An encounter with the Ace of Wands

By Sarah Taylor

Until you’ve found fire inside yourself …
You won’t reach the spring of life
— Mawlana Jalal Al-Din Al-Rumi

On September 30, just over a week ago, the Weekend Tarot Reading featured at its centre the Ace of Wands — known as the Ace of Staffs in the Xultun Tarot deck that I was using. The reading was a potent one: all Wands, a rush of energy — the kind that makes you vibrate as if you’ve turned into a tuning fork. Which, of course, you have.

Ace of Staffs -- Xultun Tarot deck
Ace of Staffs from the Xultun Tarot deck. Click on the image for a larger version.

Wands represent the creative energy that lies at the foundation of all existence. I see it as the field of potential from which everything else springs: feelings (Cups), thoughts (Swords), matter (Pentacles). The tarot deals with all four levels of creation, but it is the Wands that are the initiators.

Wands energy is the sensation that we get when we are turned on — and I use that phrase broadly as well as specifically. It ignites us; it is fire; it is heat, tingling, licking us into action. And, thus, we become tuning forks: we are tuned into the frequency of creation. We’ve hit the same wavelength with something, or someone, and that wavelength urges us to do something. Now!

How you feel it in your own body depends on the part of you it is spurring into action. When you’re with someone who makes your blood surge through your veins and your juices flow, it’s because Wands energy is asking you to meld and create something new — whether through alchemy or biology.

Artists might feel it as a tingling in their hands and arms which cannot be quieted until it is discharged in some artistic endeavour. Runners feel it in their limbs; performers feel it in the pits of their stomachs. I clearly remember the sensation of its coursing through me as a child, and when my mother — exasperated at the child-shaped dynamo pinging off the walls around her — asked me what it was that I wanted, all I could do was to match her exasperation with the cry, “I need to create!” That was the only way I knew how to articulate what I was feeling; I’m not sure I’ve managed to articulate it any better since.

As the first card of its suit, the Ace embodies this energy in its purest form. So pure, in fact, that we cannot experience it in its entirety. We are bound to human form, while the Ace is boundless. We can feel its approach, we can feel it brush against our psychic skins, we can feel it entering us — but we can only hold so much of it. The Ace is an archetype, and like all archetypes it is never fully knowable.

So imagine, if you will, standing under a vast cloud. Imagine that cloud holds pure Ace of Wands energy. You can feel it, you want some of it, and you send out that intention either consciously or not. Now imagine a tendril of that cloud spiralling down towards you. You can take that tendril — Ace-in-miniature — and you can start to fashion it into the kind of energy you wish to use.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But what you might forget in the zingy-zappiness of it all is that the Ace of Wands requires your active participation to make the most of it. Otherwise that cloud is going to remain exactly where it is, and you where you are, with the great blue yonder between you. Can you hear the silence?

Therefore, the clear directive is this: if you want it, and you’ve got it, then use it! How you then use it is in your hands, and is described in the following nine cards in the Wands suit. You can start empire-building (Two), risk-taking (Three), communing with others (Four), scattering it to the four winds (Five), floating on a sea of adulation (Six), resisting the unknown (Seven), surfing on its currents (Eight), adopting an I’m-not-entirely-happy-but-I’ll-wait-and-see attitude (Nine), or taking on more than you imagined you would or could (Ten). All of these emanate from the Ace.

Ace of Wands -- Thoth Tarot deck
Ace of Wands from the Thoth Tarot deck. Click on the image for a larger version.

The Ace of Wands is yang. It is phallic: it works well directed, it holds within it the seed of creation, and the more adept you are at using it, the more pleasing the result. With the absence of discipline, lack of enthusiasm, or loss of intent, the outcome is more likely to be all promise, no delivery. Magus interruptus.

Another thing that is worth mentioning is the idea of ‘masculine’ vs ‘feminine’: its being yang doesn’t mean that the Ace is the reserve of men. That would be to misunderstand the idea of polarity. Both genders (and all permutations in between) are a composite of masculine and feminine, and as individuals we are choosing in every moment to what extent each of those is activated.

