The Fire of A New Beginning: Invention, Inspiration, and the Ace of Wands

Ace of Wands as a butterfly mandala from which emerges a rainbow of fire and all the colors of a Spring dawn (Artist: Kate Bedell. Click on image for more of her marvelous artwork)

Where does a thought begin? We enter this new year by asking: how do we make something manifest; how do we make our thoughts take shape and become real? An appropriate question for the new year—a year we shall be keeping a close eye on, since it threatens to end long before we’re done with it, or so some New Age calendar-reading sages would have us think.

Peter Gabriel, inspired by Anne Sexton‘s self-revelatory poetry so honest it cuts to the bone, wrote the song “Mercy Street” in response to the images and feelings her words evoked in him. 

The following lyric helps remind me how ephemeral human-made objects are; they were once just a dream in somebody’s head, no more than a thought, easy to forget or ignore unless we find a way to transform thought into reality, unless we have the will to make real that which we visualise. 

Looking down on empty streets, all she can see

are the dreams all made solid
are the dreams all made real

All of the buildings, all of those cars
were once just a dream
in somebody’s head …

Mercy Street, inspired by Anne Sexton’s  poem, 45 Mercy Street 
The disembodied hand of God in the Marseilles Tarot, offering you that new thought or opportunity

Wishes are the fuel of imagination. Locating the source for this ‘fuel’ has plagued philosophers and poets for millennia, however. Even today, we invoke the Muses if we hope to create, invent, or discover something new. Of course, some of us turn to other instruments of intuitive wisdom, like tarot cards, for inspiration, and where better to begin than with the Ace of Wands?

In the Ace of Wands, we see themes of inception and boldness, genesis and the initial moment of creation symbolized. Traditional imagery of a wand, baton, or stave surrounded by flames, melds alchemical motifs with astrological symbolism and the four classical elements.

In Western astrology the sequence is always Fire, Earth, Air, and Water, according to the elemental rules of the four classical triplicities

Once the Zodiac was sorted into 12 astrological signs, it was further divided up according to the Ancient Greek classical elements, and it doesn’t require much imagination to understand why the fire signs were designated as such, particularly since the predominant fire sign begins with Leo, it being the constellation traditionally aligned with the hottest, driest time of year.

Therefore, the element of fire becomes associated with hot and dry humours; the summer months; a choleric temperament; the masculine; and the eastern point of the compass.

Tarot relies heavily on the classical elements to define each suit of the minor Arcana. I understand the desire to revise history, and to come up with postmodern interpretations of that which has been taken for granted as “so” for a very long time, but there are deep-structure reasons for aligning wands with the element of fire. 

Each sign is connected via its element to other signs within the triplicity. Tarot makes use of astrological lore for much of its symbology
You mess with this ordering system, as I’ve seen some Tarot practitioners try to do, by associating Wands with the element of Air, and you’re messing with the order of the universe, which can only lead to confusion, so cut it out. Wands are associated with the element of Fire for a reason and not simply because some old fogey said so!   

Beginning with the Ancient Greeks (such as Heraclitus) fire was thought to be the preeminent element from which all others depended. Alchemists—scientists of yore—observed fire’s expansion upon exposure to air, but watched while it was extinguished in a bell jar, or when doused with water or earth. 

Fiery symbolism underlies most of the metaphors to do with invention, inspiration, and creation, for these acts are seen as dynamic and active, but somewhat difficult to control. An upright Ace of Wands in a tarot spread tells you the moment you’ve been waiting for is now. Do not hesitate! Begin whatever it is you’re thinking about. Be prepared for an unexpected opportunity to arrive, an offer of some kind, the beginning of a new enterprise. We must take the offer of inspiration being handed us, and do something concrete with it if we do not wish to lose this opportunity. 

A reversed Ace of Wands delays a positive outcome, but it usually doesn’t deny it entirely, for this Ace brings with it the power of inevitability. All Aces in the minor Arcana are cards of promise, representing a new beginning of some kind. The Ace of fire, however, is thought to be the single most powerful ‘pip’ of all, so to see it upright in a spread is not insignificant. 

In many decks, this Ace is depicted as a colorful maypole, the ancient phallic symbol representing potency and rebirth (which often brings with it a new sexual relationship, since elemental fire represents passion, physical and emotional). Other decks draw on the connection between wands, batons, or torches, since wood is associated, obviously, with fire. 

Deviant Tarot plays with the metaphors of newness, Spring, and birth implicit in the Ace of Wands

Fire is also associated with raw energy, health, newness, vigor, and lust. The fire metaphor is called upon to goad us into action, to help turn the dreams in our heads into reality. Someone or something might inspire us, as happened for Peter Gabriel through the poignancy of Anne Sexton’s poetry.

