The Three Of Wands

Once again, time has gone by since my last post. Lots of activity around community events and such. Things that have taken me away from blogging, but good just the same to get out of my usual routines and  participate in areas where I can be useful in other ways. I am following the suggestion of a friend who read my post on the three of pentacles and asked about my take on the three of wands. In some ways, my busy-ness has been a kind of three of wands experience.

I generally approach interpretation in a reading on not just the card itself, but what it is saying in relation to the other cards and also what it fits with in what I am receiving intuitively. Sometimes I find that the overall reading is summed up in a particular card and will go into that more in-depth. I always find a richness in Pamela Coleman Smith’s illustrative skill (she was the artist who created the Rider Deck, under the guidance of Arthur Edward Waite).

When we look at the details of the card somethings become quickly apparent. The figure wears a circlet and a tartan. This lets us see that he is a ruler of a particular domain. He has climbed to a vantage point, with the aid of the staves, to look out beyond his known world at a vast sea, which has three ships sailing upon it.

In the Rider Imagery, the “great sea” is often representative of life beyond our comfort zone. The realm of the future, full of risk and potential. Lets remember that in the medieval period that is used in illustration, going to sea was a great life risk. Entire fortunes could be made or lost on just a single voyage. So for our little clan chieftain this is an area of great concern. It means going beyond the idea of  being a big fish in a little pond. risking commerce and trade with the wider world. No matter how big we think we’ve become, there’s always an experience that’s greater. A truly great person is someone who is willing to acknowledge what is greater than themselves and learn from it.

So my usual take on the three is to see it as an opportunity, a doorway into that experience. If what we have attained thus far has given us useful tools we will be able to negotiate through the challenges. It’s a reminder too that success is an ongoing process, we don’t stay fit on yesterday’s exercise. Our growth involves ongoing challenge. Sometimes too we have to let go and let a process work itself through, once we have begun to venture forward it is very hard to just go back to our old ideas of limitations.

A big part of all of the threes is interaction and the emergence of patterns, putting our concepts into action and relating our internal consciousness to the outside world. In the Celtic cross spread the third position is often seen as a start or the first emergence of an idea into actuality, often the basis of a question.

Weilding Swords (continued)

This is a continuation of the  previous article on some of the things that swords can represent – with some specific referance to the court cards – in a reading, along with some thoughts on communication and conflict that  come to mind when I think  of what this suit represents.

There are some relationships and people that have an undercurrent of hostility. When the court cards of swords are reversed (or sometimes not necessarily physically reversed, but ill aspected) this is sometimes the case. The page of swords in this mode is like a child that feels a need to act up, disruptive and unaware of boundaries. The knight in this vein is “cruising for conflict”. The King of swords (again in his negative aspect) is a sometimes abusive tyrant and the Queen can be quite cutting.

The responsibilty to swords energy manifests strongly in communication. I have been more aware lately of this in social media which can be very much a swords based arena. Cyber bullying, political vehemence, sniping are rife on platforms like facebook. People like to expound on issues. It’s like a personal soap box in a park with a megaphone. This can be a valuable tool, or a weapon depending on how it is used.

We have been seeing a lot lately about cyber bullying, it’s not enough to just chant the old schoolyard slogan “sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never harm me”. Sorry no. Names and slander, attacks on a person can hurt and are also a warning sign of greater behavioral problems. Part of what has motivated me to write this has been inspired by the recent rant by Rick Mercer about bullying and teen suicide.As someone who experienced this growing up, I couldnt agree more with him, I believe we have a responsibility to step up when we see innapropriate or hurtful communication. Here’s a link to his passionate speech:
Rick Mercer on cyber bullying and teen suicide

Mercer, with his wit and strong articulation is a great example of healthy warriorship. His “rant” is not about being hurtful, it’s about taking action, protecting and setting a healthy boundary. I would say he is a great example of a healthy, well aspected King of Swords.In a healthy, well balanced sense, the king is a discerning and diplomatic figure of authority. Someone who knows how to debate, make a point and be objective while still holding firm to principles. The queen is a judicial advisor, someone who knows the disciplined, sometimes “tough love” side of nurture. The knight is a rebel with a cause, a provocateur who isn’t afraid of shaking up our complacency a bit. The page is a childlike protector, maybe, like a good little hall monitor, a voice worth heeding.

Wit and articulation, discernment (over judgement) and the heroic quality of irony are all hallmarks of healthy sword energy. The qualities of good warriorship are evidenced. Much like someone who has long practiced the martial arts there is not a seeking out of conflict, but also not a shying away. Violence of any kind is a last resort, more often the ability, like a bull fighter to let an opposing force run itself out or to throw itself off balance.

I love the fact that the symbol in the Rider Waite deck is a broad sword. A peaceful warrior is conscious of when to use the cutting edge, prefering more often to use the flat of the blade. In other words to invite differences of opinion, to not have to cut down an opposing view but to learn from it. Qualities of respect and to look beyond an immediate issue. A saying of my father’s that I reflect on more and more as I get older is “sometimes what’s more important than being right, is what gets left”.

On a more formal level, the business of articulation, mediation and problem solving is where we see Swords (along with the other elements) in the process of developing policy. Any good community group or organization usually has a constitution, a mandate for how it operates and it is out of constructive conflict that we develop the policies and procedures that guide us through challenges. Rather than having to fight the same battles again and again we are able to work with our experience (this involves pentacles – see the September article on Discerning True Worth). The saying that “the pen is mightier than the sword comes to mind, but in truth the pen is just another form of sword. How we communicate and articulate ourselves runs through all the elements but in swords we have the conscious opportunity to either wage war, uphold a principle or set a boundary that allows for healthy discourse.

On a more personal level, couples learn to fight fair, to understand each others backgrounds in conflict is important, to not hit below the belt and to see where sometimes a conflict on one level may be an opportunity to work safely with other, sometimes more unconscious issues.
It’s very challenging in conflict situations to not react but rather to listen and then respond. When someone who has obviously been stewing with something suddenly brings an issue forward, it helps to see they have been preparing for a while. I am an Aries ( ruled by the planet Mars) so I CAN be a hot head. I have had to learn to stand back, to say “I’ll have to think about this” and (boy this is still challenging) “while you’re at it, is there anything else”? Often for the person bringing the issue forward just the rassurance that they are being heard is diffusing. Sometimes though what comes our way is a tantrum. Thats when you have to stand back, sometimes walk away, give what Eckhart Tolle calls a “quality no”. You can’t teach pigs to sing, it only makes the pigs angry. Paying attention to the time and place can be important. Saying “could we perhaps address this differently,another place or with other people present) can help. If someone calls me at 11:00 at night that isnt good timing, Also in this age of cyber communication, not hitting send in the heat of the moment, even better saying could we discuss this in another way. If the other person is simply interested in berating and not about to show reason best to walk away. Like I said this stuff is challenging. For myself, I can be a know it all sometimes and having the last word is not always the best thing.Walking away sometimes means to give up the idea of winning, to say “well thats your opinion”, or “I understand thats what you feel or think of this”. Challenging eh?

Sometimes we have to fight our own battles, but relying on outside resource, whether thats as formal as calling in the law, talking to a counsellor or on a less formal but incredibly valuable level, an objective friend, are all healthy applications of swords energy. Sometimes I need feedback not just on the conflict but how it is getting addressed. There are times when we might be right in principle but very wrong in how we address it. I sometimes have to look at even how I bring the issue to that objective person. If even there I need them to agree with me or take my side, I might not be deep down so sure of my own position. Being present, really listening to others and my own reactions is a discipline, but to not do it is far more draining; like people who yell all the time that others tune out, learning to reflect and communicate without letting anger take over is work, sometimes hard work, but living less consciously takes a greater toll. After a while, like learning to walk it becomes more natural and we dont have to crawl anymore.

King Of Wands Reversed

In relating the archetypes of Tarot to our common experience it used to be that readers would rely on well known people or figures from mythology and folklore to illustrate a point. Nowadays our references can come from a vast array of resources. I like to sometimes illustrate a card’s meaning through what we know of famous people or things found in popular culture, like music, characters and situations found in books, film or other forms of media.

Part of what makes some characters, art or other forms of expression popular is our ability to relate to these things, what they speak to in our common experience and Tarot is partly a reassuring sense that others have encountered these things as well. All of our experiences are individual and unique, but there is a resonance and an ability to relate these things to what others have moved through.

When a court card is describing someone in the querant’s life, I have to point out that the description is that person in relation to the querant. It is often the case that we are getting a message not only about the other person but also about what we have been seeking or needing to interact with in that situation.

Kings in Tarot seem to suggest people in a position of responsibility or authority, sometimes a predominance of kings can show that we, ourselves, are ready to take our place in that sense of responsibility. I often see a court card not just as a description of an external influence in the querant’s life but also as a kind of “modality” that we are operating in. In this vein Pages are our own childlike sense of wonder and curiosity, Knights are our questing nature, relationships that have a sense of teamwork or a task/lesson oriented quality, often with a transitional (not necessarily transient or impermanent quality -some quests can be a lifelong adventure). Queens are sometimes situations that require nurture, the development or creative aspect with a transformative effect not just within but environmentally. These are just some of the associations that can be drawn.

