Three of Wands | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Three of Wands

Keywords for the Three of Wands

REFLECTING ON THE PASTPLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
WISDOMHOPE
PRIOR ACCOMPLISHMENTSFUTURE GOALS
MEMORIESVISION
ACCEPTING LIFE EXPERIENCEEAGERNESS TO EXPLORE 

A man stands facing the sea, staring out at the ships passing in the warm glow of the late afternoon sun. He contemplates their movements, watching as the wind fills their sails, propelling them towards their future destinations. 

On his back, he wears a patchwork cloak, made up of all the experiences of his past, containing evidence of everything that has led him up to this point.

The majority of the cloak is made of bright red cloth. It symbolizes desire, which is the primary motivating force behind man’s destiny.

The green is representative of his creativity, the imagination he possesses that is generative and productive, and can find new and original solutions to his problems.

Finally, the black and yellow patch stands for his past difficulties. Here we see the pain, the losses, the suffering and even the traumas that he has survived on his way to this point. Notice the similarity of this cloth to the image on Key 16, the Tower; it carries similar meanings. 

All of these colors and their related experiences make up an essential part of who we are. It is important to keep each in mind, to integrate and maintain an awareness of them all as we move forward in life. Each is an important element adding to our experience, and we would be wise to become conscious of them. For it is often what is found behind us that creates the structure and habits of mind which become the perspective from which we see our future.

Three of Wands Interpretation

When the 3 of Wands comes up in a reading, it often means that we have arrived at a turning point in our lives. We stand at a crossroads, one where we have the opportunity to weigh our options and make plans for the future.

The 3 of Wands often asks us to take a step back from our daily routine and our normal, everyday concerns, and to seek a higher vantage point from which we might access greater clarity about where we now stand in relation to our goals and aspirations.

More than anything else, the Three of Wands speaks to our capacity to think ahead. It is concerned with our vision for the future. It is not simply a matter of looking ahead, however. This card is concerned with utilizing the knowledge and wisdom we have gained from past experience in order that we may put our best foot forward as we step into the future.

Roasting Cinnabar

A good Calcination ritual to start with is known as Roasting Cinnabar.

This meditative process is related to the work done by alchemists in the laboratory, working with real chemicals.

In this process, alchemists would would roast the mineral known as “Dragon’s Blood,” or Cinnabar, which is a red-colored sulfide of mercury. When roasted over an open flame,  drops of pure liquid mercury are released from the cinnabar and fall down into the ashes.

The purpose of this meditative process is to get us in touch with our mostly unconscious judgements and reactionary behaviors that serve to protect and enhance our egos. We must become aware of these forces within our psyches before we are able to release them to make room for our true or higher Self.

Pure Cinnabar powder

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. Start by entering a state of relaxation, one in which you feel detached from your worries and daily concerns or problems. You can do this by focusing on your breath, by noting the “in” or the “out” breath or by counting each breath as it passes. You may also use a mantra of your choice to bring your attention inward. When you find you are relaxed, move on to the next step.
  2. Slowly count backwards from 10 down to 1. While counting down, continue to relax each part of your body, starting at the crown of your head and moving down to your toes. Take care to make each breath slower and deeper than the last.
  3. Visualize brilliant red cinnabar roasting over an open flame. As you do so, let your mind travel back to any moment of your life where you felt humiliated or enraged by someone else. Try to notice the true cause of your intense feelings—they are typically tied up in a sense of losing control, of not having any power over yourself, and of your ego or sense of self being diminished.
  4. Observe your thoughts as they stream through your mind. Notice the ways in which you reacted to being hurt. This can include such things as promising yourself you will never be vulnerable and risk getting hurt again, or lashing out at someone else to soothe the ego’s pain. Re-evaluate how you responded to these painful circumstances. Ask yourself, is this the best way to respond? How would my higher or wiser self choose to respond instead?
  5. Most importantly, allow yourself to experience all of your difficult feelings. Avoid suppressing and repressing your pain. It never truly goes away, and there is much wisdom to be found in the depths of your own darkness.
  6. Notice all of the insights and wisdom that come up as you do this. Picture this to be the mercury being released from the cinnabar. Imagine yourself gathering up all of this precious mercury into a glass bottle as it is released from the rocks of cinnabar.
Mercury
Mercury in his element

This mercury, this purified thought, is now yours to use as you wish.

