Reflections on The Prince of Wands

In recent weeks I’ve been dealing a number of single-card “spreads” for my own reflection. This is something I’d rarely ever done in the past, preferring the more complex and nuanced interpretations that a multi-card spread can provide. I’ve reached that stage in life, however, when I prefer less “clutter” and more clarity, and in any event, it bears keeping in mind that a single Tarot card contains within its imagery a multitude of potential meanings that are easy to overlook when we are “distracted” by other cards. Sometimes, even for experienced readers, “simplicity is everything.” (So said Stravinsky, who composed some of the most complex and difficult music of the last century.)

Today, I was thinking about my prospects for romantic love—which has been nonexistent in my life for the past few years— and after a few shuffles, the card I dealt was the Prince (or Knight) of Wands:


First, the basics: The Prince of Wands is said to be (as we’ll explore in an upcoming post) the “airy” part of “fire”—that is, the element of fire that animates fire, that gives it breath, and that causes it to burn controllably or as a wildfire; and the astrological sign assigned to the Prince of Wands is Leo the lion. Since time immemorial, the lion has been a universal symbol of great power and strength, but also of savagery and ferocity—the steady hand of kingship, and the fierce fist of reprisal. In Greek mythology, we read of Heracles slaying the Nemean lion with his bare hands, and the beast’s pelt in turn bestows invincibility on him. Lions appear in the fables of Aesop, in particular the fable of the “lion’s share,” in which the other animals cede their “portion” of food to the strongest among them. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the image of Daniel in the lion’s den stands as is a metaphor for the transcendent power of faith to conquer any and all brute force, and in Revelation, Mark the Evangelist is personified by the symbol of the lion that we see—along with the other three evangelists, the angel, eagle and ram—on Trump X, Wheel of Fortune, and on Trump XXI, The World. Fire aspires upward, so while Leo’s crusading nature springs from noble intentions, it also has a flip side—while it can liberate and make whole the wounded soul of man, it can tear itself asunder in schism and intrigue, just as the element of fire can either purify or destroy.

Power and treachery, heroism and barbarism, renewal and devastation, revelation and dogmatism: the Prince is a card of dualities that asks us, among other things, which element of our psyche—creative or destructive—we will allow to govern our waking lives. Both have the power to transform our lives, but not inexorably for the better.

The Prince’s posture—in particular, the body language of his mount—plays another key part in interpreting the card. If the Knight were to appear next to, say, an active, achievement-oriented card such as the Six of Wands, it could be a warning sign that the querent should not get too carried away with herself—to “get off that high horse,” so to speak. By contrast, if it lies next to a more passive card of rest or reflection, such as the Four of Swords, it might be advising the querent to “kick up her heels” and have a little fun. Surrounded by a card signifying conflict, such as the Five of Swords, it could indicate that she should be careful at this point in time to “rein in” her emotions the way the Prince in the card reins in his unruly steed.

Because they are depicted on horseback—implying movement across space and time—the Princes of the Tarot have traditionally been considered cards of “transition”—the so-called “coming” or :”going” of some episode or enterprise in the querent’s life. As fiery Wands generally represent the creative aspect of the psyche—the spiritual “spark that lights the fuse,” as it were—the presence of the Prince in a spread could mean that the querent is seeking a new job, or a new hobby, or a new way of simply looking at the world. It could also mean that she has already brainstormed and built the proverbial “better mouse trap”—at least in her mind, if not in the material world—and the surrounding cards can confirm, or dispel, her judgement in the matter. In the vicinity of a card of opportunity such as any Ace, this might suggest that she should redouble her efforts. If in the vicinity of a card of hardship such as the Five of Pentacles, it could mean that she may have to endure some lean times before she succeeds. If surrounded by cards signifying deception or illusion, such as the Seven of Cups or the Eight of Swords, she might be well advised to reexamine her priorities.

To answer my own question, I took the Prince to mean that love takes many forms, of which romantic love is only one. For now, perhaps I’m best advised to devote the better part of my libido, that “love-energy,” to creative pursuits such as this blog that I can use as a means to conduct my own “crusade”—spreading the good news of spiritual transformation that Tarot offers to all. It is something that gives me a great deal of satisfaction—it makes me feel loved, in other words—and I enjoy the work for its own sake. Romance will come eventually, though I may need to get off my own “high horse” before it does. Left to their own devices, crusaders tend to develop one-track minds, and this trait can make them virtuous—and a ceaseless bore to others. Word to the wise.

Dante DiMatteo

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