All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
J.R.R. Tolkien, in the words of Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring
Here in the midst of the “eclipse window,” between last week’s lunar eclipse and next week’s hugely important solar eclipse, we welcome another card from the Wands suit. Let us rejoice with the happy Four of Wands.
The Tarot’s Fours focus on grounding, order, and stability. And of course, Wands are ruled by the element of Fire: passion, action, and magic. When we are able to stabilize the energetic, creative Wands, a happy, nourishing outcome is the result.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, we see a couple approaching the bower, which very much resembles a Jewish wedding chuppa. Yet it is not covered.
Instead, the four erect Wands are connected by the interwoven flowers and fruit, obvious references to fertility, abundance, beauty, and growth.
The man and woman are exuberantly waving flowers, and they are followed, or perhaps watched, by a crowd further back. Also in the background, we see the walled citadel, but this celebration is under sunny skies, outdoors in the fresh open air.
The happy couple is also crowned with flowers, or maybe they are the laurel wreaths of victory.
The Sacred Marriage
One of the greatest living Tarot authors and experts, Mary K. Greer, weighs in on this important card. She observes that it depicts a celebration of the duality of animus and anima coming together in harmony.
It may represent the Hieros gamos (the sacred marriage) that integrates, not only the male and female, but opposing energies within the self.
This is one of the cards that artist Pamela Colman Smith, who was also a theater designer, created with a long, double horizontal line in the foreground, separating the players and scenery into a backdrop, as in the theater. It is as if the wands were floating in front of a stage, where the actors are playing their roles.
This could indicate that the marriage we are seeing may or may not be a literal one. With Mercury in retrograde, and the dying Moon, this week may not be the most auspicious timing for an actual wedding.
Instead, Mary notes that the Four of Wands is a “rite of passage; in the Golden Dawn system it’s called ‘completion’ and its astrological attribute, Venus in Aries, represents the equinoxes, marking the end of one stage of life, and the beginning of another.”
Although this card has not come to visit at an Equinox (and Venus is currently in Cancer), it is here during the week that begins with the waning quarter Moon that is exactly between the Lunar eclipse of last Monday’s Full Moon and the solar eclipse/New Moon next week.
The famed American astrologer, Steven Forrest writes (his emphasized notes included):
It will be intriguing to watch the daily headlines through this crystal ball – both the newspaper headlines and your personal ones – from about August 7 onward to the date of the eclipse. Wheels that start turning during that time are dying wheels.
From eclipse-day on August 21 onward to about the end of the month, the energy is different. It has more momentum and staying power, for good or for ill.
Sabre-tooth tigers must have been magnificent beasts, but when I go hiking I take some comfort in their extinction. Without endings, there could be no beginnings. When you are touched personally by an eclipse, that is essentially your situation. In your life, something must die so that something new can be born.
One trick is to take it on faith that something is being born even though you can’t yet see it. Recognize that whatever is dying needs to get out of the way. You can take comfort in that perspective now – or you can take comfort in it later.
The Four of Wands is the happy ending that we all long for. So let us hope, and take it on faith, that it offers us clear guidance during this, our rite of passage.
For, if not all of humanity, at least America’s rite of passage is where we surely are.
Courage In Tower Times
Along with many of my colleagues, I believe that we are now experiencing “Tower times,” a reference to the Tower card of the Tarot.
My friend Byron Ballard explains, “We are living in times when these massive, ancient and toxic systems, that have both created civilization as we know it and doomed it, are crashing under their own weight of history and grief. It is the death throes of patriarchy that we are experiencing and it will die as it has lived—in violence and oppression and injustice and death.”
Grim, right? So what has that got to do with this joyful Four of Wands?
Another one of the greatest living Tarot authors and experts, Rachel Pollack, observes that it is a direct counterpoint to the Tower in the Major Arcana. She writes:
The two figures in that Major card are dressed very similarly (even to blue and red robes) to the two in the Four of Wands. In its less esoteric meanings the Tower shows the explosion that results when people allow a repressive or miserable situation to build up to an intolerable level.
In the Four of Wands, optimism and love of freedom carry the people, together, out of their walled city before it becomes a Tower-like prison.
When we allow systems of “power over,” exclusion, and repression to grow, usually in a diabolical deal to feel protected and safe, we sow the seeds of disaster.
But the Four of Wands is the exact opposite — inviting us to come out of our closets, out of hiding, out into the open in order to live with courage and authenticity. The couple stands on equal footing. We are seeing that we can create harmony with one another and the land, coexisting together in generosity and freedom.
This would be an ideal card to represent sustainable living – growth in ways that are in balance with the Greater Good.
For it is also the card of the happy home, the fruitful harvest celebrated after focused efforts, and the concord of community. Perfect timing as we begin our harvest fairs and festivals in the Northern Hemisphere.
With the waning Moon, and this powerful eclipse window, this is the week to jettison our own “Tower” baggage: habits, situations, attitudes, and even material items that interfere with our ability to live a more radiant, abundant, and interconnected life.
What seeds of your desires that you planted in tender Spring are now ready for harvest? When you use your creativity and power in a practical, grounded way, what magical results might be possible?
Can you create more stable, simple, and generous ways of enjoying and sharing your life?
In what way is it time for you to come out of your fortress? Do you long to revel in a happy reunion with loved ones?
What beauty and abundance would you like to celebrate and share with your family, friends, and neighbors? What rites or vows are you longing to make, under the wide open skies, for all to see?
The Four of Wands shows us that when we are able to ground the power of fiery Wands, physical manifestation follows. When the fertility in the life force of Wands grows roots, it becomes joy shared.
The Four of Wands reminds us that most of the real gold in life does not glitter. Our truest treasures are home, family, friendships, community, and the sweet, bountiful Earth Herself.
May your roots be passionate and deep; may your harvests be golden and good — the fruition of your own heart’s happy morning.