In the background, we see a small city which stands atop a hill. Underneath, a river flows quickly on its way to meet the sea.
Above it all, we see eight wands caught in flight as they move across the sky. They are like arrows which have just left a firmly pulled bow.
It is now only a matter of moments before they arrive to strike their intended target.
The fast-moving energy of the suit of Wands is on display here: pure action, essential movement, it is the quintessence of the element of Fire.
Interpretation of the 8 of Wands in a Reading
When we see the Eight of Wands come up in a reading, we know that the time is right to take a chance and move forward into action. The time for waiting has passed; be brave and take a leap into the future that awaits you.
The 8 of Wands can signify quick action, forward movement, rushing forward full speed ahead.
It can also signify the appearance of an unexpected surprise, novel developments in a once-stagnant situation, and the intrusion of the unforeseen or unexpected into our lives.
Alternatively, the Eight of Wands can signify the results of such action: it can allude to the end of an era, or the last burst of effort taken to complete and close out a long standing project.
Whatever the case may be, we can trust that when the 8 of Wands appears, we cannot remain “stuck” for much longer—something is sure to push us out of our comfort zone, propelling us forward into new situations and circumstances that will ultimately change our lives in a new and exciting way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the image on the card, we are drawn into a beautiful and serene early morning. The air feels fresh. You hear the song of birds in the distance as the soft light begins to grow and give light to the earth.
After the difficult night which we experienced in the previous card, the Tower, we see that it is now the dawn of a new day. We see the morning star, Venus, shine brilliantly in the sky.
Before us stands a woman who bears much resemblance to this Queen of Heaven. Holding two jars of water, she pours one of these into the pool of water. This represents our subconsciousness, as it contains water that flows directly from the gown of the High Priestess in Key 2.
With her other hand, she pours the water onto the land. From there it divides into five separate streams, indicating each of our five senses from which we gain knowledge of the physical world. As a result, this water poured onto earth signifies our conscious awareness.
It is important to note that even the water directed outward consciously to the earth eventually flows back into the subconsciousness of the pool once more.
This is to suggest that even our outer sensory experience is ultimately rooted in the inner; everything experienced in the outer world will ultimately return to this part of our psyches we call subconsciousness.
Interpretation of The Star in a Reading
When the Star comes up in a reading, it often signifies our awakening to new hope in our lives. This can sometimes come after challenging circumstances such as that shown in the Tower. After such an experience, we may feel that something inside of us has been liberated from bondage. We may then experience the peace and calm that comes with such freedom.
As a result, this card can often indicate relief from struggles, along with a calm respite after a difficult storm. Our burdens have been lifted, and we feel renewed and refreshed by the changes in circumstances.
The Star in a reading often refers to a renewed sense of optimism and hope for our future. More generally, this card often speaks to a sense of inner peace, relaxation and calm. This card is also associated with meditation, and the clarity of mind which one can achieve through stillness and spiritual practice.
Above all, when the Star appears, we can feel free to trust that the worst is over. We can pause for a moment and rest in our faith that better times are now coming up for us just on the horizon.
In the image on the card, we are confronted with a shocking scene. In the dark of the night, from amidst ominous gray clouds, a lightning bolt strikes unexpectedly. The tower is shattered in a flash, breaking apart the structures on which the King and the Queen are dependent, sending them flying out from their place of safety into the harsh cold of the night.
The Tower represents our ego, and the structures we have built into our personalities to protect ourselves, as represented here by the man (our conscious mind) and the woman (our subconsciousness).
The thunderbolt shows an experience of sudden “enlightenment,” which throws off the crown once worn by the rigid, egoic elements of our personalities, exposing what is contained within.
The two figures here are not just exposed, or needlessly endangered as they are thrown out into the night–they are also liberated.
The ego may ultimately be protective in nature, but it is in many ways also a prison, keeping us trapped in past adaptations to our environment, limiting us through its insistence on outdated behavior patterns. To a large extent this is what inhibits us from fully and accurately experiencing the world around us as it is.
Interpretation of the Tower in a Reading
When the Tower comes up in a reading, it will often refer to a period of upheaval, instability, and unexpected change. It can mark a period of time when we experience a shocking alteration] to our usual circumstances.
We may find ourselves confronted by the loss of a job, the breakup of a relationship, or other similarly disturbing reversals of fortune. It can also signify the danger of collective traumas, such as an economic downturn, war, natural disasters, or a health crisis such as a pandemic.
As a result, we find that often many people are troubled or disturbed by the appearance of the Tower in a reading. It is not an unreasonable response, either—this card often does indeed signal a profoundly disruptive change to the way we have been living. This type of change is usually far from easy, and can often be accompanied by intense discomfort, emotional pain, or distress.
However, the process implied by the Tower is not an unequivocally destructive one. Often, we fail to ignore the small warning signs that crop up in our day-to-day living until it is too late.
Sometimes, it requires a shocking breakdown of the status quo before we are compelled to seek a meaningful change in our life circumstances. After all, the old must be destroyed before anything new can be created.
The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world.
As a result, some of the more positive meanings associated with this card have to do with the themes of freedom, liberation, and enlightenment.
If we are willing to go through the painful experience of allowing our illusions to be shattered, we may find that we come out the other side of it with greater wisdom, understanding, courage and power.
The potential exists here to use the experiences indicated by this card in the service of a more authentic life, one lived with greater integrity and a deeper sense of alignment with one’s true potential.
Although it is usually far from easy, we often will ultimately find that we can utilize the liberated energy set free by the lightning bolt of truth as the raw material for what we intend to create for ourselves next.
In the image on this card, we see the Devil represented not as Lucifer, bringer of light, but instead as Baphomet, part man, part goat, with the wings of a bat and feet of a bird. In this form, he is representative of the forces of darkness.
This is further reinforced by the dark mark, perhaps a stigmata, we see etched into the palm of his right hand. It is the glyph for Saturn, planet of limitation, restriction, and boundaries. Saturn also represents incorporation into physical form, along with all the physical limitations inherent in materiality.
This symbol, like many other elements here, is as if to say, “This is it—the physical, material world you see before your eyes is all there is—nothing more is possible.” It asks us to forget the spiritual, to tie our hopes and desires to the physical only. It encourages blind consumption, sex without soul, obsession with form and ignorance of spirit.
This is further echoed by the appearance of the man and woman standing with chains around their necks by the feet of the Devil. They are parallel figures to the pair we saw earlier, blessed by Archangel Raphael, in the Lovers card.
Here, they appear with a set of horns on their heads, indicating their animal-like nature. There are no trees as we saw earlier in the Garden of Eden. Instead, the woman herself bears the fruit, her tail extending behind her as a ripe bunch of grapes.
The man’s tail is made entirely of fire, likely an allusion to the libido, or sexual life force energy. He holds his right hand with palm facing up, touching the clawed feet of the Devil.
It is interesting to note that the Devil himself lights his torch from the flames produced by the fiery energy of the man in this image. It is as if to say that the ideas represented by the Devil (bondage, ignorance, focus on the physical instead of the spiritual) springs from the sexual impulses of man when uncontrolled or unskillfully expressed.
Interpretation of the Devil in a Reading
When the Devil comes up in a tarot reading, it can refer to the feeling of being trapped, despondent, or hopeless. We may despair of ever finding a way out of our difficult and limiting circumstances.
This card can also speak to themes around captivity, bondage or enslavement. We may feel like we are in chains, bound to a destructive force that is much greater than ourselves. This often takes the form of overindulgence in/addiction to various substances such as drugs and alcohol, as well as process addictions like shopping or gambling.
It also speaks to obsessions, especially those of a romantic or sexual nature, where we may feel compelled by physical drives to engage in relationships or other forms of social interaction which we know on some level are ultimately unhealthy for us.
A central theme of this card revolves around what value we attribute to the physical & material elements of our world. The upside down pentagram which we see suspended at the crown of the Devil’s head provides a key to understanding these themes more deeply.
The pentagram, right side up, is a five pointed star meant to represent the human body and our relationship to the five elements. The top point of the star represents the head, the two sides the arms, and the lower points the legs and feet.
Right side up, the pentagram has the head over the heart and body, in a relationship of “mind over matter,” where our desires are informed and directed by our reason and higher mind.
Inverted, the Devil’s pentagram signifies desire over reason, and matter over spirit. In this case, we let our lower animal passions drive our conscious mind. Instead of utilizing our consciousness constructively, reason is instead used solely for the purpose of rationalization, to justify wrongs done in the name of passion.
When we allow our “lower” (or our unexamined or unmediated) desires to rule our lives, we find that our entire system can be thrown off balance.
It often expresses itself in what we might call the “sins” of materialism. Materialism is not simply an obsession with money and the physical objects it can buy, but also a more philosophical orientation towards the world that holds that nothing exists beyond the world of the senses. This is especially common in the modern scientific outlook which holds that if it cannot be measured, then it must not exist.
Remember that the word “sin” originated as a latin term from archery meaning “to miss the mark.” With this in mind, we see how this obsession with form is not necessarily “evil” per se, but simply misses the mark. It is incomplete, and as such, fails to draw a complete picture of our reality.
Unfortunately, this failure of perception results in grave errors that undermine our experience and even our capacity for continued existence on this living planet Earth. We can see this today, for example, in overconsumption, the drive for endless economic growth, and its relationship to climate change and environmental destruction.
This is the bad news. The good news is that we are not condemned to continue the errors of the past. Look at the chains which hold the woman and man on this card. They hang loose around their necks. It would be so easy to remove them and become free.
First, they would need to become aware of their bondage, and recognize the falsehood of the lies which have held them chained. Liberation would then become inevitable. For those who have developed the eyes to see, it would then be a simple task to lift the chains from off one’s neck, drop the lies, and step into the future free from the limitations of ignorance.
In the image on this card, we see a winged, white-robed angel standing at a pool, with one foot on land and the other dipped halfway into the clear water.
