When I first started learning Tarot, I was taught that the 3 of Wands symbolizes a need for patience. That’s it, and that’s all. As I was told at the time, the man in the card is waiting for the distant ships to come in, and nothing he does now can hasten their arrival. And so for quite some time, I believed that that was pretty much the sum total of what this card can mean: “patience is required.”
Months later, though, it occurred to me that hey, wait – for all we know, the ships might not be inbound at all! They might be heading *away* from shore…or just sailing by from one side of the image to the other. So the man might be preparing to receive incoming goods or visitors from an inbound ship, sure…but he might just as easily be gearing up to depart for distant lands himself, wishing a silent goodbye to some person who’s already embarked on a departing vessel, or just seeking to expand his operations by studying what else is out there beyond his usual concerns. Depending on the reading, any of these interpretations might apply, and all are equally valid. And a “need for patience” may have very little to do with the real core message.
It’s tempting when learning Tarot to just memorize a single specific interpretation per card, because at 78 cards per deck, that’s already a semi-tall order. Better in the long run, though, to arrive at an overall set of related specific definitions among which you can shuttle organically for each card. For me, for example, I now see the 3’s as being about growth in some form, while Wands are about the spirit. I can see multiple ways of interpreting this 3 of Wands image now in which the man in the card (and the querent receiving the reading) can go about achieving spiritual growth. Being willing and able to flow among these various possible alternatives in fluid fashion is critical in becoming a versatile reader!
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