Understanding the Ace of Wands Tarot Card

How to Understand and Interpret the Ace of Wands in any tarot reading

Image courtesy of San Antonio Tarot and Astrology Readings.

Many tarot newbies are often overwhelmed by the sheer number of cards in the deck, thinking that they have to memorize 72 cards. They also tend to think that the major arcana are the most difficult cards to understand, because their energy is so huge and mythic-- archetypes are intimidating, but once you realize that they are based upon monoliths of human experience, they’re easier to comprehend. The major arcana are the oldest cards in the deck-- probably the original cards of the deck-- and they pack a punch in a reading.

But what do you do when the cards aren’t major arcana? How do you understand and interpret the workhorses of the tarot deck-- the minor arcana? In this next step in our tarot articles, we’ll leave the major arcana and take a closer look at knowing the minor arcana at the same deep, intuitive level as we’ve explored the major arcana, beginning with the aces.

The minor arcana suites are divided into the four elements: earth, air, fire, water. We’ll begin our exploration of the Aces with fire-- the Ace of Wands. In this article, you’ll discover:

  1. What the Ace of Wands means
  2. Ways to understand the Ace of Wands
  3. Reading practice with the Ace of Wands

Fire up your soul, dear reader-- you’re in Wands territory now. And in the true spirit of Aces, let’s begin…

It’s up to you if you read reversals. Image courtesy of 78 Nights of Tarot.

What does the Ace of Wands mean?

You can think of Aces as sort of The Fool of each tarot suit, in the sense that each Ace is the beginning of a journey through that element. The element related to each suit is symbolized by an object that relates to a part of the human spirit. In the case of Fire, the object is wands (sometimes rods or staffs), which relates to creativity-- that “spark” that gets the ball rolling, and the passion that keeps it going.

And the Ace of Wands is the start of it all. The spark of life, this card marks the beginning of new inspiration, creativity, and passion. Perhaps the boldest card in the fire suit, the Ace needs that boldness to engender the kind of enthusiasm that overpowers insecurities and quiets fear-- it literally lights the fire under your butt and makes you move.

Just like The Fool indicates a blind leap of faith into a journey, the Ace of Wands tarot card indicates that you should go with your instincts and jump. If you can dream it, do it. This fiery ace is pure potential.

What if the Ace of Wands is reversed?

First of all, it’s up to your individual reading style as to whether or not you read reversals. Advice for the beginner varies-- some say it is easier to skip them at first, others suggest that you try reading them and see what feels right. Some readers ask their spirit guides if they want reversals read before each reading. Some practitioners have decks that specifically don’t discuss reversals, and others that do. We suggest that you spend some time with your cards and really get to know them before you start reading with them. Know them well enough that you only need one or two readings to decide whether that deck wants reversals read. Alternatively, you could do a tarot deck interview spread to help your decision.

Secondly, the Ace of Wands reversed means the energy has stopped-- there’s a blockage or a dampener put on the fire. Hesitancy or a delay in the spark. If further clarity is needed, grab a clarification card.

Examine the artwork in your deck and write in your tarot journal about its own symbolism. Image courtesy of Tarot Readings Online.

Ways to Understand the Ace of Wands

If you’ve read our Interpreting the Major Arcana series, you know by now that here at KelleeMaize.com, we’re big fans of keeping a tarot journey. This is especially important if you are a new cardslinger, or if you’re exploring a new deck. Even tarot professionals should keep a journal of readings, to see patterns and to revisit readings after some time has passed to gain deeper understanding.

In this tarot journal, keep records of card explorations, research, and readings. Take notes, ask yourself questions to return to later, and deck interviews with new decks. Establish a tarot practice-- a regular tarot routine-- and stick to it as best as your life’s circumstances allows. Even if you’ve had a deck for years, it's often worth going back and re-doing deck interviews and examining the artwork for a deeper understanding of symbolism.

Starting your tarot exploration with the artwork is an easy way to sharpen your understanding of each card, which also sharpens your intuition when you read. The traditional Ace of Wands artwork for the Rider-Smith-Waite deck depicts a hand reaching out of the clouds holding a stick sprouting leaves. The sprouted wand is held over a vast land, with a river running through it, trees sprouting, and a castle rising out of the landscape in the background.

The hand in the clouds is a classic method of indicating divinity-- in this case, divine inspiration. The divine inspiration has blessed the wand with the ability to spark life, symbolized by the leaves. The trees symbolize the potential of the wand to continue to grow if nurtured correctly-- it is the same with the castle. Sometimes the trees are colored golden yellow, to recall the color of flame. Indeed, the fiery suit of Wands often features the colors red and yellow.

But the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is not the only deck in town. Chances are you have different artwork, and if you have a guidebook for your deck, a slightly differently worded explanation of the card. In your tarot journal, ask yourself these questions, then research and answer them: What elements of the traditional artwork are present? What has changed? Research the main features of the artwork and record the symbolism.

But don’t stop there. Here are some more tarot journaling questions:

  • Research myths, legends, and folklore surrounding fire and take notes-- for starters, try looking up the myths about Prometheus and Raven and the role they played in the Greek and Native American stories, thoughts, and attitudes about fire.
  • What sparks creativity in you?
  • What does creativity mean to you?
  • Do you have any experiences with fire? What are they-- are they good or traumatic?
  • What ideas, projects, and passions do you have?
  • How do you nurture them?
  • Have you let anyone or anything block or dampen them? Have you let someone take your power over them away?
  • How can you take (or make actionable) ownership over them?
  • What does fire mean to you?
  • If you’re an artist, how would you draw the Ace of Wands card? What symbols would you include and why?
Salamanders are mythically said to be born in fire. Image courtesy of Bigstock.

Integrating it all into a reading

When performing a tarot reading, you need to keep in mind the meaning of the card, the role the card plays in the reading, and how it relates to the question at hand. Use your intuition and understanding of the card to integrate all of these pieces into a reading.

To demonstrate this, we’ll walk you through a simple, 3-card, past-present-future reading with the Ace of Wands. For this example, let’s say that Jessica’s job has started to offer a tuition program with a local community college. A long-time amateur photographer, Jessica is trying to decide if she should take advantage of this opportunity. She’s been gaining a bit of a following on Instagram and Facebook with her pictures, and has a notion to explore it further-- she’s just not sure how. So she shuffles her tarot deck and slings some cards. Below, we’ve broken down her reading for you:

Past: 4 of Cups (boredom, stagnation)

Present: Ace of Wands (sparks, beginning of creation, passion)

Future: The Magician (all of the tools are assembled and ready for use; informed action)

In the Past, perhaps at her work, Jessica has been standing still. She has been feeling stuck, and was unsure of how to move on in a secure manner. The Ace of Wands in the Present indicates that she should indulge that spark-- perhaps take classes in both photography and business-- because these notions she’s having have the potential to grow into something fruitful if given the correct attention and outlet. The Magician in the Future position further emphasizes this, as the education is the last tool she lacks to make this possible. Therefore, Jessica should take advantage of this new tuition benefit at the local community college. As hard as it will be, by working full time she’ll be financially stable while she gains the last few tools she needs to create a new future for herself with her photography.

So now it’s time for your homework. Take the same situation, but apply different cards:

Past: Ace of Wands

Present: The Hierophant

Future: 10 of Pentacles

What do you think? Leave your answer in the comments below, and don’t forget to include your reasoning and narrative!

The Ace of Wands is pure potential-- the spark of life. Image courtesy of Edelwyn.

The Ace of Wands is just the beginning. Look for our other Ace articles coming soon!

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Jean Linder

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