He holds two cups, one in each hand, and is seen pouring this water back and forth from one cup to the other, mixing the contents of each in the process.
The standing figure we see here is in fact Archangel Michael. We recognize him by the solar disk he wears at the crown of his head, as well as the red triangle of fire inside the white cube embroidered on the upper part of his white robe.
These symbols represent the power of God made manifest in the physical universe through the energy and action of our star, the sun. This is in alignment with the traditional meanings given for his name, Michael, which is said to mean “who is like God” in Hebrew.
Interpretation of Temperance in a Reading
When Temperance comes up in a tarot reading, it often carries the meanings associated with health, healing and wholeness. This can refer to both physical and psychological healing and wellness.
At times, it also can indicate some of the more traditional meanings of the word “temperance,” such as “moderation,” “restraint,” “self-control” and “sobriety.”
There are also times when Temperance can also refer to a very strong, positive and healthy relationship between two people, both romantic and platonic. When this is the case, the two individuals involved are truly genuine and committed in their intentions and behaviors toward one another.
This often means a lack of power struggles between them: no one is seeking to gain control or “have the upper hand.” Instead, they are able to put their individual differences aside and function together as a unit.
This card also refers to a particular stage in our personal or spiritual development. Archangel Michael is shown here in the act of tempering, a word taken from the Latin root temperare, meaning “to mix” or “to blend together.”
This is related to the process of tempering a metal (for example, steel), in order to make the alloy stronger and more resilient. The same could be said to occur when we have had our “mettle” tested.
When this occurs, the strength of our character is tried under difficult and challenging circumstances. Often, if we succeed, we find that we have gone through the fire only to emerge even stronger as a result.
In the image on the card, we enter upon a gray, gloomy morning scene. Although we can see the sun rising in the east between two towers, it still remains an overcast, cloudy, and desolate looking day.
Upon a snow white horse with blood red eyes, Death comes riding in. In contrast, this skeletal figure wears a suit of armor colored entirely black. In his dry, bony left hand, he bears his standard: a black flag with one single, white five-petaled rose printed upon it.
He is not the only figure on the scene, however. There are four others who share the stage with him.
First, there is the king, the first victim to be taken by death’s hand. He lies face up on his back, completely vanquished by the incontestable power of death’s command. He symbolizes the conscious mind, as well as the ego. His total surrender unto death speaks of how the ego fares when coming up against change. It tends to interpret any challenge to its stability, any potential for evolution, as a death sentence for the power and control it is so focused on maintaining.
Next, we can look to the figure of the maiden. She is on her knees, kneeling slumped over, as if asleep. Like many female figures in the tarot, she represents the subconscious mind, as well as our emotions. It is interesting to note that she appears to be the same woman depicted on an earlier card, Strength. This would refer more specifically to the life-force energy, the desire nature as expressed in the force of kundalini which courses through our bodies.
Between the king and the maiden, we see a young boy. He does not fear, and neither does he surrender. Instead, he holds a small bouquet of flowers up towards Death in both hands. He knows not, and so fears not, the tremendous power of death to put an end to all.
And so he greets him with a sincere expression of acceptance and welcome. Unlike the two people before him, his ego has not had a chance to fully develop; he has not yet developed the rigid defenses, habit patterns, and attachments that his counterparts have in some measure fallen victim to.
By far, the strangest figure is the last one: it is clearly none other than the pope, “father” and head of the Roman Catholic Church. He is draped in an extravagant golden robe, one made of the most extravagant and costly fabric, and embroidered with various symbols of his faith.
Beneath his equally costly gold mitre, we can see his visibly red cheeks blushing, indicating an extreme state of excitement—or is it fear? We see him hold his hands up in prayer, and he stares directly into the hollow eye sockets of the black horseman in front of him, all with a seeming attitude of intense supplication.
Perhaps it is simply that he anxiously awaits the promised land of heaven he has so adamantly assured us all is our reward for compliance to earthly authority. However, it seems quite possible that there are more complex meanings regarding religious authority, power, transformation and death that A. E. Waite sought to provoke in the unusual depiction of the pontiff seen here.
Interpretation of Death in a Reading
When the Death card comes up in a reading, it most often indicates an experience of transformation and change.
Among it’s positive significations, this card can mean getting rid of old possessions, clearing away old habits, and discarding what no longer serves us. It can signal a willingness to step into new ways of being in the world that are more truly aligned with who we are.
However, although there are surprisingly many positive applications of the Death card in a reading, the truth is that many still fear it. And it is not without good reason: this card can also mean loss, disappointment, and letting go of what we once held dear. In certain contexts, it can mean the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, or disconnection from friends we once cared deeply for.
Most often, we find that these are situations that have long since outlived their usefulness. The Death card signals a natural end to an existence which has run its course.
It marks the dissolution of a system which is no longer useful or adequately functional. The energy thus liberated from the strictures of old forms can then be harnessed and utilized in service of what is to take shape next.
We tend to experience this process as painful because of our attachment to the past. However, we can choose instead to have faith in the natural order of things, and to trust that we must die to the past if we are to be born to the new.