A lone sentry stands watch at his post. He has recently returned from battle, where he suffered a head wound, and he still wears a bandage across his forehead for he is not completely healed. He guards his staff jealously and possessively, as if in fear that someone is about to pry it from his grip—even though nobody can be seen near him for many miles. Perhaps he is still suffering from the shell shock of battle?
Most Tarot interpretations of this card begin with the word “Strength,” and the sentry certainly has a muscular physique. For such a towering figure, though, he has a fearful and wary look on his face. He is strong but thinks himself vulnerable. He is perfectly safe yet fears for his safety. He sees things that don’t exist, and ignores the things that do. He is securely protected and free to move about within his castle’s walls, but given his constricted body language, he might as well be in prison.
This is Yesod, realm of the dream and the unconscious mind, through which pass the last flickering lights of Divine intellect. What this means, kabbalistically, is that as the suit of Wands nears its end and fiery Aziluth enters into the watery world of Briah, the “weakening of the signal” leads us into an unstable and unclear stage of consciousness in much the same way that a phone call with a “weak signal” results in a garbled conversation, and clarity is lost. This general principle applies to each of the four suits—and so it is, alas, for the sentry.
Yesod is governed by the moon, the traditional planet governing nightmares and hallucinations, and this card reminds us of what happens when we fail to maintain a balanced inner life. Look at the sentry: He has likely seen many battles, and many horrors of the battlefield, to the point where the ability to think logically has left him; his psyche is purely reflexive and reactionary. The hauntings that govern his unconscious have overpowered his intellect, and the fire that burns within him now, he cannot control; as below, so above.
Meanings in a reading can include: Brute strength, enemies conquered but at fearful cost, the brutality of war, paranoia, suspicion, the undifferentiated self, and the wounded child; but also, healing can begin, counseling and psychotherapy, vision restored, and great inner strength. Many times we try to suppress unpleasant memories, thinking they will go away on their own, but as a rule, they never really do. More than likely, they silently metastasize inside our minds until they cause a psychic rupture and an ensuing nervous breakdown. We should always be willing to seek the help of others, and to help others, too, in times of great crisis, and not try to “prove our manhood” by keeping our feelings bottled up inside us. If we do, as we will see in tomorrow’s reading, our entire world may collapse upon itself.