Liquid mercury

Two of Wands | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Two of Cups

Keywords for the Two of Wands

AUTHORITYMAKING A CHOICE
INFLUENCESUCCESS
WORLDLY POWERRESPONSIBILITY
LEADERSHIP”VENI, VIDI, VICI”
COMMANDS RESPECTJADED

In the image on the card, we see a well-dressed man standing on a balcony, a man who clearly exudes an aura of power, authority, and success. His position high above the town in his castle, his expensive attire, royal purple robes, and confident stance make clear that he is someone who commands respect.

Gazing out at the territory stretching out in front of him, he holds a small globe in one hand, gripping a wand in the other. He seems to be deep in thought. He turns the globe over and over in his hand as he contemplates a decision to be made, weighing each choice carefully in his mind. 

Alternatively, he might be reflecting on his past, remembering the exploration and adventures of his youth, captivated by the memories of the battles won, success gained and victories had in days gone by.

Ask anyone on the street in the town below, and they would tell you that they envy this man, admire his accomplishments, and only wish that one day they might possess a fraction of his power, status, and wealth. 

But ask this man himself? Well, he might tell you a different story… You would hear how he is bored, restless, uninspired by this life of comfort and stability. You would know how trapped he feels, chained to the earth by the work of his own hand, ruled by his own extensive possessions. 

Even without a word, we can guess that likely feels trapped, even lost, without a goal to organize his efforts around. We can see this symbolized by the second wand, which stands to the right of its own accord, lacking a connection to life. It is held upright only by the metal shackle which binds it to the castle wall, making it unlikely to fall, yet also unable to be free.

Two of Wands Interpretation

When this card appears in a tarot reading, it can indicate the possession of great personal power, accomplishment, and success. It refers to the fruits of a brave and courageous soul, a heart that seeks the thrill of adventure and loves a good challenge, along with an original mind that knows how to make it all happen.

It can also refer to an ability to command respect, to act as an authoritative leader and influence others through the powerful force of his will and determination. The 2 of Wands may also reference a certain aura of “greatness” such a man (or woman) will naturally possess, along with the attention, admiration and influence inspired in those he comes into contact with. 

Another possibility expressed by the 2 of Wands is that of being at a turning point, of reaching a critical juncture where a decision must be made in order to move forward. It shows a person at a crossroads, carefully weighing each decision, preparing to take action.

Finally, this card may also indicate being possessed by a troubling sense of ennui, of listlessness, of feeling bored and uninspired by one’s current circumstances. The Two of Wands can appear when we are more focused on the thrill of the chase, This comes up in situations where we care only about conquering, and lose interest once the challenge has disappeared.

If this is the case, we may want to ask ourselves what we gain from being in constant pursuit of “the next best thing.” While this pattern may at times be very gratifying for the ego, if we persist we may find ourselves locked into a destructive pattern of dominance and aggression, which ultimately leaves us and others feeling empty and unfulfilled. 

Calcination

There are seven operations in the process of alchemy, the first of which is calcination.

This is the process of burning through the dross of the ego we have built up over the course of our lives, so that our true self may be released and expressed.

This is not an easy experience to go through, which is why so many of us avoid it. It often seems safer to cling to our egos, no matter how much suffering they may cause us, than to face the delusions we have accepted and the lies we have built into our personalities.

This process requires us to go through the fires of hell in order to emerge renewed. We must experience all of our pent up anger, frustration and rage before we can move past this stage.

We are forced to come to terms with some of our most difficult emotions in a process which has been referred to as “the death of the profane.” The false self must die in order that the true Self may live.

For there is no room in the psyche for two rulers. The false ego drains our energy, asking us to focus on superficial qualities or objects. We may focus on our physical appearance or have an obsession with material possessions and financial success. All of which obscures our essence, our higher self which is in touch with something greater than ourselves, and out of which meaning and purpose are born.

Some alchemical practices for working with our egos and moving the calcination process forward are Roasting Cinnabar, Bellows Breath and the Dance of Sulfur. It is important to recognize that alchemy is not an abstract, theoretical mental discipline. It involves all the dimensions of our being, and as such is something that much be practiced.

You can choose to do one alchemical practice at once, or as I have done, combine several into a longer calcination ritual. I will describe the practicalities of these processes more in depth in coming posts here.

Ace of Wands | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Keywords for the Ace of Wands

INITIATIVESTRENGTH
PASSIONPOWER
ENTHUSIASMINSPIRATION
MOTIVATIONSELF-EXPRESSION
CONFIDENCESUCCESS

It is a bright summer day in the countryside. We see a castle on a hill set against a backdrop of purple mountains, while beneath it, a river rushes forward relentlessly towards its destination. 

High above in the sky, a hand emerges from a cloud, tightly gripping a tall wand. This phallic object exudes so much vitality that green leaves literally burst forth from the top in an exuberant display of primal life force energy.