For example, when I am doing a tarot reading, I engage primarily with the feminine, receptive aspect of my psyche: I become a vessel for the gathering of information. In essence, I am a Cup. To translate what comes to me into words on a screen starts to re-engage the masculine; sometimes I will even have my pen in hand. When I’m at the gym, I engage primarily with the masculine: step up on that treadmill! Pick up the pace! Run run run! Then I step off, glowing gracefully, and radiate sweaty heat into the room. Very feminine.

The point to all of this is to be able to identify the feeling of how the Ace of Wands engages with us, and then to hold the awareness that action is required to bring it to manifest fruition. Its appearance in a reading signals the presence of a potent resource. It is, therefore, worth understanding that you are empowered to do more with it than you might think — and, conversely, that it is governed by the law of ‘use it or lose it’.

Knowing this law might help you to understand that your life doesn’t simply have to ‘happen’ to you: you can choose to engage with a flow that forms the background to everything that happens. You don’t have to be swept along, helpless; you don’t need to battle it upstream (although the choice is always yours). You can choose to look for it, to align with it, and to ride it. When you do, you are literally in synch with the universe.

To conclude, I want to write a little about the three versions of the Ace of Wands that I have chosen for this reading. The reason for the selection is that one card will probably resonate with you more than the other two. That resonance is Wands energy in action, even if on a more subtle scale. If one feels like it’s really wanting to grab your attention, it is worth noting. It might be a deck you can work with; it might be leading you into some self-exploration; it might be both.

Ace of Wands -- Rider-Waite Smith Tarot deck
Ace of Wands from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot deck. Click on the image for a larger version.

The first card is the Ace of Staffs from the Xultun Tarot deck, created by New Zealand artist Peter Balin, and its imagery is inspired by the Maya. Each of the Xultun Aces is accompanied by an animal totem — in this case, the jaguar.

The jaguar in Mayan mythology bridged the world of matter and Spirit, which is what we do when we work with Wands energy: we are invoking jaguar medicine. It is shamanic, and therefore approached with reverence — which I don’t see as ‘awe’ as much as ‘moving into alignment with’. Both Wand and jaguar are highly stylised — and for some reason I feel that jaguar takes centre stage. But it is a card that has opened up to me over the years — moreso recently — and I would suggest giving it the benefit of the doubt before dismissing it.

The second card is the Ace of Wands from the Thoth Tarot deck. Its creators, Aleister Crowley and artist Lady Frieda Harris, have reputations that tend to polarise people into Thoth and non-Thoth camps, to which this website has borne witness. Nevertheless, I am including it for a few reasons.

First, it is considered a ‘classic’, and that alone puts it in the running. Second, I believe that where controversy exists there also lies a discussion point, and I would hope that everyone felt they had a right to contribute to the conversation. Third, and on a more personal note, I find the artwork deeply engaging — at times beautiful, at others discomfiting; both valuable. The Ace has impact, both visually and viscerally. Of all of the three cards, this embodies a Tesla-like jolt that really is Wands at its most electric. It describes a particular state, and one that is worth acknowledging.

The third card is the Ace of Wands from the Rider-Waite Smith tarot. It is a pity that the inclusion of the name “Smith” is discretionary, given that it was painted by Pamela Colman Smith, who was commissioned by a fellow member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Arthur Edward Waite, to illustrate a 78-card tarot deck that remains peerless in terms of popularity and accessibility.

The Ace of Wands is no exception. Its symbolism manages to walk a fine line between the esoteric and the apparent. It has layers that I still haven’t discovered, and yet on another level its meaning is entirely clear: creative energy is the energy of God. When we work with it, we are working with Spirit itself. Moreover, it is a gift freely offered to us, but with a sense of authority behind it that feels hard to ignore. That hand is hard to ignore. And it is forthright, etched with an aura of light. “Use it,” it seems to say, “but remember where it comes from.”

Three cards; three different approaches to describe something that is ultimately indescribable. Sometimes images have the edge over words, though. I would invite you to feel your way into whichever card calls to you and explore what you encounter. What moves you? Because if it is moving you, you’re moving with the energy of the Ace of Wands.

