reach out and take hold of that energy
One of the things I’ve noticed in books and other writings on shadow work is that they only talk about the trumps, as though the pips are insignificant in these matters. On the contrary; I think the cards that represent our daily interactions and feelings and responses are those we should explore first when trying to better understand the parts of our psyche. So, in this new series on the cards to include shadow meanings, we’ll start with the pips and then go into courts, finishing up with the trumps.
Aces are often considered some of the most amorphous of the cards. As the beginning of the suit, Aces represent the possibilities of their element — and that can seem wide open. If we consider the imagery used in the Smith-Waite decks, the Aces show an article of the suit (wand, cup, sword, or pentacle) held by a hand emerging from a cloud, indicating that there is an offering here. Will we accept it? Are we ready to step up and take it? That’s really the directive of the Aces, isn’t it? Are we going to reach out and take hold of it? What are we going to do with it? What we’re asked to confront in the shadows of this card is what is holding us back?
Wands as a suit represents the element of Fire, which is our energy. Here, we see the various ways our vitality influences the events in our lives. This is our life force and its activity, initiative, passion, inspiration, drive, will. It’s shadows may present as impulsivity, rashness, indecisiveness, taking risks, hyperactivity, and such.
Wands may also represent the identities we adopt. This is where issues of identity and ego are most revealed, as well as the expressions of jealousy and other shadows of ego identification. The invitations and teachings we confront here ask us to honor our inner flame. Are we ready to step into a new role?
Historically, the four suits were associated with the four classes of society, and Wands or Staves (as clubs) represented the peasantry. In modern classist or Marxist tarot, this translates to the proletariat – labor and the working class, as well as artists and other makers.
If we consider the four humours of the body and temperament as in Galen’s time, Wands or Staves correlated with Yellow Bile and were therefore choleric — energetic and ambitious but easily angered and dominating (hence a “fiery” temperament). As Jung’s cognitive functions go, the suit of Wands corresponds to Intuition, which is more figurative than literal ‘big picture’ thinking. Unconstrained by the restrictions of what is, in favor of more imaginative ideas and possibilities.
And so, in fiery Wands, the Ace is raring to go. It’s the spark of desire, the motivation to reach up and grab that energy or desire so that we may actualize it in our lives.
In the spectrum of this card, that positive initiative is in the balanced center. On one end of the spectrum, where there is resistance, we hold back, reluctant to take what is offered. Are we not ready yet? Do we feel incapable? We may miss the opportunity out of fear, complacency, or a lack of focus. Our task here is to identify what may be holding us back.
On the other end, where there is excess, it may be counterproductive by generating hasty, impetuous, or bold behavior. By placing too much importance on it, we may jump the gun and miss the opportunity.
Questions that we may want to ask when this card comes up include:
- Is there some fear or doubt holding you back?
- Is there a desire you’re reluctant to allow out?
- Are you procrastinating about something? What part of you is that serving?
But of course that’s just a beginning. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? What is your favorite depiction of the Ace of Wands?