A solitary figure, his back turned toward us, stands on a bluff and contemplates the broad vista before him. A knapsack or bedroll is strung around his shoulder, and his right arm, which holds onto a wooden wand, is clad in armor. He appears to be preparing for a journey, but to where?
At first glance, the broad flat plain before our seeker appears to be a desert. A closer look, however, reveals the presence of sailboats upon it. This, then, is not a desert, but a wide and muddy river. It is, in fact, the river Jordan; and as it was for the children of Israel in their time, it is across this river that the seeker will need to wander if he is to enter into his “promised land”.
After mastering the element of fire, man’s greatest accomplishment was, arguably, mastering the element of water. Once he learned how to bend its course, harness its energy and ride its currents, he could irrigate his fields, conduct trade with other nations, and sustain mighty civilizations that would endure for millennia. But while our seeker has been granted dominion over all Creation, he has reached the stage where he senses another purpose in life—the need to look beyond the muddy waters of earthly perception to behold that “other side”—the “living waters” that we are promised in Scripture—to which we all must pass when it is time for us to embark upon our journey to our promised land. The number “three” suggests the Holy Trinity; therefore, our seeker embodies the religious impulse, a spiritual fire that burns within each of us, and which yearns to be reunited with the Creator as much, if not more, than it yearns for the pleasures of this world.
There are nine leaves on each of the three wooden wands. Could this indicate who or what might be awaiting us on the other side of the river?
Meanings of this card in a reading can include: Civilization in all its aspects (and also its limitations), trade and commerce, a journey of discovery, man’s search for meaning, a religious awakening, pursuit of the sacred, “destiny calls,” material comforts abandoned; but also materialism and its discontents, wars and quarrels, a “sheltered life,” lack of purpose, “turning one’s back” on life, and lack of curiosity in general. Eventually we all reach a stage in our psychic development where, no matter how successful our lives have seemed, we sense the presence of a higher calling to which we must eventually answer. We can apply our creativity in a million different directions, but in the end, there is only one ultimate focal point, and one final destination, that truly matters to the universe. A life lived without that understanding, as our seeker in the card suggests to us, is a lonely life indeed.