Ace of Wands Interpretation

When this card comes up in a tarot reading, it likely indicates an auspicious new beginning for us. 

The fiery energy of the suit of Wands blesses us with its passion, vitality, and enthusiasm. When we see this card, we can trust that we have the confidence, motivation and strength to move out in the world and make things happen.

This card can also indicate the presence of other qualities associated with the element of Fire, such as creativity, originality, and inspired self-expression. When the Ace of Wands comes up in a reading, it is safe to say that we can believe in ourselves and our capacity to find inventive solutions to any challenges before us. 

The Ace of Wands is, above all, a card of enthusiasm, excitement and adventure. When this Ace comes up in a reading, it can inspire us to have faith in ourselves and move forward. With this attitude of self-assurance, we are free to embark on whatever adventure is calling out to us, and trust that we will be met with success. 

Nigredo: The Black Phase of Alchemy

Nigredo, Albedo, Rubedo: The 3 Phases of Alchemy
Nigredo, Albedo, Rubedo: The 3 Phases of Alchemy

Alchemists have generally divided the Great Work into three distinct phases, referred to by their color: the nigredo (black phase), albedo (white phase), and rubedo (red phase). 

In earlier times, some also spoke of the citrinitas (yellow phase) that was said to occur between the white and red phases. However, this term is less frequently used by the more contemporary alchemists of today.

The different colors of alchemy were based on actual, physical alterations in the appearance of the material worked on in laboratory experiments. These colors, however, are also evocative symbolically of the emotional tone which characterizes each phase of the work on a psycho-spiritual level. 

In laboratory work, the nigredo is a time when the prima materia begins to decompose or rot. On both the physical and psycho spiritual levels, it contains the lesser phases of Calcination and Dissolution within it. This is the time for the mortification of our very soul, and the time where our spirit most deeply feels the anguish of separation from truth.

The putrefactio is considered to be by far the longest and most difficult phase of the magnum opus. It is a time when we must let all the dross drop away. It is often known as the “dark night of the soul,” describing a time when we are forced to confront all that is dark and difficult within ourselves, and ultimately to let go of our attachment to our shadow, releasing the past. 

Here, we are being asked to let go of all within us and outside of us that is false, inauthentic, and not in full alignment with the truth of who we are. This is a truth as it exists on a soul level, far beyond the ego and its limited ideas or illusions about who we “should” be. 

It is a process made far more difficult by the resistance and defenses we put up against it. Many of us will resist for years, most often for much longer, remaining unwilling to accept that our lives, as we know them, are over. Few of us are quick to grasp the fact that there is new life waiting for us if we would only let go of the limited vision of existence we usually try so desperately to cling to.

It is only when we become willing to surrender that the alchemical process truly begins. Only when we are willing to die do we have the chance to one day be reborn. 

The World | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

The World

Keywords for The World 

SUCCESSMASTERY
ACHIEVEMENTWHOLENESS
SATISFACTIONINTEGRATION
ACCOMPLISHMENTBALANCE
FULFILLMENTUNION

This card is, in many ways, the fulfillment of all those which came before it. Of all the cards, it bears the most striking resemblance to Key 10, The Wheel of Fortune. We see the same four figures in each of the corners as we once encountered there: the man (Aquarius), the bull (Taurus), the Eagle (Scorpio), and the Lion (Leo). 

However, there is one important difference: in the Wheel of Fortune, each of the four had wings, as if to tell us there was something angelic or highly ethereal about them. Each also held an open book in front of them, which they gazed at intently, as if trying to understand the secret mysteries of the universe. 

Here, the figures here in the World possess neither wings nor books. This is likely meant to indicate the different level of being emphasized in each of these two cards.

The Wheel of Fortune was in many ways a card of abstractions. It spoke of abstract visions of the spiritual order underlying all things.

The World, however, deals not with abstractions, but within the concrete material reality. It is the world of physical form and manifestation. It is within the sphere of Saturn, contained by the limits of physical reality. 

In the center of the card, we see the World Dancer in motion. This dancer is androgynous, even hermaphroditic, as they express both their feminine and masculine elements. This shows us that they are completely whole and fully balanced and integrated.

The oval shaped wreath which encloses the dancer is bound by two red bands in the form of an  “x” mark at the top and bottom. Although it may be difficult to discern from our vantage point, these bands are actually in the form of figure 8’s, or symbols of infinity.

Interpretation of the World in a Reading

When the World comes up in a tarot reading, it often indicates that we have arrived at our intended destination. We may find ourselves reaching an important goal, achieving success, or enjoying the satisfaction of hard work paying off.