When you see this Ace, pay attention to who or what is trying to wake you up, get your attention, make you see things anew with a fresh perspective. We have repeatedly called this type of paying attention ‘listening to our Muse,’ but whatever you call it, the vibrating, pulsing energy of invention lies in the simple ‘magic’ of being aware of what’s going on in the endless flow of information around you. 

When Shakespeare’s chorus in Henry V cried out  

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention

he was shaking a metaphorical fist at the heavens, long thought to be the source of the divine spark of inspiration poets agonize over. To be inspired originally meant being infused with the breath of God. Mere mortals could not become inspired without the direct intervention of God, or, for the Ancient Greeks, one of the gods or nine Muses.

That we reference these ancient mythopoeic concepts even today illustrates their enormous emotive power over our collective imagination. Try as we might, we’ve never excised the belief that if we perform all the magic rituals, the divine spark will then light up the heavens, as it must have for Shakespeare.

Or so we’d love to believe, since relying on someone or something relieves us of some of the work and responsibility creation requires. 

This time it’s a magic wand emanating from one’s typewriter, granting your wishes that your writing sound clever and avoid all clichés

To begin a new project, that first crucial thought has to have been dreamed, visualised, created. Inspiration seems to come from nowhere, but we think that only because we don’t recognize the internal process by which we are piecing information together subconsciously all the time, both awake and asleep.

Our minds churn, turning fragments and mosaic glimmers into a cohesion, bursting into consciousness. You cry out, “Eureka! I have a new thought!” If you’re a writer, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Perspicaciously, Katelan V. Foisy, the artist who painted the typewriter Ace of Wands seen above interprets this card’s meaning like this, because she understands that we don’t work alone when we’re inspired, even though it might seem that way. We’re always responding to something someone said or did: 

… [L]obelia spicata seen in the Ace of Wands consists of a central taproot, from which occasional basal offshoots are produced. The offshoots then germinate, although self-compatible, a flower is unable to offer pollen to itself and it must be pollinated by insects. This shows the querant that no matter how great an idea or partnership is, it must have help from the outside to truly blossom. 

Not a tarot card, but an Ace of Wands-type image that perfectly illustrates the fire of creation Look at this! A Tarot specifically for Fire!


TimePassages Astrology Software

11 thoughts on “The Fire of A New Beginning: Invention, Inspiration, and the Ace of Wands”

  1. This is a wonderful article Allison, do you plan on giving us more? I hope so!
    What deck is the first “Ace of Wands” from, it’s a beautiful picture, I’m interrsted in seeing this deck…I’ve been using “Aquarian Tarot” for years and feeling a desire to make a change…
    Happy New Year!
    with aloha

    1. Yes, I want to do all the cards. I plan to do one ace each week this month. I do not plan to do each of the minor arcana individually, however; I’ll group them by number, so that I write about the Twos in the same post, the Threes, etc. Then on to the Royal Suits (King, Queen, etc.) and then of course, what I’m really looking forward to is the Major Arcana! Now, I believe if you hover your mouse over each card, it will tell you the deck it’s from, but the first card is from the Universal Marseille deck, but I think it’s probably a more modern, highly-colored version, since it’s so brightly colored.

  2. Hi Alison. Please can you accredit me and give a link to my blog and website as you have used my ace of wands Mandala. Thank you for liking my image enough to want to use it in your blog. However as you should know, the image is copyrighted to me and permission is needed to reproduce it. If you take images from other people’s blogs you should put a link to their blog and also title the piece and say who it is done by. I understand that some images that are up on the internet are meant for sharing but as my blog is about my painting you are effectively taking my material and pinning it to your own stuff! Please do the decent thing and add my link. Sincerely, Kate Bedell

    1. Yes, of course! Many times, I cannot find the original person who created the work of art, so we go with what we have until the magical day, like today, when the original artist pops up. Or, conversely, there are times when I just screw up. So I’m glad you appeared! I will go through and update the links. You are a FABULOUS ARTIST, and my goal is always to promote artists, who usually aren’t making enough money for their work, devotion, and time! Best wishes.

      1. Thanks Alison. Your blog/website is fabulous. thank you for accrediting me! Is it possible to also add the link to my website The image of the mandala is bouncing around all over the place (facebook and pinterest being the most common) and so many people have not put my name to it so it seems “lost”. Thanks again for complimenting my work. A very happy new year to you!

        1. Yes, I would love to add any link that will help people find your work. It is so beautiful. The problem with the internet is that, right now, it is vast and things and people get lost. However, I think that it’s completely possible that in our lifetime, order and method will take the place of this confusion and turmoil, because I think that there are ways to protect one’s work. Just don’t let anything out into the world that you can’t afford to lose some control over; that’s my motto. For example, I do not upload my best photographs (my own personal photos). I can’t afford to lose them to this maelstrom! Best wishes for 2013!

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