Reflections on The Eight of Wands

VIIIMovement and motion, speed, velocity: These qualities are all implied by this cryptic card—which, as we’ve noted previously, is the one card in the Tarot that’s lacking any representation of a human presence—save, perhaps, by what appears to be a dwelling of some sort on the distant horizon. This concept of ethereal kinesis, far beyond our ability to perceive it, suggests the presence of forces that may be operating beyond our control—and in fact, “unexpected news” is one of many traditionally accepted meanings of the card, with “good news” or :bad news” respectively ascribed to the card in either its upright or reversed position.

But another idea to keep in mind when reading this card is not only movement but direction. Are the Wands flying upward, as when the card is reversed, or are they hurtling downward, when the card is upright? If we stop to think about the symbolic meanings of these directions, the Eight can actually lend itself to a more promising interpretation when reversed because—depending on which way the Wands are facing—it could signify an ascent or a descent, a rise or a decline. Consider the pip cards that follow it in the suit:

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 9.16.17 AMNotice the Wands of the Eight, once proudly aloft but now being dragged down by gravity to the earthbound level of the Nine, often labeled “Strength in opposition,” but which (in your humble blogger’s estimation, at least) is more aptly titled “Fear”—a pathology that, in turn, gives way to the “Oppression” signified by the Ten that concludes the pip run. Those hurtling Wands of the Eight might even be the fenceposts pictured in the Nine! Put together, the sequence indicates a kind of descent into madness, a decline in reason’s ability to resist the powers of fear and suspicion, which then burdens our psyches as surely as would a heavy load on our backs. When this happens, we need to look inside ourselves, and learn to heal our psyches through the transformative power of love, a process that is signified by the ensuing suit of Cups.

Let’s look at the Eight in conjunction with some other cards:

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 9.19.27 AMThe Prince of Cups is the “incurable romantic” of the court cards, and pictured here with the Wands approaching him and aspiring upward (Wands being governed by the element of Fire, that is their normal inclination), this could suggest that some positive influence may soon be felt in the querent’s love life. With the Eight upright, its Wands facing away and downward from the Prince, it could indicate that the querent is chasing after someone who isn’t worthy of his affections—someone who’s a bit too, well, flighty.

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 9.17.34 AMThe King of Swords, by contrast, is the “Chief Justice” among the court cards, and it is often associated with “power” positions such as government, law, or the military. Here, the King’s sense of justice is turned on its head, and his judgment rains down like fiery thunderbolts (again, Wands signifying fire). This could signify a legal matter that may bode ill for the querent, or an actual state of hostilities such as war between nations. It could also signify a rupture of some sort, such as a business deal gone sour or a pending divorce. In reverse order, with the King upright, the cards could signify a favorable verdict, a successful resolution, or “justice served.”

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 9.22.34 AMGoverned by Sagittarius, the King of Wands is impatient by nature, and can be a bit of a hothead. Here, confronted by a hail of flaming arrows hurtling in his direction, the Archer sees this as a challenge to his rule, and as such, the cards could signify a coming conflict in the life of the querent. Since Wands signify the powers of  intellect, this could be interpreted to mean anything involving contentious mental activity: A legal dispute, a business takeover, a political debate—even a sports rivalry. With the Eight reversed, its energies now emanating from the Archer, the cards would suggest that the fiery powers of intellect inside the querent are ready to be released, and that the time is right to embark upon a creative pursuit (just be patient, though). Once again, the reversed Eight frequently signifies positive outcomes. One time when it doesn’t, though, is possibly this:

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 11.25.17 AMThis combination could be telling us that while our intentions may be good and our aspirations noble in any given endeavor, we want to make sure our heads aren’t “stuck in the clouds” as we go through our daily walk. What goes up must come down! On the other hand:

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 9.23.54 AMTo conquer the “dark side” that lurks inside each of us, we need to shine some light upon it—to focus upon it our powers of objectivity, and our willingness to engage in honest self-criticism; to turn our perception of ourselves “upside down,” if need be—to fully understand its corrosive effects on us, and hence to know our true Selves. Turning away from “the Other” as if it does not exist only allows it to continue exerting its materialistic and misanthropic influence on our psyches, therefore perpetuating the state of the “split mind” that is at the root of human neurosis. That would be the meaning of these cards if each was inverted from its position here.

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 11.23.40 AMWhatever it is in our lives that is making us feel overwhelmed and underpowered at the moment, we should hold steady and fast—help is on the way! Conversely,

Screen shot 2015-05-25 at 11.24.10 AMPerhaps the forces aligned against us are just too powerful to overcome today, so maybe it’s best to retire for now and reflect on our efforts, and to question which of life’s struggles are really worth fighting, and which are best left to others on the battlefield.

As these examples demonstrate, the Eight of Wands in a reading can indicate direction—as in the direction our lives are taking—as much as it can indicate the coming and going of news or communications. Of course, the card can also stand for “travels by air” or “travels by Internet,” but that’s a whole other chapter!

Dante DiMatteo

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