When we think we’re multitasking we’re actually multiswitching. That is what the brain is very good at doing – quickly diverting its attention from one place to the next. We think we’re being productive. We are, indeed, being busy. But in reality we’re simply giving ourselves extra work.
Michael Harris, author and journalist
Ha! Here is a messenger that, when I pulled it, my first reaction was — AGAIN?!?! And yet, the fact is, this card has only turned up twice before, in all the 15 years I have been sharing my Card of the Week.
I suppose it just makes me tired seeing it. In any case, for only the third time, let us say hello to the poor fellow hauling the Ten of Wands.
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 past posts, 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.
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 as though he is about to stumble. 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. 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?”
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 with one additional rod, presumably heading home after the battle. But is he about to bash into an illustrated curtain at the back of a stage?
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 Harvest Moon
We begin this week with the famed Harvest Moon arriving only one degree from the Equinox point, when the Sun moved into the sign of Libra.
When the Sun is in Libra, the Full Moon is in the sign of Aries, which means we are being influenced by the initiator of the zodiac. Although air sign Libra seeks diplomacy, balance, and avoids confrontation, Aries likes to start new things in a BIG way — aggressive, willful, courageous, and pushing for its fiery desires. Very Wands-y.
In addition, astrologer Judy Joyce admonishes that this Full Moon is “squaring Saturn, aka ‘the Lord of Karma.’ We very literally could be harvesting what we have sown on many levels. Concentrating on work and taking responsibility for past actions will be the best approach. Step up to the task at hand. Keep an open mind.”
The Ten of Wands warns that there is a temptation to step up to too many tasks, and shoulder too much responsibility. Some are possibly not even our own.
With the rare timing of this card’s visit, perhaps we should be extra careful of Aries and Saturn joining forces in ways that would have us overestimate our obligations, thereby setting us up for burnout and exhaustion.
Like the figure slogging along with the ten wooden poles, we can become blinded by our burdens, unable to see the path in front of us, and in jeopardy of losing it all.
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.
But while it is true that the Ten of Wands offers a bundle of power and energy, it can easily mutate from joyful enthusiasm to drudgery, workaholism, and over-committment.
That’s why, in my experience, this card most often comes up for people who have agreed to be overly extended in some situation.
“Leave it to me,” they assure everyone, as they stubbornly refuse offers of assistance. They may not want, or even know how, 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 it.
Eventually, Fire will out. Anger and resentment will ignite if we cannot release some of our drama. “Busy” and “productive” are not the same things.
Instead, simplify! Direct your energy in ways that are inspiring, not burdensome; playful, not weighed down by a sense of duty, obligation, or need for approval.
Beware of overload and soldiering on, which can invite inevitable collapse.
Practice pacing yourself and prioritizing with self-compassion. Stop if 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.