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.

18 thoughts on “An encounter with the Ace of Wands”

  1. What spectacular dreams! There’s also a lovely synchronicity in your whale totem, as when i checked my email last night, I found an email from Eric to subscribers, informing us that the 2013 PW is all about, guess what? Listening!
    Actually I don’t know what my totem is. But I had a truly extraordinary experience last summer. For the past 8 years I’ve been going to meditation retreats in a centre that is set in a forest. Every morning after breakfast I go for a walk in the forest, and in all these years I’ve only ever met (wonderful) brown squirrels. Last August, I was coming out of the forest into a clearing, when I heard this really strange wild animal roaring/barking sound. I was quite scared, I thought it might be a wild dog and thought about heading back. But then I told myself to carry on, as I was curious. As I walked out of the clearing and onto the path that runs alongside a field, beyond the hedgerow, about a few metres away, was this beautiful deer. We stood still and looked into eachother’s eyes briefly, s/he started emitting this strange barking sound again and hopped off back into the forest. The incredible thing is that the meditation retreat was focused on loving kindness, and the deer is the totem for this quality. The following day I saw another deer too, but it wasn’t a close encounter this time. Thanks, P. Sophia, for giving me the opportunity to write about this wonderful experience. Good luck with your whales.

  2. Hi Huffy, So considerate of you thinking of me and sending the link!  Wow, there is alot there to think about, esp regarding finding voice.  i am extreamly sensitive to all energy, emotionally, and starting to expand to receiving (becoming more open) intuitively, and visionally.  Yet never considered the implications of sound frequencies.  Interesting.  Also this information is helpful in connecting much with my dreams.  

    The recent, whale dream I had in July was clearly the feeling and theme of evolution.  One of my parts in the scene, as the heroine, was she literally throwing fish out in front of whale to guide him, or diviate him away from chasing the other characters (parts of myself, and their representations in the dream) as they headed towards the shore.  Another dream years back was of flying, colorful whales like ships floating in the night sky among the stars. The feeling…peace. Absolute beauty in motion.

    What is your totem?   It would also be interesting to know any other’s comments regarding their knowledge and experience of their totems as well-  

    Wishing good week and New Moon to you, and all- 

  3. i’d say definitely hummingbird. Balin also says so in his “The Flight of Feathered Serpent” (1978, p. 141), and hummingbirds were associated with the gods/as gods in Aztec history.

  4. Sarah-

    Thanks for this. The only reaccuring animal that I really remember having come up in dreams for me is a whale. Several of the most impressionable, and visual dreams I have ever had. Still the feeling of impact of the stories carry wth me to this day. Can a whale be totem? I know the sybolism of fish is spiritual.

  5. P. Sophia – Yes, there are three other animal totems, or medicine animals, in the Xultun deck: one for each suit. It is hard to identify them from the very stylised deck, but I will try – and if someone else who is more knowledgeable about Mayan sacred animals can correct or confirm them, that would be great.

    Cups – a bird – possibly a hummingbird, ibis or macaw
    Swords – deer
    Jades – snake

    Your own animal totem will be one that resonates with you, which might have appeared to you in dreams, which seems to pop up at key times through your life. If you work with it actively (through meditation, dreamwork, etc.), it can show you things that might otherwise have remained hidden or untapped in you.

    I’ve been speaking about jaguar a lot recently, and I think that is because Wands are coming up regularly. Given that jaguar bridges the world of matter and Spirit, and the astrology is focused on what is coming up from the unconscious, it feels right that jaguar is seeking us out.

  6. Sarah,

    Mystical, electrical (almost elemental), and spiritual (love the hand) POWER! I feel the represented card types in that order.

    I ‘ve heard you discuss several times now the Jaguar totem in the cards and also is yours. Are there others in cards. And how does one find one’s out?

