Monday, 14 April 2014

Aries in the Minor Arcana: The Four of Wands

The last of the three minors associated with Aries, the Four of Wands is linked to Venus in Aries, and to the final ten days of Aries (10th-19th/20th April).   

First of all, what qualities does Venus bring to the cardinal Fire of Aries? Well, Venus is associated with the appreciation of beauty, the forces of attraction and sensuality, as well as creativity and fertility.  In Aries, it will express affection in a very direct way, often impulsively and with enthusiasm.  It will enjoy new experiences, and the early stages of relationships.  As Mars rules Aries, the Venus-Mars interplay can make it difficult for relationships to run smoothly – Venus’ need for closeness and Mars’ assertiveness can find themselves locking horns!  Venus in Aries is very giving, very demonstrative, and responds well to others.

Universal Waite Tarot
It may be hard to see how this works in the Four of Wands. For me, the key - in traditional Pamela Coleman-Smith-based depictions of the card – is the flowers, the garlands that festoon the marquee or wands.  Flowers and blossoms are very Venusian (through Venus’ rule of Taurus) – the ‘blossoming of pleasure’ fits with the theme of celebration that’s become associated with this card.  The wreath too, representing success, is also Venusian – both in its rule of Taurus and Libra.  In some versions of this card, we see oranges in the garlands – a solar (Fire) fruit.

The castle in the background represents what’s been accomplished – it’s not so far in the distance that it’s out of reach, but there’s still a distance to go.  The marquee, or tent, or area around the fire – depending on what deck you’re using – is marked out by four wands or staves or bows... four being the number of stability and security (four corners, a square – a solid geometric figure that’s hard to shift).  It’s safe to stop and celebrate, to enjoy a break in the journey, to receive the well –earned praise that the Sun in Aries in the previous card, the Three, wants. Venus is happy to give it.

Wildwood Tarot
No sign of the four-square-ness in the Wildwood’s Four of Bows, but I love this card so much – the joy of the dance, the celebration... there seems to me to be a sense of safety and security as these figures dance in wild abandon, enjoying their well-earned break through the wood.

There’s a sense of that joy and jubilation in the Shadowscapes’ Four of Wands as well – unicorns dancing in the bright sun...although I can’t find any connection between Venus and unicorns, other than these unicorns clearly demonstrating their happiness!

Thoth Tarot
Not all decks work with this image, however. Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, uses a spoked wheel to symbolize completion of the first stage.  The spokes of the wheel have a dove (Venus) at one end, and a ram’s head (Mars) at the other, reflecting the need to balance the two in order to maintain Venusian harmony and the continuation of the journey, so newly begun.  In order to move on to the next stage, we have to ensure that the initial stage is completed, that there are no loose ends, that there’s no unfinished business or conflicts to be resolved.  Venusian love and respect of the others involved eases any tension with Martian energy, and provides support – the four-cornered solidity of the square.

Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Aries in the court cards

Different traditions use different astrological correspondences when it comes to the court cards. These correspondences oftetn (but not always!) depend on how cardinality, fixity and mutability have been assigned.  As Aries is the cardinal Fire sign, I’m looking for the Wands court card that’s associated with cardinality. 

Universal Waite Tarot
So what court card does this represent?  If you work with a system that assigns cardinality to the Kings, as do most of the Rider-Waite-Smith-based decks, the King of Wands is the card linked to Aries.  He’s often depicted wearing a red (representing Fire) robe, sometimes with a gold cloak. We can see the salamander, a creature associated with fire, in both the Universal Rider-Waite and Sharman-Caselli images.  We also see lions – another fire creature (Leo being a Fire sign) – decorating his throne. But look closely at the arm-rests in the Sharman-Caselli image – here’s our ram!

Sharman-Caselli Tarot
As an Aries figure, the King of Wands represents an active leader, someone who wants to inspire and initiate.  I always think that he looks (in the Sharman-Caselli version) as though he’s about to launch himself forward from his seat – using his staff or wand to help him move, rather than as a symbol of power (as might the Emperor).  He could represent someone who’s ambitious, even competitive – although his real skill lies in his ability to encourage and inspire others.  Mars, as the ruler of Aries, adds a restlessness and tendency to impatience to this King - but also a strong sense of belief and confidence in himself and his abilities.  We think of the King of Wands as a natural leader – another Arien quality – who attracts people through his vitality and sense of fun and adventure.  

The shadow side of the King, still thinking in terms of Arien qualities – apart from a tendency to be impatient – is that he could become bored quite easily.  He’s the cardinal Fire sign, so will be great at getting things going but may find it difficult to maintain that creative drive through to an end.  He’s a King, a leader, but may find the responsibility of leadership a burden.  Inspiration and encouragement of others are his forte, rather than the sense of obligation to meet their demands or expectations.  Having said that, he’ll be the one to take risks in order to implement or initiate change.

Sharman-Caselli Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections

Universal Waite Tarot created by Mary Hanson-Roberts & Pamela Colman-Smith, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Aries in the Minor Arcana: The Three of Wands

Today we move on to the Three of Wands, linked to the Sun in Aries, as well as the middle ten days of Aries.  The Sun, fiery in itself, brings the need for recognition to the pioneering spirit of Aries.  The Sun is exalted in Aries – it’s very happy here, although it’s not on its home ground (Leo).  It wants to shine, it wants the spot-light on its individuality. It wants to be the first to set off on the adventure, to break new ground, to explore new territory.

Sharman-Caselli Tarot
Images on the Three of Wands often show a figure standing in a very similar position to that of the Two – facing out to sea, looking out towards uncharted territory. In the Three, we also often find ships in the distance. Juliet Sharman-Burke refers to these as the ships of ideas, representing our imagination – something else the Wands are known for.  In the Sharman-Caselli version of this card, the ships are sailing towards pyramids, symbolizing ancient wisdom, and the land (as in the Two) is dry and empty – waiting to be filled with the creativity of the Wands.  The three staffs, or wands, are planted firmly in the ground, as in the Two, but here they represent initial (Aries) achievement that wants to be recognized (Sun). The figure is still dressed in his cloak and boats, still ready for travel – still in the early phases of the adventure – yet pride (another Leonine Sun quality) is taken in what’s been achieved so far.
Shadowscapes Tarot

The Three of Wands in the Shadowscapes doesn’t echo the Two in quite the same way, although there’s a similarity in the way each figure is looking outwards, towards the light of the sun, and both images do feature felines (Leonine creatures)! This is perhaps my favourite rendition of the Three of Wands – I love that sense of the great unknown stretching out ahead. The next step forward on the bridge seems to be into the void. That, to me, is Aries wanting to be the initiator of the adventure, the first to step into the great unknown!  There’s a saying that I can’t remember exactly, but it’s about how wonderful the view from the precipice is...well, that sums up this Three of Wands!

Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn

Sharman-Caselli Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections