Tarot Tuesday: The Three of Wands



There’s something almost too zen about this figure and the way he gazes out over the horizon. His back is to us, but he seems to be basking in the warm glow from either a sunrise or a sunset. And he’s so at peace that he doesn’t seem to mind whether the ships below are making their way to or from the harbor. Perhaps he has goods on them, or perhaps there are friends or family members aboard—either way, he’s willing to let them come and go without a trace of anxiety.

He seems remarkably steady for the suit of Wands. Wands represent fire in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, and therefore passion and ambition and energy—but also, perhaps, insight or even enlightenment. And look at the way the three wands are planted in the earth, giving an impression of stability. He has his hand lightly on one of them, but he doesn’t seem to need it for support. He’s standing on his own.

This card reminded me of a rather beautiful moment in the premiere of Supernatural this season: Keep Calm and Carry On. Don’t worry; nothing too spoilery ahead. It’s just that Dean Winchester took a moment to explain what he thinks of being a hunter to someone he cares about, and in that moment he seemed completely at peace with his life and his work. I think it was the most zen we’ve ever seen him. I also think he earned that peace, in light of the growth we saw in him last season.


Dean and his moment of zen in Keep Calm and Carry On

That said, if he carries that sense of peace forward, it will make for a significant character shift. I’m not against that—especially since we’re in the twelfth season and, yeah, he deserves to work out some of his issues by now. But a character who has found his zen presents special challenges. Inner conflict, after all, is the meat of a lot of stories.

Speaking of character growth, many people see this card as the companion of the Two of Wands. I won’t spend too much time on that card here, but it presents us with someone full of ambition and enterprise. Someone who’s not zen about the coming and going of ships. Actually, there are no ships in sight, but they’re almost implied. He seems to have lofty plans for the unseen vessels.



Some people think the Three of Wands is an older, wiser version of the Two of Wands. I’m not so sure; their clothes seem to reflect two vastly different time periods. But it’s a compelling theory.

Overall, I think the figure in the Two of Wands is easier to work with, story-wise. If he does indeed grow into the figure in the Three of Wands, that might represent an end to his personal arc. He might then become more suited to the role of a mentor than to that of a main character.

How do you feel about characters who attain a measure of peace? And how do you handle such characters in your story? Can you come up with good examples in a story you’ve read or written?

Or maybe you have a completely different interpretation of these cards. Let me know! And, as always, if this card—er, either card, in this case—inspires a story, meta or poem, please leave a link in the comments.

Meanwhile, we need a random card for next week. Ooh! We’re back to the Major Arcana with the Wheel of Fortune.

About Jenn Moss

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5 Responses to Tarot Tuesday: The Three of Wands

  1. Quintessential Editor says:

    These wands are really interesting looking. Actual living things coming from the earth. I can’t help but agree with the two of wands being the younger version of the three of wands. In the two of wands card you have a figure that is slightly open to us. His back isn’t turned, and thus, feels more approachable. In this sense, he feels open to influence and advice.

    In his hand the world sits—future adventures await. We know the world is out there in front of him, but unlike the three of wands, we don’t see the ships. Like you mentioned, the focus is on the destination, not the journey.

    Given my experience as a sailor who spent many years at sea, I can tell you junior sailors spend a large amount of their time jawing-on about getting to port. Sure, more experienced hands think about it, but we knew focusing on the horizon would lead to madness. If you could learn to focus on the jobs at hand, no matter how big or small, time passes more quickly.

    I think this young adventurer leaves on a quest for the wand. The wand can be any number of things both tangible and metaphorical. In the three of wands the adventurer has returned, wand in hand. He doesn’t let it go because he knows the struggle it took to acquire and bring back. His back is to us. He is no longer open to the idle chatter of dreaming adventurers. He knows the struggle and looks knowingly at those embarking on the journey. His eyes no longer linger on the horizon, but on the water in front of him.

    In terms of archetype, I see the transition from hero to mentor. In terms of tarot, I have no clue outside of the secrets you have shared 🙂 I know I rehashed I lot of what you said, but I was just having some fun writing. Thanks for sharing these, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      I don’t think you rehashed anything, except that we both see the figure in the Three of Wands as more of a mentor than a potential main character. You gave me lots new to think about, in fact.

