The King of Wands is ensconced on his throne, which is bedecked with images of salamanders and lions. His yellow outer robe also displays sigils of the amphibian, and a small salamander stands beside him on his pedestal. In his right hand he holds his staff, by which he rules his kingdom.
The King represents the mature masculine of Wands, the “fiery” part of fire that is the element in its purest and least corrupted form. This is signified by his fire-red robe and by the image of the salamander, which legend claims can survive trial by fire; here it has been transformed into a uroboros, the apocryphal serpent of antiquity that devours its own tail and is symbolic of self-regeneration, the “eternal return” that has no beginning and no end. This is a very old archetype that dates to the dawn of Western civilization, and which C.G. Jung thought a representation of the psyche itself:
As with the Prince and Queen, the King holds his staff in his right hand, the side traditionally associated with justice. Additionally, on his staff are ten leaves, symbolizing the ten Sephiroth on the Tree of Life. The King has traditionally been assigned the astrological sign of mutable fire, Sagittarius, so while he is capable of governing cruelly, he can also be flexible, and therefore uses his power to enlighten as well as to restrain. As the sovereign of the “first element,” the King of Wands is the “alpha male” of the court cards, the ruler to whom all others must bow and pay tribute. Perhaps because of this, the card is often associated with people who are successful in business, particularly in the creative fields.
Meanings for this card in a reading can include: The creative process at its peak, spiritual transformation, enlightenment comes, the will to creativity, success in career or business, and more conventionally, an older man born under a fire sign; but also creative stagnation, an overly critical nature, haughtiness and arrogance, and spiritual self-immolation. The creative powers we all possess can be used to great or terrible ends. Let us always try to exercise our power in a spirit of love and forgiveness; if we do this, we will likely discover that it truly is better to light a candle than it is to curse the darkness.