    Appreciate the beautiful reading, Sarah. Once again I come here not surprised…it all magically seems to relate. xo

  7. “Therefore, the clear directive is this: if you want it, and you’ve got it, then use it! How you then use it is in your hands, and is described in the following nine cards in the Wands suit. You can start empire-building (Two), risk-taking (Three), communing with others (Four), scattering it to the four winds (Five), floating on a sea of adulation (Six), resisting the unknown (Seven), surfing on its currents (Eight), adopting an I’m-not-entirely-happy-but-I’ll-wait-and-see attitude (Nine), or taking on more than you imagined you would or could (Ten). All of these emanate from the Ace.”

    Thank you Sarah for speaking directly to me in this whole article – simply wonderful. I too resonate to the Thoth cards. They are so elegant. I always learn from your posts and appreciate your creativity.

  8. 🙂

    Don’t forget you’re looking for the visceral pull-in; it isn’t an intellectual exercise. What your intellect does is contain it (rather than deny or restrict it), which is often a healthier response than remaining uncontained.

  9. I absolutely see the correlation, dear Len. More often than not, the correlations between the astrology and the Weekend Tarot Readings are pretty heart-warming.

    Huffy – I know what it is like to have that feeling of disequilibrium around money worries – they really do carry a particularly heavy and thought- and energy-consuming quality. It sounds like you’re already doing it with your meditation, but why not try and actively feel your way to the Ace of Wands in spite of everything else and all other signs to the contrary? Sit or lie quietly and bring that cloud down to you. If you can only feel it for a second, you’ve still achieved connection.

  10. Was just reflecting on what I said about my creativity (after a meditation). The work I do constantly involves being ‘creative’, every step I take, every breath I make is creative. Living life consciously and poetically, even the struggle, is a creative act. Thanks Sarah…..

  11. “But they were so deeply bloody entrenched that I hadn’t been able to step away from them enough to realise that they weren’t ‘reality’ as much as a reality that I had accepted for years”. This is kind of where I’m at right now, dear Sarah. Though that Ace and fiery energy have only figured briefly. Feel stuck in a kind of limbo at the moment, wondering how I’m going to make it financially. As always with me, the survival needs overwhelm the creativity. And the Scorpio trine Pisces is bringing up a load of fear. But I trust this scary moment too.

  12. Sarah: Thank you for a compelling and in-depth lesson. All through reading this fine piece, the correlation between the Ace of Wands and the Aries Point kept coming up for me. If you can see some validity in my correlation (admittedly a bit “out there” with the rest of me), it would imply one powerful card for one and all.

  13. Thank you, jinspace!

    When we receive an Ace in a reading, I think it is an invitation to evolve, and the way we are being called to evolve is through the dynamic of the Ace in question, and often for a specific reason. Perhaps we are being asked to pay attention to a part of us that has either been under-used or used to limit us: the presence of limitation, after all, is a simultaneous signpost to where we can expand.

    The tarot is amoral, and so we also get to choose how to apply Ace energy. Early this year, I pulled a single card that would draw my attention to where I could most expand. My card was the Ace of Swords: thought, intellect, insight. I have since come to discover just how much my thoughts have shaped my experience of who I am and the world I live in. But they were so deeply bloody entrenched that I hadn’t been able to step away from them enough to realise that they weren’t ‘reality’ as much as a reality that I had accepted for years. Years, I tell you! So Swords energy had built up an idea that I am liberating myself from through the use of another Sword in the Ace. It is definitely an active process. For sure, things were put in my path to alert me — books I’ve read, people I’ve met, experiences I’ve had — but I could have chosen to close off my awareness to them. Some I probably did, but there were others that in retrospect were in the right place at the right time.

  14. Sarah –
    “I need to create!” That was the only way I knew how to articulate what I was feeling; I’m not sure I’ve managed to articulate it any better since.”

    No room for improvement, there – it’s perfect. I was just like that kid you describe – still am. 😀

    I’ve drawn the Ace of Wands *so* many times and not seen beyond the message of potential to the message of focus, harness, concentration (something I’ve been struggling with for a while now)… at last, I understand how not to squander the moment! Thanks for a great lesson (and now, back to work).

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