Wands is the suit of fire and is associated with the vital spirit and therefore with the spark of life that animates living things. The Latin word anima, from which we derive both the words animal and animate, means soul or spirit and can mean courage and high spirits. The suit of fire represents the qualities of movement, vitality, and creativity.
Primitive living things such as these salamanders—who are without the capacity for complex feeling (Cups) and thinking (Swords)—are connected with the power of fire because the spirit and the breath of life is within them. Their little bodies (Disks) have been made more than the simple lump of matter by something that is difficult to define and to describe. They are animate beings whose capacity for movement is the obvious sign of the dynamic life force within them.
In ancient times salamanders were thought to be born in fire. In fact, the class of elemental spirits ruled by the element fire is called salamanders. Perhaps this legend exists because salamanders made their homes in firewood and when the wood was kindled an occasional salamander crawled out to escape the blaze. Or perhaps it was because salamanders are often seen in the autumn, when the bright fire-colored leaves fall to earth, and the ancient people who saw them were reminded of the orange and yellow flames of the hearth. To us, the idea of salamanders born out of fire seems an odd contradiction; it is a puzzling contrast to their true nature as water creatures. In this way the salamander and the fiery leaves of fall symbolize the duality inherent in the number two. The Two of Wands is a symbol of the division and opposition of fire and water.
he interplay of opposites, as we have seen in the Two of Disks, is the beginning place of new creation. Here, in the suit of Wands, it is an interplay of the spirit of living things. The active interplay of fire and water creates steam, which is a symbol of the transcendence of the spirit. Steam is an ethereal form of water; it has transcended its need for a container to hold it just as the spirit of the living creature can transcend the body to directly experience the life force it shares with others. This is the spirit in which primitive creatures live. They cannot experience their own individuality, but the instinctual vitality of their kind runs through them. As humans we yearn for this experience: to join with another and in interplay to lose ourselves in the experience of unity. When this rare gift comes to us we call it a spiritual experience.
The dark color of these newts is symbolic of the earth they have evolved from. Their bright bellies, which are fiery orange, symbolize the vital energy and their intimate connection with the fiery suit. They combine in their tiny bodies the two first suits and are symbolic of the development of the suit of Disks into Wands. Animals represent potent creativity—one of the primary meanings of Wands—because unlike the mineral world, they actively complete the sexual act, which biologically expresses the fundamental creativity of life. When an animal recreates its own kind it performs the act through its own urgency to fulfill the procreative needs of the animal world.
Behind the autumn leaves, instead of the dark earth, is the starry sky. In very ancient times the stars were thought to be the hearth fires of the spirits in their world beyond the sky. The earth was the final resting place of most ancient people, whose eventual bed was a hole in the darkness of the soil. The nutrients released by the decomposition of the flesh were the source of the rich green life of the plants that grow above the burial pit. The spark of new life, symbolized by the stars, represents the spirits of the dead that speak to us about life. The stars symbolize the seeds of the grasses and other plants that will be born in the spring through the decomposition of leaves that cover and protect them in the soil. Or, perhaps they symbolize the spirit essence of living beings, as the ancients believed. Their multiplicity symbolizes the variety of paths and unique ways of being in the dance of the spirit.
The autumn leaves symbolize the spirit of life as it returns to the earth, from which the vital power originally flowed into the trees. Trees were widely worshiped all over the ancient world for their long life and strength. The living spirit of the great forests of ancient Europe permeated the lives of the ancients. The trees were symbolic of their forest God, who was the lover of the Great Earth Goddess, from whom all life flowed. His life force was manifested in the trees and was especially recognized as the long straight trunks—symbolic of the God’s mighty phallus—and the leaves, his semen. As the leaves fell back to the ground they provided the needed spark for the fertile earth. The autumn leaves also imply a return to the inner life, just as people return to the home when the cold weather and long nights advance, and the sun retreats to its winter path.
In interpretation, this card symbolizes growth of the spirit and its yearning for unification with its opposite and with others of its kind. We often need to connect with that which is different from ourselves to grow and to change. The steam that arises from the combination of fire and water is symbolic of the action that joins opposing forces. This is the development the Two of Wands suggests; that the interaction of opposites will lead to a higher order and a higher level of development. The fallen and fertile leaves may suggest that in order for the spark of this new development to take, something must be let go. The meeting of opposites in compromise may be the beginning of unity.
The Two of Wands implies traveling—or journeying—of the spirit, as the salamander travels toward the water when autumn arrives. It may be an inner journey because in the fall, when the leaves are bright and fiery, we turn toward the hearth and the home for the nurturing and growth of the spirit. This card is about that kind of growth and change. When we set out on a journey of the spirit, we turn inward first and then reach out to our loved ones, with whom we have experienced an inner merging.
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