The Flame of Desire : The Herbal Wisdom of the Suit of Wands
I am doing a guest post series on the amazing Little Red Tarot blog all about Tarot + Herbalism. Little Red Tarot is the home of Beth Maiden who has created an intelligent and inspiring alternative community to us Tarot folk who are queer, rebellious, multi-cultural, and rad. I hope you enjoy the latest installation in the series all about the herbal wisdom of the suit of wands!
All cards shown in this post are from the Greenwood Tarot by Chesca Potter.
Check out the other posts in the Herbal Tarot Wisdom Series:
- The Windswept Garden: The Herbal Wisdom of the Suit of Swords
- The Well of Memory : The Herbal Wisdom of the Suit of Cups
- The Flame of Desire: The Herbal Wisdom of the Suit of Wands
- The Foundation Bones: The Herbal Wisdom of the Suit of Pentacles
We enter now into the realm of fire, a place of heat, movement, and inspiration. In the northern hemisphere, the place of fire is said to be in the south, where the sun is strongest, while in the southern hemisphere, fire is strongest in the north. We have come to know our power through the thought-centered realm of air and the swords and the emotion-rich waterscape of cups. Now, in fire, with the wand as our tool, we learn how to direct our power through the focus of our will. The Wands are a suit of creativity, will, life-callings, and they represent what fires us up. They are also the cards that reveal where we are burnt-out, lacking will, or lacking the ability to direct our power with wise discernment. When there is an appearance of multiple wands in a spread, I pay attention to not only what is burning, but what is illuminated by that light. For we burn bright to not only know our own brightness, but to reveal the place where we have come from, where we’re at, where we might be going, and who we’re with on our journey.
One of the keywords for the suit of wands is creativity, connecting our creative output with our fiery impulses. Or what it is that gets us fired up and excited. I think creativity can be a useful word to associate with the suit of wands, but I also think that creativity shows up regularly in all of the suits. What I do think is more unique to the suit of wands and the element of fire is the idea of will. Where there is a will there is a way, goes the old English saying, and I think that this is a great guiding keystone phrase for the suit of wands. Our will is the way that we direct our power in the world. So, looking at the Two of Wands we might ask, where do you want to direct your power? In other words, what is the way of your will? Whereas with the Ten of Wands we might ask, are you walking the way of will or are you too burdened and burnt out to know what direction you’re headed? I often use the word desire in my practice which describes that which we desire most in the world and how we are going about seeking it. It is desire of a most sacred kind and the suit of Wands can be very useful in helping us understand how connected we are to our true desire, how much we are living a life which nourishes our desire or where we may have lost connection with our desire along the way. Burnout, a condition that the suit of wands can be very helpful in pointing out, is when we lack desire and we need to take time to be gentle with ourselves so that we might reconnect with our desire in a more sustainable way.
Thinking about desire, burnout, the life-giving heat, and the intensity that the suit of swords and the element of fire can bring, I connect to two different kinds of herbs: warming stimulants and cooling nervines. The first type of herb is warming, invigorating, and sometimes stimulating, such as Ginger (Zingiber officinalis). The second type of herb is cooling, moistening, and has nervine qualities, because while heat is necessary for life, too much leads to its decline. Sometimes, fiery herbs such as Ginger can help us to direct our own inner heat, but other times we need the cooling touch of herbs like Lemon Balm, to regulate an overheated system.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is one of my favorite fiery herbs. It is warming and enlivening without being too stimulating, helping energy move with ease to all parts of our body. Ginger is a circulatory tonic, aids in the production of digestive fire, and is awakening to our immune system. Though it is a warming herb, it is also anti-inflammatory, helping to relieve the pain and discomfort of arthritis and sore muscles when taken internally and used topically. Ginger is also a classic remedy for motion sickness and can be used for general motion sickness as well as nausea brought on by the hormonal changes of pregnancy. I use Ginger when when there are signs of coldness (such as a cold digestion, cold and stagnant menstruation or cold hands and feet signifying poor circulation), stagnation, and general lack of vital fire. A cold digestion can be detected by lack of proper absorption of nutrients from food, slow movement of waste through the intestines, dull cramping, and gas. In other words, the digestive fires have been compromised and Ginger warms the stomach and digestive tract and gently cultivates inner fire. Ginger administered in foot and hand baths is a very enjoyable way of using the herb to relieve cold and ‘flu symptoms (especially when chills are present and there is respiratory congestion), as well as alleviating migraines and headaches (for those whose headaches are made worse in cold conditions or brought on by cold). The herb is also useful for maintaining energy levels whether for athletic competitions, study or during labor. For re-igniting fire where there is lack, Ginger is a fantastic ally!
