By Sarah Taylor
On March 24 this year, the Seven of Wands made an appearance in the Weekend Tarot Reading using the Voyager Tarot deck. It was then alluded to in the following week’s reading, using the Rider-Waite Smith tarot, in the form of the Eight of Wands — namely, that something released from the unconscious was “moving quickly into view,” i.e., that it was making itself conscious.
It appears again today, but now in a more concrete form — as concrete as it gets when it comes partnered with the second and the third cards: The Tower and the Ten of Pentacles.
How do I write of The Tower without provoking the reactions it so frequently elicits? Because I don’t feel it always deserves the bad press that it gets. In fact, I’m not sure it merits its bad press most of the time. What we react to most strongly when we see The Tower might be seen as a reaction to the unknown, and the fear of change — especially change that is visited on us with such force that it bypasses our defences.
It is in our nature to wage war against those parts of us that seem foreign enough that they feel nothing but threatening. For the most part this war is quiet, we keep it so well-hidden — not least from ourselves. But we can see it in the world around us, the political and militaristic posturing reflections of our railing at the inner unknown, which dares to be different to the point where we don’t know where we stand in relation to it. We have no idea how to approach it; it refuses to identify itself; it refuses to play by our rules. And so we take up arms, all of us silent soldiers to a greater or lesser extent, defending something we have built that has already run its course.
What has been constructed so carefully is seen in the Ten of Pentacles, which is the final card in the tarot deck. In this version of the Ten, there is a family — three generations — which speaks of security and tradition, the pinnacle of material fulfilment. Overlaid are ten pentacles in the formation of the Tree of Life, which symbolises the myriad paths Spirit can take as it moves further into the realm of matter — i.e., becomes more solid.
In the Thoth version of the Ten of Pentacles (the Ten of Disks), this is made even clearer with an image that is dominated by the Tree of Life, the final pentacle (or disk) at the bottom of the Tree larger than the others. Writer and occultist Lon Milo DuQuette suggests that this is a depiction of “cosmic constipation.” A process of manifestation has gone as far as it can; there is no further room for forward movement or evolution along a particular path:
A magical laxative will need to be administered to prevent this stagnant wealth of energy, experience, and matter from putrefying and poisoning the body. ["Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot"]
In the Seven of Wands and the Ten of Pentacles, I see a fight to retain the status quo both internally and externally. There is a reciprocity in the colours of the cards, which feels like a visual collusion against the contrasting central card: to keep things just so, even when they are “putrefying and poisoning the body.”
The antidote? DuQuette suggests that it is Mercury, who is symbolised in his exalted state in the Ten of Pentacles (Mercury in Virgo), and is thus excellently aspected to provide strong medicine. As it happens, I found this quote from mythologist Joseph Campbell last night which expands on this beautifully:
Almost all non-literate mythology has a trickster-hero of some kind. … And there’s a very special property in the trickster: he always breaks in, just as the unconscious does, to trip up the rational situation. He’s both a fool and someone who’s beyond the system. And the trickster represents all those possibilities of life that your mind hasn’t decided it wants to deal with. The mind structures a lifestyle, and the fool or trickster represents another whole range of possibilities. He doesn’t respect the values that you’ve set up for yourself, and smashes them. … The fool is the breakthrough of the absolute into the field of controlled social orders. [Joseph Campbell (interviewed by Michael Toms), An Open Life, p.39]
In The Tower, we witness the effects of the antidote to the poison — a breaking through of the unconscious that is tangible, and often powerful to the extent that it cannot be stopped. The lightning bolt that hits the top of the tower can feel like divine intervention — and it is. But, if we choose, we are also able to see that we had a hand in our own undoing. We sowed the necessary seeds of destruction in the very thing we sought to create.
Everything has its end, clearing the way for something new. We are released to build again.
Astrology/Elemental correspondences: Seven of Wands (Mars in Leo), The Tower (Mars), Ten of Pentacles (Mercury in Virgo)
If you want to experiment with tarot cards and don’t have any, we provide a free tarot spread generator using the Celtic Wings spread, which is based on the traditional Celtic Cross spread. This article explains how to use the spread.