Leading the Way: King of Wands

Everything you need to know to develop your reading skills with the King of Wands

Image courtesy of Edelwyn.

Ruling over every suit of the tarot deck are the court cards. These cards often seem difficult at first, because they are the only tarot cards that can definitively represent people and roles that they play. In fact, tarot decks that ascribe to an older method will even go so far as to suggest the person’s appearance. We do not recommend this method, as each description was biased towards white people and adhered to gender roles-- which simply is of no use to anyone, along with being outdated. We recommend focusing more on the role the person plays and their energy, as those are much more accurate and useful.

In this article, we’ll focus on teaching you about the King of Wands:

  • Meaning and message
  • How to develop your intuition
  • Practice reading

Please note that during this article, we’ll refer to the King of Wands as “he,” though as you’ll find out, this card could very well mean a woman. We’ll be using “he” for consistency and ease of comprehension only.

It’s up to you if you want to read reversed tarot cards or turn them right-side up. Image courtesy of 78 Nights of Tarot.

Meaning and Message

The King of Wands is a naturally confident ruler who doesn’t just delegate-- he inspires. He takes control with his optimism, vision of the bigger picture, and decisive action. He loves challenges and gets a kick out of solving problems creatively. A steady flame, he is dependable, warm, and capable. A charismatic person, he is a magnet for others.

When this card is reversed, arrogance takes hold and creates either a domineering, vicious ruler or a weak and ineffective one. The King becomes a Tyrant, swollen with grandiosity, delegating out of laziness. Details are overlooked in favor of short cuts, and anger bubbles when the solution is flawed or doesn’t work and they have to fill in the gaps. When dealing with a reversed King of Wands, failures are due to lack of leadership, impulsivity, ruthlessness, selfishness and/or control issues. This person relishes in making others submissive in a malicious way, which often means that there is an uncanny lack of confidence deep down inside.

As we said earlier, the King of Wands is a court card, and his presence indicates a particular person or role for a person to occupy. This role will have bold, fiery, masculine energy or be a traditional leader with a creative flair. Again, this does not mean that the person is a male, only that they have masculine energy, or occupy a traditionally male role, or are bold and charismatic.

When not indicating a person, this card can refer to instilling confidence and inspiration in others, taking on responsibilities, and starting creative new endeavors.

A simple exercise to do in your tarot journal is to compare the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith artwork with the artwork of your tarot deck. Explore the differences and similarities, and how they alter your perception of the card’s meaning. Image courtesy of Beehive Books.

Developing your intuition

When seeking to develop your intuition about reading tarot cards, you need to do three things: spend time contemplating all aspects of the card, studying and researching the stories that feed its archetypal energy, and exploring the card’s meaning in your own life.

When contemplating the King of Wands card, start visually, with the art. Humans are visual creatures, and all tarot artists include symbolism in the artwork that connects the reader to the energies of the card in an immediate way. To understand the symbolism, one must also be familiar with the lore of the card and the stories that feed the symbolism. These two aspects of working with tarot go hand-in-hand, as without them symbolism is lost, and you will miss some of the magick of the cards.

The King of Wands Rider-Smith-Waite artwork depicts a king on his throne, wearing the skin of a big cat as a cloak. His robes are bright orange and he holds a staff with blossoms or leaves popping out. A lizard rests at his feet. The King of Wands’s cloak is a lion’s skin, connecting it to Leo the Lion, a fire sign in the Zodiac. The lion is also the King of the Animal Kingdom. The wand or staff in the King’s hand is also a fire symbol, and the blooms and leaves indicate the fertile inspiration with which the King rules. The color orange is a fire color, and the lizard at the King’s feet is a salamander-- another fire symbol. The King’s crown is shaped like tongues of flame.

When starting your research, start with fire myths, such as the Greek myth of Prometheus, the Cherokee myth of Grandmother Spider, or the Egyptian sun god Ra and the Hindu god Agni. Read about the mythology of salamanders, and other mythical beasts who live in fire, such as phoenixes. But don’t stop there-- research how the development of mastering fire changed the course of humanity. Think about the relationship ancient man had with fire, and the risks and dangers it has repeated posed for humanity over the centuries. Look up the history of major fire disasters, such as the Great Chicago Fire.

Look up the mythology and history of other big fire events, such as volcano explosions and volcano gods. Look up Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, the Hawaian goddess Pele, and why you should never take anything from the volcanos or lands of Hawaii.

Doing these first two steps will give you a deeper understanding of fire and its symbolism. Now you need to explore the aspects of the King of Wands as it applies to your life. The following are journaling or meditation questions for you to use:

  • Where have you been a leader? What qualities does a good leader possess? Do you have those qualities? Where could you develop these qualities more?
  • What holds you back from being a leader?
  • Do you inspire others? Who inspires you and why?
  • What lessons does fire teach us? What lessons has fire taught you?
  • Where have you been bold? Where could you be more bold? What does boldness look like to you?
  • Where do you find inspiration?
  • Who do you look up to as a leader?
  • What fire myths and legends speak to you?
What aspects of the King of Wands do you need more of in your life? Image courtesy of The Little Red Tarot Blog.

Practice reading the King of Wands

Now that you have developed your relationship with the King of Wands and deepened your intuition, let’s run through a sample reading with the King of Wands. Then we’ll give you some practice to try at home!

Scenario: Jacqueline has been struggling to make a connection in the dating world. She can’t figure out what the problem is-- she’s going out, having dates, and having an okay time. She’s just not finding that spark. She decides to sling some cards to see what advice the Universe has for her romantic life. She shuffles and asks a question for each card she pulls:

  1. Why have I not found a spark? The Chariot, Reversed
  2. What can I do to attract the right person? The Ace of Cups
  3. How can I encourage a spark? The King of Wands

The Chariot Reversed indicates that Jacqueline hasn’t found the spark because she’s out of control-- she’s charging full speed ahead with no direction or mastery. She should take some time to really figure out what she wants in a partner before getting back in the game. After all, if she doesn’t know what she wants, how can she manifest it? The Ace of Cups tells her that she needs to be open-hearted and fully present in her feelings, while The King of Wands tells her to encourage a spark by taking the lead sometimes. She needs to develop confidence, charisma and demonstrate the sparkling fire within herself-- once she lets that shine, the spark between her and the right person will ignite. After all, Jacqueline knows that she hasn’t always stood in her power in past relationships, so she should work on figuring out what she wants and needs out of a partner and not be afraid to stand up for that. The relationship can’t always bend around her partner’s needs-- it also needs to be shaped by her needs.

For your practice, let’s look at another scenario. Let’s say that instead of looking for spark romance, Jacqueline is looking to figure out her next career move. She’s been dissatisfied with her job lately, but still loves the company she works for-- she needs some advice, so she turns to her tarot deck. Below are her questions and tarot deck pulls:

  1. Why have I been so bored if I love the company? Death, Reversed
  2. What should I do to move my career forward? The King of Wands
  3. How can I accomplish what #2 is telling me? The Ace of Swords

When interpreting these answers, think about how their meaning relates to both the question asked and the situation. It should all tie together in a narrative that makes sense. If it doesn't make sense, go back and look at what feels like it doesn’t fit-- it is the meaning? The role that the card plays in the answer? Go back to your tarot journal and research to see if there is a layer to the meaning that you’re missing.

Who embodies the King of Wands in your life? Image courtesy of Megapixl.

We’d love to hear your answers! Leave them in the comments below, and be on the lookout for more of these tarot interpretation articles about the minor arcana. We’ve already done the major arcana, so check those out, too! Blessed be, cardslingers.

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Jean Linder

Jean Linder is a writer and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA.
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