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is my herb of choice for diffusing fiery energies that have run amok, whether or not someone is in the process of burning too hot or have already burnt out. Where there is excess heat, Lemon Balm cools. The herb calms the heart, settles the mind, and reduces anxiety, especially after a period of overheated overdoing it. Where Ginger is stimulating, Lemon Balm is sedating, but not in a zonked-out sort of way, but in a meditative focused kind of calm. The herb is sour in taste, too, which balances out the heat and spice of fire. If you have overworked your adrenals and your nervous system feels as frayed as an old rug, Lemon Balm might be the soothing ally for you. Indications for Lemon Balm include palpitations, muscle spasms, anxiety and panic attacks, and nervous indigestion. The herb is useful for regaining focus, improving memory, and elevating the mood. For anxiety, Lemon Balm can be enjoyed as a daily tea to rebuild our nervous system, nourish our adrenals, and restore our sense of calm and self-worth. In many ways, Lemon Balm is the herb which wipes clean a clouded compass, guiding us back to our fire. The Latin binomial of the name indicates its sacred heritage, as Melissa refers to the bee priestesses of ancient Greece. Bees were (and are, by some, including myself) to be the messengers of the God/dess/es. I think that Lemon Balm opens the way for our heart to hear the sacred message within us that is always guiding us back home to ourselves.
The Wand Court Cards
Seeker of Wands: Chamomile
The Seeker of Wands is quick-spirited and contemplative, two energies which can be difficult for anyone to balance. The gift of the Seeker of Wands is that they embody the potential of fire. Chamomile Flower Essence helps the Seeker of Wands to move towards their dreams but first take a look at where there dreams are asking them to go. The Seeker of Wands has so much passion for all the things that they are inspired easily and inspire others easily, as well, but they don’t always know how to manifest their inspiration into action. Chamomile is useful for balancing out the inspired spontaneity and the drive to get stuff done that the Seeker of Wands can oscillate between. The essence supports the Seeker of Wand’s bright disposition and strengthens their ability to dance through the material world that doesn’t always recognize the needed insight of inspiration. For the Seeker of Wands who may feel like they’ve lost their spark, pay attention to the belly area. Is there tension or indigestion? Chamomile essence, as well as herb, can help pull out the settled stagnant energies from the belly and root of the body, back to the heart, and mind, helping inspiration to flow freely again.
Apprentice of Wands: Sweet Orange Blossom
“Let’s go!” Shouts the Apprentice of Wands with great exuberance as they take off for the horizon. The Apprentice of Wands is passionate and impulsive, adventurous and action-oriented. Their keyword is not think or feel but do which can sometimes lead them being energetically scattered, inappropriately impulsive, and possessing a low tolerance for feeling frustrated. The Apprentice of Wands is on a journey whether or not anyone else understands what their underlying impulse for the adventure might be. So I chose Sweet Orange Blossom, which is an essence that helps us journey from one part of our life to the next with clarity and wisdom. Sweet Orange Blossom is an essence of transitions, whether that is a transition between being a student to becoming the teacher or the transition from one fundamental identity form to another. The essence sweetens the way, opening up paths of opportunity, but more importantly it helps us to understand what we are bringing with us, what we need to leave behind, and to have certainty in the steps we are taking. We need fiery Apprentices of Wands to just go for it and hopefully, with the aid of their allies and community, both people and plant, they will be able to be bright lights of “heck yeah, let’s do this!” for a long time yet.