This card speaks to the realization of our visions, our hopes, and our ideals in the outer world. What was once only an ephemeral dream has now, through hard work and determination, become manifest in the material.

In addition to the themes of fulfillment and completion, the World also carries with it significations that point to balance, harmony and completion. It can speak to an inner sense of wholeness, one where each aspect of our selves is well-balanced and harmoniously interrelated.

On a deeper level, the World card can also refer to the experience of spiritual union, of the unification of the personal, individual self with the universal Self. This has been known to some as enlightenment, others as nirvana, and yet others as cosmic consciousness. 

Yet despite the differences in terms, all of these names refer to the same experience of unification of one’s unique self identity with the greater collective unconscious, of the union of our personal awareness with the mind of God.

Judgement | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Judgement

Keywords for Judgement 

DECISIONDISCERNMENT
EVALUATIONAWARENESS
ASSESSMENTUNDERSTANDING
INNER CALLINGREFLECTION
AWAKENINGREBIRTH

At the top of this card, we see Archangel Gabriel as he bursts forth from a cloud, blowing the trumpet which announces the Last Judgement. From his trumpet hangs a banner, on which we see a red cross over a white background. 

Notice that the arms of this cross are of equal length. This indicates that this symbol is not a reference to the cross of Jesus Christ, but rather, a more ancient symbol which signifies the meeting of the physical and the spiritual planes of existence. 

This indicates the purpose of the trumpet’s blast: it is meant to call our attention to a significant moment of transformation and change. It announces that at last, the spiritual and the material, the inner and the outer, the individual self and the collective or universal consciousness will be unified.

Below Gabriel, we see the gray bodies of the dead as they rise up from their graves. 

It is interesting to note that in this representation, Archangel Gabriel appears to be blowing his trumpet directly over the outstretched arms of the woman.

She lifts both arms up in grateful acceptance of the angel’s call. The male figure, in contrast, seems to stand back more passively, with arms held close to his body, and head gazing directly up stunned amazement.

The woman, as a symbol of subconsciousness, is likely more prominent here due to the fact that the process of awakening or enlightenment begins with a call first heard by the intuitive, feeling aspect of our personality. The first inner rumblings of awakening are heard deep within our hearts before they are made known to our conscious minds.

This speaks to the fact that any experience of transcendence or redemption cannot be reached through the logical, linear processes of the reasoning mind that we have come to so heavily rely on. It is an experience that benefits from preparation and intention, but refuses to be planned. 

It is something we do not earn through our own efforts, but which in some way, we receive through grace. 

Interpretation of Judgment in a Reading

When the Judgment card appears in a reading, it often indicates a turning point, one where we are called to make an important decision in our lives.

Judgment can refer to all of the situations in our lives where we are asked to reflect on what we know, and then use our discernment to choose the best path forward. When this card appears, we often must use our critical reasoning capacities to evaluate and assess the problem at hand and then make a decision.

This card may also mean that we have heard an inner call to pursue a spiritual journey. In relation to this, it can refer to an experience of awakening, one where we may hear an inner call to more carefully observe ourselves and our world. This card refers to the development of awareness and higher consciousness that could ultimately be the result of such an endeavor.

Consequently, this card also has associations with experiences of rebirth and renewal. We may feel transformed by the inner developments due to the challenges and opportunities for growth encountered along the way. 

Having glimpsed the light of truth, we may now be called to act in a more enlightened manner, with our convictions having been strengthened and reinforced, especially when it comes to knowing what actions we must take to make a difference in the world.

For these reasons, the Judgment card can also be associated with the concept of forgiveness. In fact, in some decks this card even bears the name “the Last Judgement.” It can mean, not a final condemnation for all eternity, but instead a cessation of blame. 

Having seen a greater vision of the truth underlying all manifestation, we may no longer feel the need to blame or condemn. We may find that we have issued our last judgement, leave blame in the past, and move forward with an attitude of compassion and care for others.

The Sun | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

The Sun

Keywords for The Sun 

OPTIMISMINSIGHT
JOYLIBERATION
VITALITYENLIGHTENMENT
HAPPINESSCLARITY
EXCITEMENTFREEDOM

In the image on this card, we see a gloriously radiant sun shining out at us from the sky. We recognize this as what is known as a “spiritual sun” by the distinctly human countenance which gazes back at us from its corner of the heavens. 

This means this Sun is a reference not only to the physical expression of our local star which generates light and heat for all that lives on our planet Earth; this rendering of the sun seeks to convey the idea that our Sun is also a living center of consciousness, much as we are. 

