Suits in tarot deck
As mentioned before, a standard tarot deck of 78 cards is divided into suits, similarly to a standard playing card deck. The suits are called wands, swords, cups and pentacles/coins and they all symbolise a different element: fire, air, water and earth, respectively; or passion/willpower, intelligence/logic, emotions, and material matters.
Suit of wands
Let's start with wands, the suit of willpower, volition (free will, the ability to use one's will), passion and drive. Wands are the suit of fire, normally depicted with wooden clubs, branches or similar, to show material that is burnt, consumed, needed to keep the fire (passion) alive. Everything in tarot is about symbols and often in decks, the wands/branches sprout shoots or buds to symbolise life force, energy and viability.
Ace of Wands - this is the first spark of will, the initial flash of wanting something. It's like a matchstick burning: quick to flare, quick to fade. The want can relate to ambition, pursuit or passion like sex; or it can be the first flame of crush or the feeling that you want to achieve something in life.
|Ace of Wands, The Wild Unknown Tarot. The first spark that initiates what's to come.|
3 of Wands - many people have hard time telling the difference between 2 Wands and 3 Wands, because in the standard imagery they are quite similar. In 2 Wands, a person stands looking towards the ocean with two wands, and in 3 Wands, a person stands looking towards the ocean with three wands, waiting for three ships to arrive. The difference is that in 3 Wands, the person has started to carry out the plan, has made the choice of 2 Wands; has cultivated the fire/will/passion, kept it alive for long enough to see whether it can bear fruit. The ships in the horizon symbolise this wish to reach a goal. 3 Wands often means "waiting for the future results" or "future results are almost here" in readings.
4 of Wands - what happens after the results come in? It's time to enjoy life! 4 Wands is often interpreted as the marriage card, or engagement, graduation or housewarming card, but celebration is just one aspect of it. All those signposts and celebrations are a culmination of a person/people making a decision in the past, sticking to it, working for it, wanting to achieve something, and finally making it. It's about having carried the fire for long enough to be able to establish a steady home hearth, so to speak. Four is a steady number, four corner stones, but it doesn't mean life will be a breeze after. It just means one stage is now complete.
5 of Wands - introduces the free will, wants and needs of other people. Not everyone wants the same things; in fact, very often in life, people's needs, wants and plans clash and collide either in minor or major scale. That's what 5 Wands means. It's often interpreted as a card of competition, and competition is a conflict of competing wills. I want something, somebody else wants something, and instead of cooperation, there's competition. 5 Wands can also mean an internal struggle: my own needs, wants and plans are not aligning, but frustratingly clashing. Depending on a situation, the competition can be fun and invigorating (such as games or flirting), or annoying.
|5 Wands, Shadowscapes Tarot. When outside forces make you fight for what you want - or your own conflicting wants, needs and efforts frustrate you.|
6 of Wands - what's the best case scenario following a competition? Victory! That's the message of 6 Wands. It usually shows a person riding a horse, higher above than the rest, being celebrated, acknowledged and acclaimed. Winning AND receiving public recognition are the best outcome of a competitive situation. However, sometimes it can mean egoistic tendencies, for example someone doing something just to be admired (e.g. winning hearts, being a player).
7 of Wands - things are usually never steady for long and not everybody loves the winner. There will be more competition, this time even tougher. 7 Wands shows one person standing up alone against a group. It's about taking a stand for what you believe in, care about, are passionate about. It's about trying to progress in a situation where everyone is trying to put you down. That's why the themes of 7 Wands are bravery, resilience and self-control. However, sometimes 7 Wands can mean that you're fighting a desperate battle and it's time for a break, not keep banging your head on the wall of others' resistance. There might be another, better way than open conflict or headlong push.
8 of Wands - again, what's the best case scenario after a battle? Things working out swiftly, effortlessly, with the least resistance. That's the theme of 8 Wands. It's a card about successful or rapid communication, the moment when wills, needs and wants align: it's easy to communicate when both parties want to understand and accommodate each other instead of fighting. 8 Wands can also mean news, swift change or forward momentum. It's when things flow and fly.
