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Saturday, August 15th, 2009 10:10 pm
As I have begun to read tarot more frequently and more seriously, I have noticed that there are several pairs of cards that seem to me to have very similar meanings.  There are some cards (like the Seven of Cups, for instance) that are very clear in my mind.  I can see them in a spread and have a group of meanings that are sharp, clear, and individual to that card.  However, with cards in my "confusing pairs" list, I have a hard time differentiating between the two of them when I read, and it throws me off.  In this case, I keep asking myself, "What's the difference?  Why does it matter that I got the Two of Wands and not the Three?  They can't be interchangable..." 

So, in an attempt to clear up this problem, I've decided to do some study.  For each similar pair, I'll choose a few decks and pull the cards in question from each of them.  After examining the images on the cards as a group, I'll look up definitions and insights in various books, including the deck-specific books for the decks I'm using, if I have them.  Finally, I'll try and post anything I've learned or realized while doing the exercise. (I know I'm not the be-all, end-all of tarot interpretation, so when I make lofty sounding statements like "X card means..." I'm doing so because otherwise I'd be using "for me, this means..." and "I think" every other line.)


One of the reaasons I was confused about these cards is that lots of books do describe them in such similar ways.  Both of them have to do with leadership, both of them have to do with originality.  Having read several different perspectives on the cards, I've come to the conclusion that both of them highlight different aspects of leadership/authority (this might be authority over the self as well as over others...).

The Two of Wands is all about authority that is rooted in charisma, in knowing one's own power.  It's the recognition of one's own soveriegnty and the ability to make choices and effect change. People tend to gravitate toward leaders who know who they are and have the ambition (and sometimes the audacity) to make things happen. The originality that this card symbolizes is that of a person who is too self-assured, too cheeky to toe the line, play it safe, or quash an idea just becasue "it's never been done that way before."

The Two of Wands also seems to be very restless energy.  In the Waite-Smith deck (I'm trying to stop saying Rider-Waite... Pamela Coleman Smith deserves to have her name thrown in there!), the man has his back half-turned to the viewer, and he's holding a globe or miniature world. One of the interpretations I read suggested that, having the world in his hands (having achieved success in some large venture?), he is already looking forward, wanting to move on to the next challenge.  The drive to move, to be using that power and creativity to do ever bigger and better things is a key meaning of this card.

The Three of Wands seems to have a much more stable energy.  The leadership aspect that this card deals with is perspective.  This card symbolizes leadership that is based on knowledge and wisdom, on the ability to look at things from new angles. It's a more practical card than the Two of Wands, but I think that risk-taking and originality are still contained within its meaning.  The difference is that the Three of Wands represents originality that comes from wisdom/insight rather than brashness.  It's the difference between the person who makes a new discovery becasue she has studied every aspect of a problem and has special insight into what might be done to solve it and the person who makes a discovery because she is trying things that everyone else has written off as foolhardy.  We need both types in the world, I think.

I said that the Three of Wands still involves an element of risk-taking, as well, and I stand by that.  However, once again it's risk that is founded on a clear, wise assessment of the situation.  I can see how that fits with the meaning of this card that relates to new projects or new ideas.  The message of the Three of Wands in that area seems to be, "Get perspective, take stock of where you are, think about what you already know or might need to know before beginning."

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