite or Rider-Waite deck, as well as other illustrated decks.
Here at the beginning of Spring, as we roll through Aries season, 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.)
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. From Ace through 10, we ask ourselves, “Am I going to be a bartender, or a firefighter, or a ballet dancer, or a hobo…?” and we try on a bunch of hats and ways of living. But from Page to King, we ask ourselves, “Regardless of what I’m doing, what am I Doing with my life? What is the point to all of this? What is my trail I need to blaze?”
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 are thought to represent the elemental powers themselves. Aries is the first Fire sign, and so its decans are assigned to the 2, 3, and 4 of the suit.
Aries itself is connected to The Emperor card (for more on that card check out The Emperor of Spring,) an archetype who represents the pioneer or vanguard in all of us that wants to blaze new trails into uncharted territory. The Minor Arcana connected to it are some of the real world elements of how we will begin to “blaze our trail” in our own lives.
Two of Wands, Smith-Waite Deck
Two of Wands
In the twos, we have just begun to consider ourselves in relation to a new concept that we have received from the Aces. We consciously acknowledge it, and we affirm, grasp or join with the thing. In the Two of Wands, we see a person literally gripping a wand in one hand and a globe in the other. Thinking about The Emperor card, we see here a person who is trying on the idea of exploring new roles or new pathways leading to their personal “empire.” We even see a bright red hat on their head (red is usually associated with Fire and Will in Tarot), and it’s also sort of reminiscent of a crown or the turret at the top of a tower. Looking at the rest of their clothing, they are covered in the colors of Aries, the Emperor, and Fire, right down to the burgundy cloak of the Emperor. Everything here is almost like a costume or an homage to the idea.
Also, just like the Emperor, this person is holding a staff in one hand and a globe in the other. This person is looking at the whole full world of possibilities and potentials and considering what direction they might go. But which hand is holding what switched. Their scope of just how big the situation truly is and what steps need to be taken is clearly off. Their naivety around what it genuinely requires to be Emperor is showing, as they think they can grasp the whole situation in one go and just hold a big stick and look serious and that will get stuff done. But sometimes we need to “not sweat the small stuff,” we need to not know how hard something actually is if we are going to get over our fears of leaving the comfort of the known and head out into the unexplored.
Down in the bottom left corner we see a small design on the wall; two roses and two lilies. We see this combination of flowers on only two other cards, The Magician and Hierophant. The person in the card doesn’t seem to notice it, or at least from their angle can’t really see it. Something about what we are to embark upon in this process is Holy. It is connected both to our magical capacity as a creator and our “dominion” or mastery of the Earthly plane and ability to rally forces to our Will. But for now, we can’t really think about that part. We need just to grab a sturdy walking stick and head out.
Looking at how the suit itself is represented tells us a lot about what we are experiencing in this card. One staff is bolted to the wall. The other staff is being held upright. Neither wand can stand on its own. To think of a walking staff as a tool that helps a person walk, or a wand that helps direct energy, we see these two wands needing reinforcement. In other words, at the twos stage, these roles, these new adventures, this new sense of self, still needs some help and guidance. It’s not fully formed yet.
And, we’re not sure if we’re really ready to “be King.” This person is standing safely behind a wall, and from the looks of it, a wall someone else built and maintains. This person is looking out at the world beyond. We aren’t engaging our power here, we are considering what it might be like to take control.
The sky is grey because it is foggy. As we move from the 2 of Wands to the 3 and 4, we see the sky turn a dark yellow then bright yellow. In the two of wands we are influenced by the past, and the structures currently around us, unable to see beyond. We are relying on our wisdom and our lived experiences which say, “Stay home, we’ve probably seen it all before anyway, what’s new under the Sun?” We will have to shut down our cynicism actively and stoke the fires of curiosity if we are going to engage the unknown and genuinely find something new.
This is in sync with our attitudes at the start of Aries season; it’s Spring! What better time to throw some seeds in the ground and try something new? However, we won’t have any real success from up here in the castle, we need to get down into the real world and get our hands dirty.
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, and 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, and 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, 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. 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!
Four of Wands, Smith-Waite Tarot
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. We buy the ticket and take the trip. We see 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?