People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.
For only the second time EVER (every single week, for fourteen years) in this final week of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Ten of Wands drops by for a visit.
In the numerology of the Tarot, the Nines are completion, and the Tens are the overflow, spilling into the next cycle.
And as you may know from the abundance of them we’ve received lately, the Wands suit is ruled by the element of Fire. So it presides over matters of energy, sexuality, change, transformation, passion, action, and the life force.
Framed against a clear, deep blue sky, heading towards the buildings in the background, the broad-backed figure struggles under the weight of his bundle. You have to wonder why he grabbed such an unwieldy cargo in a way that looks so painful and inefficient. Maybe he preferred speed instead of careful planning.
Truly it looks like he will not get much farther without dropping it, as the weight can’t possibly be evenly distributed, and only his left hand is holding all the rods together.
Although there is nothing truly menacing in this card, it looks quite possible that he may fall with his next step. And if that happens, he stands to lose it all.
Staging and Showing Off
Another one of Pamela Colman Smith’s “stage” cards that feature a double horizontal line suggesting a theatrical performance, there is a hint of artifice in this scene.
Some Tarot scholars have mused that perhaps this is the same man we see in the (also staged) Nine of Wands, which just visited us three weeks ago. Is it only coincidence that this figure’s clothing is the same in both cards?
Are these situations contrived on some level, constructed to tell a story or evoke an emotional response from the “audience?”
Is he about to bash into an illustrated curtain at the back of a stage? Perhaps the man depicted has, in the Ten, disarmed the stalemate of the Nine by physically gathering and removing the staves that acted as a barrier. Now, he trudges away, presumably heading home after the battle.
As mentioned above, the Nines of the Tarot are the natural conclusion of the suit, with the Tens often pointing the way to possibilities for a new chapter.
But with Wands emphasizing ego, action, and energy, endings are difficult, and a final resolution may be elusive or even impossible.
Tarot deck creator and expert Rachel Pollack writes of this card, “We see here the great Wands problem. The Fire energy acts without thinking, takes on new problems simply for the challenge.
“But these situations and responsibilities do not go away when the person becomes bored and wants to go on to something new. They remain and can swamp the fire that seemed to conquer them.”
The Myth of Having and Doing It All
As I pulled this for the week ahead, I was thinking of all the things we may be anxious to do, in this final week of Winter (or Summer, for our friends below the Equator).
Preparing for the Equinox, surmounting the current political storms, initiating new projects with the change of the seasons — so many busy possibilities open before us.
That surge of creative energy is wonderful, but without judicious choices, it can lead to overwhelm, as our card warns.
The images of happy, shiny people who seem to have it all are jammed into our faces day and night by all the commerce and media in which we are immersed.
But as we know in our hearts (if only we could stop a moment!), this idealization is not only impossible, it is dangerous.
Like the figure slogging along with the ten wooden poles, we can become blinded by our burden, unable to see the path in front of us, and in jeopardy of losing it all.
Be careful of having your passions set you up for overwhelm and burnout. It is far too easy in our culture for us to take on too much.
Know When to Say When
However, there are positive aspects to this card, too. Sometimes we have to persist in order to achieve our goals. As many Fiery athletes will tell you, you have to “go for the burn,” in order to build your strength and stamina. If there are challenges ahead for you, perhaps you are being asked to test your limits and hang tough.
The Ten offers a bundle of power and energy, but it can easily mutate from joyful enthusiasm to drudgery, workaholism, and egocentric overcommittment.
That’s why, in my experience, this card most often comes up for people who have agreed to be overly extended in a situation.
“Leave it to me,” they assure everyone, as they stubbornly refuse offers of assistance. They do not know how, or even want, to say no.
Be careful not to slip into a habit of being the one who takes on all the responsibility – in relationships, in work, in all the things that need to get done. There is a fine line between hero and martyr and this week we may be tested on that.
Eventually, Fire will out. Anger and resentment will ignite if we cannot release some of our drama.
Instead, direct your energy in ways that are inspiring, not burdensome; joyful, not weighed down by a sense of duty, obligation, or need for approval.
Beware of overload and soldiering on no matter what. Learn how to pace and prioritize; stop when you are in pain. Honor your limitations and do not call them failures. Ask for help before you need it.
You do not always have to play the part of “the strong one.” Focus on what matters most to you, and let the rest of it go.
If this is an inconvenience or disappointment to some people, too bad.
This week, whatever load you are shouldering, the Tarot has got your back.