      For example, I’ve never looked at figure in the Two of Wands as an adventurer who goes on his own voyage to find that third wand. I’ve always assumed (perhaps because of his fine clothing) that he was more an investor who sent other people out on grand adventures, hoping to make a profit! But if he’s willing to leave the comforts of home behind him, he becomes a much more interesting character to me.

      Your experience as a sailor is perfect for these two cards as well. That’s the beauty of the Tarot–so much is open to interpretation! Yes, there are certain esoteric themes we can read up on, depending on how Hermetic we want to get, but the brunt of meaning needs to come from personal experiences–it needs to come from what we read into the cards.

      Thanks for this eye-opening comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Quintessential Editor says:

        I love how so many different perspectives make the image clearer. I really enjoy the subjective nature of these tarot entries and they never fail to get me thinking. For instance:

        When I saw the fresh and fancy clothes it made me feel even more strongly about the idea this was a young adventurer. The idea stems from personal experience.

        When I was at combat camera, after I had deployed to Iraq as a combat cameraman, one of my jobs was training the new folks. The focus was on teaching them how to integrate seamlessly with units from different branches (combat camera men and women attach to these units and document missions as they happen in real-time).

        I also was one of the people in charge of ordering new equipment. Body armor, helmets, weapon attachments, and all of the gear you would need. The idea was to look exactly like the unit you attached to and foster equipment interchangeability. As a rule, we always issued more gear than a person would need. For camera batteries and other equipment of this nature the saying was, “One is none, two is one.”

        I would stress to these new arrivals, especially after having them put on all of this equipment and do marches (which made them look like walking equipment traders/military nomads) that you should only use what you REALLY need. Keep the rest aside in case something breaks on you, as it takes a while to ship items to remote locations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, or wherever you might find yourself as a COMCAM guy or gal.

        Despite my warnings, during field training evolution these folks would be carrying every “cool guy” piece of equipment they could. While they did look like they could have been on the cover of a hollywood movie poster, it wasn’t practical. In essence, they had a perception of what they would use, but hadn’t experience the reality of real-world operations.

        When they would come back from their deployments, their gear would be organized very differently. During field training, you could tell who had deployed and who hadn’t yet simply by how they looked and how their equipment was stowed. For me, this is evident in the card. The idea the two of wands guy is wearing fancier clothing makes me feel like this reflects youthful inexperience.

        The idea the two of wands card image has the character unsupported holding an item, and the three of wands card has the character standing and half-leaning also makes me feel this way. A common saying for those who deployed is, “Why stand when you can sit, and why sit when you can lie down, and why lie down when you can sleep?”

        So during breaks in forced marches or field evolutions, the younger folks would often be walking around talking/fiddling with their gear, and the people who have deployed take the advantage to sit, sprawl out, and relax. The younger folks will poke fun at this perceived “laziness” but when they get back from a deployment rotation, you’ll find them sitting on their butts relaxing whenever they get a chance.

        Well, your tarot entry has pulled a huge number of words from me again. They never fail to get me thinking and writing. Love it! Thanks again for sharing these 🙂


  2. So this is the first time reading one from your Tarot series and, I have to say, this approach to conversing about writing is very cool and unique! What a way to draw inspiration!

    As I look at these two cards, I see characters that are similar, yet have different views on life – different hardships experienced. (I’m gathering this by the way that they stand, how they’re dressed, and how they look out upon the world before them.)

    In a tarot reading I had, I was given the card of Temperance. I loved that card – I loved the idea of two halves belonging to a very complex whole, of combative attributes coexisting. I very much see Temperance in myself and, while it’s helpful, as I find I can shift my perspectives easily from on to the other, it also sometimes gets in the way. When I have it figured out though, it makes for great characters! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      So glad you enjoyed this post! I think the Tarot is an excellent writing tool.

      Yes, there are lots of different ways to look at these two cards, and how closely they’re related. Are they two different figures entirely, both of the same suit and both with a connection to the sea? Or does the figure in the Two actually grow into the figure in the Three, complete with the changes you noted? There’s no right or wrong answer, of course. It’s all a matter of how we see the cards and the personal meanings we draw from them.

      Ooh, Temperance. That one hasn’t come up yet. I’m drawing cards at random each week, discarding any repeats, so we will get to it!

      Liked by 1 person

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