Reflections on the Three of Wands

Question  for the cards: What is my purpose today?

Answer: This.

IIIAs a rule, the presence of Threes in a Tarot reading are favorable (the Three of Swords being a conditional exception) since the number “3” implies the triangle, the first geometric form to exist beyond a single dimension, and because of the number’s religious connotation (the Holy Trinity). The Three of Wands, then, is a card that advises us to go “beyond ourselves”—that is, to go beyond the one-dimensional view of the world that most of us fall prey to, and to see ourselves not only in our material incarnation but as missionaries of Divine love. This is, needless to say, much easier said than done, and it typically takes many years of prayer, meditation and metaphysical study. No wonder the solitary seeker in the Three pauses at the waterfront. His journey promises to be long and lonely—and only he can make the journey, as is true with each of us when we are called in kind. He—and we—could easily be forgiven for being unwilling to “take the plunge,” so to speak.

But in reality, our seeker has no choice, which is why his back is turned on us in the material world. He has been summoned to fulfill his ultimate mission, which is the same that holds true for each of us: Reunion with the Divine powers of Creation that exist now and forever “beyond the abyss” of human consciousness symbolized by the wide expanse of muddy water that awaits him.

Of course, we can bicker and argue over our appointed mission—it’s one of our ego’s favorite pastimes—and deny its very presence in our lives. We can even claim the power to bend this calling to our individual will, just as we’ve learned to bend the currents of the waters to our will with the sailing ships that our seeker beholds. The concept of “free will” is very strong in Western philosophy, after all, and post-Pharasaic Christian theology is arguably most responsible for promoting this doctrine. And certainly, there is no question that, in our everyday waking lives, we make choices of our own “free will” all the time. But for thousands of years before the writings of Augustine and Aquinas influenced the mind of man, he saw his role in the world, and his relationship to the Divine, quite differently, and it is this “older” tradition to which a great deal of esoteric studies is devoted. The Talmud teaches, for example, that in reality we are born into this world against our will (this is why babies enter the world bawling) and it is our truest mission in life to learn to relinquish so-called “free will”—which is a manifestation of ego-consciousness—and allow the Creator to work His gifts of miracles through us as He, not we, would will them into being. Again, this is easier said than done.

Of course, the meanings of the Three can be affected by the surrounding cards in a spread. In the vicinity of a card of daily activity such as the Three of Pentacles, it could refer to applying the principles embodied by the Three of Wands to one’s work environment. In a card that signifies the comforts of heart and home, such as the Ten of Cups or the Ten of Pentacles, it could mean that the querent may find her “paths made straight” through interactions with family or friends. In the vicinity of a card portending trouble, such as the Nine of Swords, it could mean that something in the querent’s psyche is holding her back, or is actively discouraging her from fulfilling her purpose in life. In the vicinity of a card of the Trumps Major such as The Hierophant or The Hermit, it could suggest the presence (or absence) of a spiritual stirring in the querent’s mind, and one that she might be well advised to discuss with an experienced spiritual “tour guide”—a priest, a rabbi or a psychotherapist.

In the end, though, the Three of Wands tells us of our highest calling—to “cross over Jordan” and enter into the Promised Land of milk, honey, and God’s endless love and light. It’s one of the most powerful of the so-called Trumps Minor because it speaks to us of nothing less than total spiritual transformation. We can ignore it all we wish, but one day we are all called to make the journey; let us embrace it, then, in a spirit of joy and wonder.

Dante DiMatteo 

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