In fact, our own awareness actually has its source in the physical and spiritual energy of the Sun. Indeed, everything on earth is generated and sustained by solar energy. From the life and heat of a fire, to the movement of our cars driven by fossil fuels, to our very own lives – all are rooted in conversions of what once was solar energy.

Underneath the watchful eyes of this great Sun, we catch sight of a white horse galloping gracefully out from inside a walled garden. Seated astride this noble animal, we see a cheerful child, a wide smile on his face. He wears only a wreath of yellow sunflowers, with one red feather tucked as ornament into this crown.

Arms outstretched, this divine child carries a red banner as his standard. Like the feather in his crown, the red color of his flag represents the powerful emotional energy of our desires. It is the vital life force energy which can be aroused within us during this stage of our development, an energy which gives us the fuel required to propel us forward on our journey toward enlightenment. 

Interpretation of the Sun in a Reading

When the Sun comes up in a reading, it often refers to feeling positive emotions such as happiness, optimism and joy. 

If we have recently experienced difficulties or restrictions in our past, this card can also indicate liberation from these restraints, and an overall sense of greater freedom and expansion in our lives. It can also indicate a corresponding influx of new energy, vitality and excitement about what life has to offer.

In readings, this card can also speak to the capacity for achieving greater clarity and insight in an area where our judgment may have previously been obscured. In questions related to spirituality or faith, it can also indicate an expansion of awareness or even the experience of enlightenment.

Alternatively, the appearance of the Sun card in a reading can also refer to success, to brilliant accomplishment and personal glory. When blessed by this card, we may experience ourselves as being radiantly beautiful, with the power to shine so brightly that all eyes are drawn toward us. With the Sun involved, we will likely feel confident, powerful, vibrant and free in how we relate to the world around us.

The Moon | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

The Moon

Keywords for The Moon 

DREAMSCONFUSION
VISIONSFEAR
IMAGINATIONSTRANGENESS
THE UNCONSCIOUSDISORIENTATION
FANTASYMADNESS

We come upon an eerie and enchanting scene. By the light of a brilliant full moon, see three animals at a pool of water. In fact, it is only the other side of the very same pool we have seen in the new dawn of the Star just one card before.

At the very bottom of the card, we catch sight of a crayfish partially emerging from the watery depths. This animal represents the ancient instinctual elements that even now, we humans retain on some level of our subconsciousness. The crayfish shows our primal survival instincts, a legacy of life’s primordial origins. 

We could even think of this as being linked to our cerebellum, or “reptilian” brain. It is the part which regulates vital life functions and controls our deeply rooted survival response, such as the “fight or flight” mechanisms activated in a crisis. 

On the right side of the pool, we see a wolf caught in the act of howling at the moon. He represents our unevolved animal nature, the part of us that remains wild, untamed, and fierce.

To the left, we see a dog who also howls at the moon. He stands for the aspect of us which has been subject to the forces of domestication. It shows the aspect of our being which has been cultivated by human consciousness and conditioning. 

Interpretation of The Moon in a Reading

When the Moon appears in a reading, it can often indicate the experience of coming into contact with the deep, unconscious forces of the psyche. As a result, we may have powerful dreams, increased intuitive capacity, and visions. It can also be related to the awakening or development of psychic abilities. 

In some cases, this activation of deep unconscious forces can so strongly overwhelm us that our rational ego’s defenses collapse under the influx of these intense and often disturbing psychic elements. 

If the unconscious contents are too powerful and we cannot cope, it may even lead to madness. In fact, the word “lunacy” is rooted in the Latin word for moon, luna, showing the ancient association between the moon and irrational forces that continues on to this day.

When channeled appropriately, these lunar forces can be utilized as inspiration motivating the expansion of our creative drive and ability. When in touch with these intense and powerful elements of our unconscious, we may find that we are more capable of creating compelling and persuasive works of art drawing on profound mythological & archetypals elements of our human nature.

However, this card can also refer to disturbing experiences of disorientation, bewilderment and confusion. By the strange light of the moon, we might find ourselves lost in an unreal, bizarre and even slightly absurd landscape. When this happens, we can very well lose our sense of direction and purpose. This can lead to disturbing feelings of fear, doubt, anxiety, or even terror and despair. 

We may find our minds scattered, our vision obscured, our senses distracted by fantastic visions and our ears filled with deception and lies. However, it is important to keep in mind the many positive, creative potentials that this card can also indicate for us. If we can manage to stay grounded and centered in reality, the surreal, dreamlike territory of the moon can inspire us with greater purpose and vision, rather than fear.