Artist of Wands: Hawthorn
The Artist of Wands is determined to see their desire made manifest. It might be a desire to bring about revolution or to become the next big thing in geophysics, but whatever it is they have the determination to get it done. The Artist of Wands is committed and vibrant, embodying the life-giving forces of fire. For without the heat of life we are cold and dead. When the Artist of Wands is out-of-balance they can swing in one of two directions: either they become overbearing in their ambitions to the detriment of others or they completely forget their fire and retreat from the creativity of life. While the Seeker of Wands embodies potential and the Apprentice of Wands acts before thinking, the Artist of Wands speaks from the fires of their heart and says what everyone fears will burn down the systems or social contracts that be. Sometimes this fiery truth is welcome and other times it is denied and denigrated. I chose Hawthorn Flower Essence for the Artist of Wands because the herb has a complicated heritage and personality. Medicinally and magickally, the herb relates to the heart and its strength and protection. It is also an herb of the Good Folk, who speak in riddled truths, and the hedge of Hawthorn is the boundaries between our world and theirs. The plant has a smell that some find to be heady and erotic, but others think stink of death. So it is with the powers of the Artist of Wands, who can be a divisive figure, but also a magickal one. The essence of Hawthorn will help our Artist of Wands protect their heart and/or reopen it as they speak their truth in the world. Additionally, the essence helps the Artist of Wands see the interconnectedness of the many worlds that we exist in and how we must understand the intersections of our access through all of these worlds to be able to effectively bring about change in all aspects of our lives. Hawthorn says to trust your fire over the fear of the burn.
Mentor of Wands: Rose
Whether in commitment to personal changes in our lives or the greater need for social change, we need longevity in our change and the Mentor of Wands helps us to learn just that. The Mentor of Wands possesses the gifts of long-term vision, the appreciation of a good challenge, and the fiery-hearted commitment to achieving their goals and the goals of whatever community they are part of. An out-of-balance Mentor of Wands can turn into a cult of personality, with an out-of-check ego, and an aggressiveness that cares little for the needs of others. Enter the Rose and its sacred essence of wise longevity. The Rose and similar many-petaled flowers such as the Lotus, is one of our most ancient symbols of sacred mystery. The essences teaches us that wisdom is a multi-layered path that requires both attentiveness and patience in order to follow. As 13th Century poet and mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī wrote of the Rose:
Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day. Lovers are patient and know that the moon needs time to become full.
What a beautiful Mentor of Wands sentiment, reminding us that we must have vision and patience in order to meet the future we so desire. Rose Flower Essence restores hope, cultivates self-worth, and helps our Mentor of Wands experience the power of communal wisdom. Rose essence feeds the heart-fire of purpose and desire and is especially useful for folks who have been on the front lines of organizing and change, but now need to return home to themselves so that they can digest what they have learned and grow in their wisdom by sharing it with others.
Herbal candles are an easy way to incorporate the suit of wands and the element of fire into your magickal practice. The herbal candles can be as simple or complicated as you like and I give a number of possibilities for how to create one for your magickal work.
- Super Easy Seven Day Herbal Candles. Simply add a few pinches of your herbs of choice to the top of a seven day candle that is encased in glass while focusing on your attention. Voilà! So very easy!
- Oily Herb Candles. You will need a piece of parchment paper or similar easy to clean surface, a taper or pillar candle, a magickal oil of choice (which can be as simple as some olive oil), and your herbs. I recommend at least partially powdering your herbs for ease of application. Start by oiling or dressing your candle from the middle of the pillar downwards and then from the middle of the pillar upwards. This is an opportunity to begin to charge your candle with your intention. Sprinkle some of your herbs on the parchment paper and the roll the oiled or dressed candle through the herbs. At this point you are further infusing your candle with your intention as you draw the powers of the herbs onto the candle. Your candle is now ready to be burned in a fire safe container or holder.
- Waxed Herbal Candles. You will need a paper to catch the wax droppings, a taper candle to dress with herbs and wax, and another candle to use for wax drippings, as well as your herbs of choice. I like to use un-powdered herbs for these candles. Place your taper candle that you are going to dress on the paper and place a few pieces of your herbs on top of it. Light your other candle and begin to drip wax over the herbs. You don’t need to cover the herbs completely with wax, but enough so that they will stay on your candle. Continue to turn and add herbs to your candle while dripping wax. Again, this whole time is an opportunity to focus on your intention for your magickal work. Once your candle is ready burn it in a fire safe container or holder.
- Loaded Tea Light + Short Pillar Candles. Another way of creating an herbal candle is by “loading” it with herbs. You can dig out a small bit of wax from the top of a tealight or the bottom of a short pillar candle. Tip! If you’re using a metal implement to carve out the wax, warm it first with hot water so that the wax is easier to cut. Once you’ve made a small hole, pack it with your powdered herbs of choice. You can cover the hole again with wax and then it is ready to be used in your magickal workings.
How will you connect with the fire of the suit of wands? Post your experiences below as well as any questions you might have about the information already shared. Next time we’ll be exploring the suit of pentacles and the element of earth. Until then, burn bright, clever ones!