The three cards above,
the 2, 3 and 4 of wands, will serve to illustrate.
The suit of Wands (the element Fire) shows the energy of action, of activity, the creative impulse. With any suit, the energy of the element is in its greatest potential in the ace (1) and develops through to full manifestation at 10. In this process the initial force of the emergence of the energy dissipates (entropy). In some number states stability is implied. 2 - balance, 4 - square, 8 - cube, 10 - the cycle. In the other numbers change is implied. 3 - exchange, 5 - disruption, 6 - transmission, 7 - the will, 9 - inevitability (or the force of gravity - I may come back to this one).
It is from the interaction of the nature of the number with the nature of the element that the meanings of the cards derive.
The Two of Wands is
a card of great success - this man stands on what he has built, his castle
at the centre of his empire. He holds the world in his hand and gazes out
over his domain. However, one of his wands is fixed to the stonework.
The Three of Wands shows a success that is almost as great - this man stands on what he has accomplished. From the top of the hill he watches the ships he has sent out to do his business, but it seems, as he leans forward holding onto his staff, that he longs to be going with them.
The Four of Wands is a card of optimism and eagerness. The figures dance out from the safety of the town towards the pavilion (the barest framework); sharing in celebration.
The progression of number from 1 to 10 is the direction of entropy. The opposite direction is the progress of life. Life creates order from chaos. Life breaks structures apart and reassembles the parts into structures of a higher degree of complexity.
Here I will introduce
the Five of Wands to lead us into the progression from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1.
dancers out from the
confines of the walled town to celebrate in the open bower.
Moving on to the Three we see a greater degree of certainty and confidence. The energy that motivated the dancers is, in this card, projected out from the central figure. He directs his activities at a distance. He sends his ships (his agents) out to do his business. We can see from the way he is dressed that he is perhaps a merchant, has some wealth and success behind him. We can see from his stance that he longs to go with them. His responsibilities, perhaps, hold him back from the explorations and travels that he used to do himself but now, with the success that those activities brought him, he has others do it for him. The veteran soldier who trains the new recruits but, when the war comes, is not allowed to join the fight because he is too valuable as an instructor.
In the Two of Wands the figure stands alone. The wall of the castle, symbol of his dominion, separates him from the community. He has conquered the world - now what? He could do anything but he's been there, done that.
The tendency of the
Wands energy is to see life as a battle.
The figures in this card assert themselves in competition. They test themselves against each other, establishing their respective positions in the group. This is not real warfare but, for the young people in this card, the battle is 'half in fun, whole in earnest', a joust, not entirely a game. There is eagerness for this excitement and danger.
When we move to the Four there is no longer the defensive/aggressive attitude that comes from insecurity (5). With the 4 there is a degree of stability which, although the wands energy cannot be boxed in (the structure in the picture is a bare framework), gives a sense of confidence which is shown by the crowd of people following the
In the Ace of Wands a radiant hand appears out of a cloud offering the wand. The hand of fate, of God, offers the potential of great creative force. Anything is possible if we just seize the moment. The material world has receded into the background. The castle is so far away that it is barely an outline. The river (life) flows on.
In the Ace the power is there in potential. In the Two the figure has the power but doesn't need to do anything with it. He is the embodiment of it. In the Three the figure wields the power, directing activity from where he stands. In the Four the dancers represent the power for the community. In the Five the figures express their individual power.