Morning is due to all —
To some — the Night —
To an imperial few —
The Auroral light.
Emily Dickinson, poem I
I know, I know, the Ace of Wands is the herald of spring, the beginning of the Aries season… and we are in May now! But I hope you forgive me as the spring has been dawdling a bit in the UK and it hasn’t been until the last few days that I can say that it’s truly among us. I went to the Forest of Dean a couple of weeks ago to see its famous carpet of bluebells and there were none! Methinks another visit is in order.
The number one is the first of the natural numbers; it is the one who has the power to decree whether a number is prime or not; itself being above that classification, he is not one of them but the one who defines what they are: primes are those numbers than can only be divided by themselves or by 1. Both the Ancient Greek, who liked to attribute sexual characteristics to numbers, and the Chinese thought that prime numbers were macho numbers because they resisted any attempt to be broken down into a product of smaller numbers. It is not surprising given the fiercely male-gender paradigm those societies were based on. Number 1 fits the bill nicely if only for its similarity with the male organ.
Here we have four examples of Aces from my small collection of tarot decks. Being the Wands the fire suit, all of them include the flames surrounding the rod, which each artist has drawn in a different way:
- a ray of light sending forth curly flames in (1),
- a freshly pruned branch in (2),
- a regal sceptre enveloped by fire in (3)
- and what looks like the neck of a guitar in (4) (isn’t that charming?).
Looking closely, the ones in Crowley seem snakes rather than tongues of fire. I find myself attracted and intrigued by the images in this deck but it’s too hermetic for me, I’ve never been able to read anything out of them. Although, after reading what Barbara Walker has to say about the Ace of Wands, I think I get the image in this particular Crowley‘s card.
Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Chilean artist behind the resurrection of this version of the Marseille Tarot, has some interesting reflections about this Ace in his book La voie du Tarot*. He says that the creative energy embodied by this trump is androginous because, even if the Ace has a phallic form, its tip looks like a yoni. He also explains the meaning of the cut branches along the wand, it’s all about the direction we choose when using the energy that the Ace of wands brings to the table: “one cannot create this energy, the only thing one can do with it is to wisely choose in which direction it is going to be directed”
Barbara Walker goes back to the origins and talks about the ancient strife between the Goddess and the Patriarchal Gods; when the serpent was considered the firstborn of the Goddess, who had power over it. It is interesting to note how the victor of his battle is shown in Catholic iconography, it is common to depict the Virgin Mary, in her incarnation as the Blessed Virgin, treading over the head of the serpent. She could overcome the evil snake because she was born free of sin.
There is also a wonderful paragraph that has made me quite anxious to re-read some Arthurian legends or, at least to watch Excalibur again:
Five thousands years ago, the pole star was Alpha Draconis, the Dragon’s Eye. Precession of equinoxes since moved the north celestial pole to the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. This subtle precession was interestingly personified in Celtic Myth. King Arthur’s name has been derived from Welsh Arth Vawr, Heavenly Bear. His predecessor was Uther Pendragon, which means “Wonderful Head of the Dragon”
Barbara G. Walker The Secrets of the Tarot. Origins, History and Symbolism p. 164
So, we have got a card that means start, power, new foundations, Creativity with a capital C, plenty of potential. As always, when Aces turn up in a spread they are usually sign of something good coming up, a torrent of new energy that should be channeled in the right direction.
And, unlike Ms Dickinson says in the poem that opened this post, anyone can be one of those Imperial few, as long as one can harness this surge of Auroral light.
As an amulet, it is very useful when someone is feeling stagnant and needs a bit of a push to break the statu quo.
Next time, I’ll talk about a spread based on Gestalt psychology and a card from the suit of Pentacles, I haven’t decided which one yet.
*Destiny Books published an English version in 2009: The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards.