Eight of Wands


A broad valley with a river running through it, and a house on a hill on the horizon: Eight wands or battle staffs have been thrown into the sky, and are now hurtling in parallel back to earth.

This is one of the most cryptic cards in the Waite deck, and the only card in the Trumps Minor to lack any human element in its imagery. (Even the Three of Swords shows a representation of the human heart.) Conventional meanings of this card have centered around motion, swiftness, news arriving or departing, communication and messages, and aspects of intellect in general. On the other hand, perhaps these wands are the “reinforcements” that our rash young warrior in the Seven has been so desperately waiting for, and if so, they are fast approaching him—in which case, we could say the card has the added meaning in a spread of “help is on the way” or “relief is in sight.”

In our time, however, another additional meaning is implied. Consider the cards below, the Six and Seven of Swords:

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One traditionally accepted meaning for the Six has been “journey by water.” In a like vein, a traditional meaning for the Seven has been “journey by land.” Looking at the cards, it’s easy to see how these associations were formed, and in 1910, when this deck was first published, those were the only ways that people could get around. But people today travel through the air in jetliners, into space in spaceships, and wirelessly through satellite feeds that literally allow us to travel around in the world in a matter of seconds. The Eight of Wands—an obvious card of motion and flight involving the medium of air, would seem to be the most deserving candidate in the deck to be attributed the meaning of  “travel by air,” “travel by Internet,” and any other element of modern communications. Accompanied in a reading by, say, the Two of Cups, it could refer to online dating; accompanied by the Three of Pentacles, to conducting online commerce; accompanied by the Knight of Swords, to travel by airliner. If we pause to think it over, the possible permutations are endless, and it provides us anew with additional analytical tools that can help us when reading the cards. Negative aspects can include miscommunication and misunderstanding, creativity misapplied, feelings of separation, “heading in the wrong direction,”or  help delayed. In any event, this shows us again how the cards continue to “speak” to us with a high degree of fidelity, even in our post-millennial world, and that their symbolism is highly adaptable to changes in the human condition across the generations.

Dante DiMatteo

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