The Suit of Wands As “Arrows”

I’m currently reading Alain Bougearel’s book, The Language of the Cards: An Initiation into French Cartomancy (OUROBOROS Editions, August 16, 2020), in which he equates the tarot suit of Batons (modern Wands) to the playing-card suit of Diamonds, and associates the arrowhead-shaped suit emblem with the military arrow as a weapon of ranged combat. He describes an archery assault in four phases: 1) drawing the bow after nocking the arrow; 2) releasing the arrow on its upward trajectory; 3) arrival of the arrow at the zenith of its flight; and 4) the long arc of the arrow’s descent toward the target. This aligns so well with my previous combat-inflected allegory about the relationship between the 7, 8 and 9 of Wands in the Waite-Smith tarot that I thought I would expand it to cover all of the minor Wands cards in that deck. I’ve added a few iterations to Alain’s original premise. Although the following interpretations are mostly based on a Medieval combat scenario, in present-day personal or business situations the principle of “initiatives and their consequences” can be substituted. It could be applied to something like beginning a project, starting an enterprise, rolling out a new product, mounting a marketing campaign or plotting a leveraged corporate takeover. All images used here are copyright of U.S. Games Systems, Stamford, CT.

Ace of Wands: Foreseeing the attack (or the initiative) and marshaling forces but staying one’s hand; there is the intent and the will to act but as yet no call to do so. Keywords: Anticipation/Alertness/Strategic Delay

2 of Wands: Sizing up the field and ensuring the first blow will strike the heart (greatest concentration) of the enemy force, since there is little tactical advantage in whittling away at its flanks. Keywords: Foresight/Due Care/”Planning the Work”

3 of Wands: Moving to within bow-shot range and arraying the archers to take maximum advantage of the terrain and other battlefield features, including the likely route of enemy infantry and possible “targets of opportunity.” Keywords: Shrewdness/Strategic Maneuvering/”Working the Plan”

4 of Wands: A state of acute alertness: nocking the arrow, drawing and aiming the bow in one fluid motion, imparting motive force and direction to the upcoming shot. Potential energy is at its peak, ripe for release; since the command at this point is to “Hold,” steady nerves and iron discipline are required of the archers. Keywords: Readiness/Determination/Commitment

5 of Wands: Releasing the arrow with the goal of inflicting maximum mayhem upon the enemy; the climbing arc of the arrow’s path. The instantaneous translation of potential into kinetic energy. Keywords: Onslaught/Eagerness/Discharge of Force

6 of Wands: The zenith of the arrow’s flight; its initial propulsion is spent and it is beginning to coast through the air; both attacker and opponent hold their collective breath. Keyword: Expectation/Apprehension/ Suspense

7 of Wands: The arrow finds the range and begins its descent toward the enemy, who begins to sense its peril from above. Keywords: Disadvantage/Reversal of Fortune

8 of Wands: The arrow approaches the ground and engages its target; the makings of a rout as the demoralized enemy starts to flee in the face of superior firepower. Keywords: “Moment of Truth”/Advance/Retreat

9 of Wands: Damage has been inflicted but the full extent is not yet known; the enemy may have had a chance to evade and thus incur only a glancing blow; the archers pause and await further commands. Keywords: Resolve/Wariness/”Turning Point”

10 of Wands: The archers retreat from the field after the last arrow has been expended; time to send in the melee troops to confront the remaining opposition. Keywords: Disengagement/Cessation of Effort

I hope you found this interesting. My next objective will be to determine how well this model squares with my previous assumptions about the pip cards of the Tarot de Marseille and the “glorified pips” of the Thoth tarot.

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