9 of Wands - if only everything flowed smoothly forever. 9 Wands symbolises a situation where almost all your energy is spent on working on whatever cause was triggered in the Ace, and you can't, won't, should't give up. The card often shows a wounded soldier guarding a wall of wands, 'you shall not pass': blocking enemies or naysayers or exhaustion. 9 Wands is about hidden reserves, low-burning fire that is still alive, quietly, subtly. However, it can also be about resistance, being guarded and blocked. If this card comes up, ask yourself: do I need to be resilient, or do I need to let others in, allow them to influence me, advise me, help me?
10 of Wands - all 10's in tarot are end points or culmination, things can't go further than that. It can be a happy situation: reaching the ultimate goal and happiness; or it can be a low point; there's nowhere further to go before things fall apart with serious consequences to mental and physical health. 10 Wands is the point of exhaustion. Too many wants, needs and musts have accumulated. Either you're trying to do too much at once, or other people have managed to pile up their competing needs and wants in the 5 Wands and 7 Wands situations on your load. Why are you carrying all that burden? Shed some of it asap for your own well-being.
|10 Wands, Dream Logic Tarot. The load of wants, needs and tasks has become so heavy all joy has drained out of what once was a source of enjoyment, inspiration and fun.|
I think that pip cards (number cards) usually depict an action or phase in life, whereas court cards often depict a personality trait, behaviour or attitude of a person. This is not a hard and fast rule but seems to give indication. Also, court cards mean "matured energies" of the pip cards, i.e. all court cards can use, manage and survive the actions and phases depicted in cards numbered 1-10, but the level of skill depends on the "maturity" or ranking of the court card.
Cards usually picture genders but the Princess and Queen can mean a man and the Knight and King a woman - it's about the behaviour and the mindset, not about the "outward" markers of gender.
Page (or Princess) of Wands - The Page is the messenger in the court, someone who travels to bear news. The Page is also somebody in training, to become a ruler of the suit one day. Page of Wands symbolises a person (or mindset/behaviour) who's curious, passionate, powered up by the need to do, act, learn, expand; someone who likes to go beyond one's earlier boundaries and perhaps play with fire a bit. It can also mean literal or mental/emotional travel or adventure.
Knight (or Prince) of Wands - The Knight is the soldier, someone's who's brave, speedy and ready for action. Given that the suit of Wands is the suit of fire, this card is the fieriest in the deck: it's someone who doesn't think and consider, or doesn't plan his/her actions, but just jumps. It can be a good thing: jump to save the day, take the leap of faith - or it can be a bad thing: jump to conclusions, jump the gun, flee and disappear when going gets tough. To me personally this card most often means "don't be so hasty, stop and think," or "things are not as you think, you're jumping into conclusions."
Queen of Wands - The Queens in tarot symbolise people who fully own their actions and emotions. They are poised, skilled, elegant and looked up to. The Queen of Wands is the queen of fire: passionate, fun-loving, confident, doesn't take anyone's cr@p, knows her worth, goes after what s/he believes in and wants to do. She is fully in charge of her own life and doesn't need anybody's permission. Interestingly, this card often pops up to women who are recovering from a divorce/separation: "you are your own person, fully, authentically and enjoyably - reclaim it."
|Queen of Wands, Robin Wood Tarot. My favourite queen of all four suits. Someone who knows what s/he wants and how to get it. No excuses made, no permissions asked.|
King of Wands - The King is the ruler of the suit, the master of every element of it and able to use his/her skills to one's own and others' advantage. The King knows his/her own worth and is able to inject confidence, courage and energy in others. A true king doesn't seek to elevate himself, but he seeks to equip his court (everybody around) with his power. This applies in particular to the King of Wands in my opinion. A true King of Wands is so comfortable in his own skin and vision that he almost by accident inspires, influences and informs others around to be more, do more, achieve more - use the tools of the suite of willpower for everyone's benefit.