So we have the opportunity to look at this sort of exchange when a court card comes up. When the signs around it, as well as the intuitive feel of the card suggests a positive exchange, it’s like we are on the right wavelength with the person in question, we see results in growth, learning and contentment. Even an adversarial or opposing influence can be positive when we see what it is we are looking for and working with, but what about those exchanges that are troublesome, where something seems to be kicking up a fuss or causing discontent? this is when a card seems to be “ill aspected” or reversed. Please note that this is not so much about the card actually being physically upside down, sometimes that’s just how it falls. What I am talking about here is the very definite sense of something being out of whack.

A good illustration of this is the experience of encountering the King Of Wands reversed. An enigmatic leader, someone with a lot of drive, but somewhat driven. An achiever (or at least he gives that appearance). Someone with a lot going for him but it’s not very clear where it’s all going. We tend to give this figure a lot of attention and sometimes the lesson is about giving up our own power. When we choose the most distracting person in the room it begs the question “what is it we are needing to be distracted from?” What is sitting in our own blind spot of worth or our own misplaced elements that cause us to be drawn into what can turn out o be a trap?

The key lies in the element itself. Wands are the suit that has to do with our sense of DOING, our goals, our constructiveness, our passionate drives to achieve but also to find contentment in the doing itself. When we look at the egoic side of it, wands can be a need for status, competitive or comparative unhealthy standing. A healthy King Of Wands is like a good natured athlete who cares about the sport, the team and the love of the game, he instills in others a love of the game and good sportsmanship, He isn’t always having to be the star player and enjoys mentoring and encouraging others.
The unhealthy emanation is the sort of “big man on campus” who has to cut others down, someone invested in the trophies but not the game. Often with a narrow vision and a great concern about appearances.

In the drama of life, it would be pretty dull if people like this didn’t show up from time to time, like all people, we can learn from “good bad examples”. If we aren’t secure in ourselves though, this can be a tough learning experience.

Carly Simon wrote a song in the 1970s about her disenchanting experiences around this sort of thing called “You’re So Vain“. No one knows for sure who it is about, there’s been speculation about everyone from Mick Jagger and Nick Nolte to the front runner Warren Beatty (who has insisted it’s about himself). Here is a link of her singing this (and by the way it is a more current version and she looks fabulously flawless and joyful decades later).

I think the following lines in the song are quite telling;  “you had me several years ago, when I was still quite naive” and “all of the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner”, speak to our feelings of self uncertainty and the comparative worth we (briefly) feel in being someone that is wanted by someone that other people want. There IS hope though for all of us, the King included. I have worked with a lot of fellow men who have been through the brokenness of this kind of ego trap and have righted the reversal. We can start looking at our own stuff instead of being victims or villains. We don’t have to buy into being something for others, but rather what we can be with them (a related post on this is “Discerning true worth” ). In Warren’s case, maybe he got Carly’s message, maybe a really strong Annette Bening helped or his enlightened sister Shirley Maclaine (both of whom embody strong and constructive Queen of Wands characteristics). He seems to have settled down.  I have found that part of the lesson is If you’re going to take on a King (reversed or upright), be ready to look at where that energy sits within yourself.

Knight Of Wands (Reversed)

Sometimes it helps to make an association when describing a court card. I will often use analogies to famous people or stories in giving a description of someone in a reading. I should mention too, that I don’t always necessarily pay attention to physical reversals of a card. In other words it’s not necessarily that the card itself is reversed, it’s more whether the energy of it feels “stuck” or muted.

When a Knight is reversed energetically it’s like the quest has become misdirected, the person is forever seeking and not allowing for real fulfillment, or in some instances the struggle of the reversal is an indication of a strength not yet mastered (particularly with those younger). Either way there is a lesson in getting unstuck. In some instances it may be a conscious or unconscious resistance to the learning. A person continually questing for answers, but resisting them when offered would also fit with this.

I often find that the reversal or stuck aspect of an element is where a genuine ability or strength has come to be misused. For cups it is like the helping aspect has gotten out of hand and become smothering or, in a sort of self delusion, the sort of giving to get mode. Pentacles reversed would be strategic thinking turned into manipulation or a distortion of values. Reversals are like the gift turned into addiction and are part of what we have to work through.

The Knight of Wands in this reversed mode is a lot like the Eagle’s song “Desperado” – “out ridin‘ fences for so long now“. There are card references (curiously enough) in the song too; “Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds (pentacles) boy, she’ll beat you if she’s able, the queen of hearts (cups) is always your best bet. It seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the things that you can’t get“.
Here’s a link to the song on youtube with the lyrics:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKqnlJzT9bs


If you’ve seen the movie, “The Wrestler” with Mickey Rourke, it’s a classic expression of what happens when the Knight’s pursuit of challenge has gone on in one mode too long, to the exclusion of all else.