FIVE OF WANDS you will die

Placement: The Minor Arcana


Five youths, each bearing a staff twice their individual heights, battle one another awkwardly, or at least get in one another’s way. The background is a plain piece of grassy dirt, or maybe the top of a hill, because the horizon looks quite low.

In some early decks, nothing in that description applies, except for the presence of five wands, or sometimes arrows. These are sometimes surrounded by balls. See the Featured Image of this post, as proof that I am not fabricating the existence of these balls.

There is some controversy in the ranks of S.A.U.C.E. as to whether or not we should consider Minor Arcana cards with people on them to be canonical,* since the decks that currently exist in the public domain are the ones that show only the items associated with that suit, in this case five wands or staffs or arrows or clubs or, in decks from some countries, acorns, clovers or kayak paddles.


Right side up:

Customarily, the five cards of the Tarot represent the general positive qualities of human beings, both mental and physical. Five is a human number. On average, there are five large extremities to the human body: a head, two arms and two legs. Some human beings possess a sixth extremity, but that topic is covered by other cards in the Wands suit.

Fives are moreover about striving for balance. You are unbalanced. You are underfoot. People are constantly in your way and you are in theirs. Find a creative way to get around the problem or there will be bruises at the very least, and probable fatalities.


Upside down:

Bravo or brava: You have learned the fine art of tiptoeing around others so that you may go about your business in peace, you unfortunate nobody. When you die, no one will be inconvenienced, and so your presence will not immediately be missed. In fact, even if you are in trouble and not yet dead, no one will notice your struggle until it is too late. Maybe you should have stepped on a few people’s toes once in a while.



* This is heresy. Of course the ones with people in them are canonical. Tarot must always contain a glut of symbolism. Those early decks were merely illustrated by artists too lazy to show the Minor Arcana number cards as they were meant to be. Of course proper taroists, even in those early days, saw the not-yet-illustrated people of the Minor Arcana number cards in their minds’ eyes during readings.


Classic Five of Wands deaths:

  • Stumbling out into the middle of a busy highway.
  • Crushed to death in the middle of a crowd that breaks every building fire code ever.
  • Caught physically between an unpopular politician and a lone gunman.
  • Your hands, feet and head all broken in one accident. It’s probably unnecessary to mention the hands and feet. A broken head is enough. Ask your local undertaker whether she sets bones or whether a closed-casket funeral would be preferred.


Added June 12, 2016: