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Monday, 17 December 2012

You thought that was the 2 of Wands, didn't you?

Arthurian Tarot, 1990
Today's card from Arthurian Tarot (Matthews, Aquarian Press 1990) is a good example of the confusing nature of the minor arcana (or 'Lesser Powers') in this deck. We have a sunset landscape, a standing stone, and two spears propped against it, crossed. Two of Wands, your mind clicks into gear. But no. The title at the bottom of the card says, 'Spear Five'. Five of Wands? You what? So here I was, thinking of alliances, of combined force, of choices, of all those things associated with 2 of Wands. And now I have to back up and think of five little boys play fighting with long sticks (the traditional RWS image). I suppose it depends how deeply entrenched you are in Rider Waite Smith imagery, but even a beginner would likely squint back and forth from the title to the image, searching the background in vain for three more spears.

The divinatory meaning given in Hallowquest, the companion book, is the usual, 'contention, salutary struggle, competitiveness, obstruction, dictatorial attitudes' and so on. The image doesn't look all that contentious to me. If you contemplate it, it does take on a sort of war-like drama, with the setting sun, the long shadow of the standing stone, and the crossed spears suggesting conflict rather than peace. But the scene seems rather tranquil for 'struggle' or 'competitiveness'. If we look at the numerological aspect, 5s being imbalance or instability, and wands being fire, we could translate it as 'imbalance of fire', and suggest interpretations based on that. Maybe the slanting sunlight and shadow and the precariously propped spears lend themselves a bit better to that sort of thinking.

Before I look at what this might mean for my day, I'd like to make mention of something that really niggles me about the book to this deck. For each card, there is a black and white image, a short verbal description, the 'meaning', and something called 'background'. I find the 'background' notes confusing and annoying and I don't see what anyone gets out of reading them. They never seem to have any bearing on either the image in the card or the meaning of the card. For example, Spear Five says, 'The combat of Balin and Balan is the most grievous in the whole of Arthurian literature, since they are brothers and they kill each other, unknowingly. Balin's sword is set by Merlin in a floating stone which Galahad later draws to prove his right to sit at the Round Table.' What? So where are the brothers? Where is the sword? What has this got to do with the traditional meanings that are listed? How is this card EVER supposed to cue that episode from the legends in my memory? What would it mean to a reading if I did manage to remember it? What does it add to the card? Why are you telling me this? WTF?

So I just ignore those.

Okay, so maybe I just demonstrated a bit of contentiousness there, and this card could be pointing to an attitude problem today.

May I catch myself before I fall into sarcastic responses or fault finding. 

Mantra: Om shanti om

Flower essence: Vine (to avoid being overly critical or intolerant)


  1. LOL, I didn't remember about the background notes. They really don't sound very relevant. I kind of see the crossed spears as being "at crosspurposes". Still, for battle etc they could have had a more dramatic sky!

    Your posts are definitely reminding me why I rarely pull this deck out...

  2. Some of these cards are very misleading and must be difficult to translate if you are doing readings for folk. I'd ammediatley translate this card as the two of something, but 5.......blimey!