Table of Contents


Tarot Reflections

 November 15, 2003

Prince of Wands: A Comparative Look
at an Enigmatic Legend
Valerie Sim, CTGM

Thoth Tarot
Prince of Wands


One of the things Lon Milo DuQuette mentions in his book is the fact that Aleister Crowley so strongly identified with the Prince of Wands. This card even carries the emblazoned seal of the Mark of the Beast on its breast, a mark that is only found in two other places in this deck: The 5 of Wands (0 to 10 degrees Leo) and the Ace of Disks (traditionally, the signature card for a deck’s creator.).  In The Book of Thoth, more is written on this Court card than on any of the others.

Duquette opines that the likely reason for Crowley’s affinity with this fiery Prince is that Leo was the sign on Crowley’s Ascendant, being 3 degrees Leo. Crowley tells us Crowley identified strongly with Leo as his rising sign. He says “This card is Crowley’s idealized image of himself.” p 178

Crowley said of this card: “He is romantic in matters of history and tradition, to the point of folly, and may engineer stunts or play elaborate practical jokes.”

I mentioned this affinity to my elist, Comparative Tarot, and asked for listmembers to offer comparative insights on this card by taking a look at it in other tarot decks. Here are some of the card commentaries I received in response to this request. As usual, I was delighted and surprised by the fabulous insights of some of these creative people. What would Crowley think????…. I think he’d love it….

RWS Knight of Wands

  The Knight of Wands in the Rider Waite Smith deck
by Sandra Thomson

The RWS knight of wands is so pompous, and certainly thinks he knows more about alchemical things and self-development than he really does. However, he is looking in the correct direction (to the past) for insight. I'll have to give him that. Would I date him? Good grief! He is so erratic, I don't know if I could trust him. Here today; gone tomorrow. Break a girl's heart and never worry about it.

We'll have to look at some other decks to see if they can temper him.

    The Knight of Wands: Wanderer of Fire
by Marisa Antonaya

The Knights cards in general speak to me of the seeker within all of us. While the Pages/Knaves have just come into their inheritance, so to speak, and must decide what to do with their new-found knowledge, Knights are on a special quest of their own. They might not know exactly what they're looking for, but the energy of their element drives them onwards, in the next step of human development: self-discovery through challenge.

For the Knight of Wands, it is a challenge of fire, on the creative spirit that will either consume them or inspire them to further action.

The Knight of Wands that is the object of this meditation has been pulled from three very different decks: the Tarot of the Old Path (a Pagan-oriented deck with a lot of natural symbolism), the Gothic Tarot by Joseph Vargo (full of vampires, demons, and other creatures of the night), and the otherworldly Secret Tarots illustrated by Marco Nizzoli. These decks give three very different facets of this Knight, but I see them as complementary in describing the overall energy behind this card.

In the Tarot of the Old Path, court cards are shown close-up, with great detail to facial expression. So we'll begin by pointing out the passion that infuses the Knight of Wands, as shown in this deck. This Knight (in Old Path the suit is Rods instead of Wands) looks determined, to the point of seeming downright ferocious. He looks straight out at us, and clutches a blossoming Rod protectively before him. Is he attacking or defending? You never know with this character. He is a person of clear goals and ethics, and able to spring into action at the slightest sign that his help might be needed. This is where I see the idealist in the Knight of Wands. His fiery energy is used more in the service of others than for his own gain, and he does not yet have the stability to stop and nurture his creative projects that comes with the Queen/King energies. So he charges ahead, blazing a trail and leading others into his initiatives. I don't know whether he's always capable of actually completing what he starts, but he is unmatched when it comes to inspiring that first action in himself and others. His purpose and pride, and his sense of right and wrong, will either see him through or get him into trouble at times, but he will not be discouraged.

Knight of Wands
Gothic Tarot


Our second look at the Knight of Wands comes from the perspective of this ethical drive to his actions. In the Gothic Tarot, illustrated by Joseph Vargo, the Knight of Wands is an avenging angel who has slain a serpent. His gold-masked face prevents us from guessing how he feels about what he has just done, but his stance suggests that he has just discovered what complete victory for a cause feels like. His ruby-topped wand has become more than a simple tool, now acting as a weapon to eliminate what he considers to be the negative influences in his life. His wings have given him a new perspective, allowing him to fuse the power of the mind (the Air element implicit in the wings) with his creative drive. He has planned this action and has flown into battle. But why is he hiding his face? Does he wish to remain anonymous, the unknown savior, or is it a refusal to face the gory aftermath of his activity? Maybe he doesn't see all the ramifications yet, and is still working mostly from instinct, instead of the more careful nurturing and organizing energies of the King and Queen of his suit. Fire burns, and he still has to protect himself from the sparks that sometimes still erupt, uncalled, from his wand.

Although the Knight of Wands has reached a deeper maturity than the Knave/Page, he lacks the stability given by a sense of place; he is, after all, a wanderer. This is not to say that he doesn't desire to live more grounded within his element; he simply feels that his time has not yet come, although he moves constantly towards it. We can see this in our last illustration of this card, Marco Nizzoli's rendition in the Secret Tarots. Here, our Knight is actually on a horse (something missing from the other two decks we've looked at here), and actually going somewhere (as opposed to the defensive stance in Old Path, and the conqueror's pose in Gothic). He's dressed in cooler colors; green and black, giving us a sense that he's trying to reach out to the other aspects of his life (the green of water or earth, for example, giving us a balance with these more passive elements). He's still defensive, carrying his wand (more like a spear or pike) at the ready, and with a sheathed sword by his side just in case. The sword is also important, because it represents his acknowledgement of the Air element, and the need to rationalize and communicate his actions instead of leaping into battle whenever the spirit moves him. The question now is, will he make use of these additional resources? His calm demeanor seems to say that he might actually consider it, which would definitely lead him down the path towards his King and Queen, and the chance for respite and protection they would offer if he decided to settle down.

The Knight of Wands is, then, a card of great potential. It gives us the purpose and drive to start down the road, and the imagination to suppose we might actually achieve our goal. The only caveat is to make sure all that energy doesn't backfire and cause more damage than benefit. If we can temper the Knight with some compassion and logic, we can keep him from becoming an eccentric loner hell-bent on setting the world to rights. Properly managed, then, he becomes an inspiring leader and a tireless defender of truth and beauty.

The Knight of Wands from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot and the Spiral Path Tarot
By Nanette Furman

The LaPlace, --aka Knight from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot deck--, is a voodoo master of ceremonies who oversees ritual.  In his fire mode he is shown drawing a crossroads on the ground with a machete, and the crossroads is in flames. To me this symbolizes infusing huge amounts of life energy, chi if you will, into the opening of a question or issue.  He relates on some level to Legba, opener of doors. Therefore he is one who raises basic energy and allows it to flow between the worlds, to supply raw element for others to use.
The Warrior of Fire, the Stag, stands in the woods, head turned at an angle, observing the observer, cautious, ready to charge or flee as necessary.  His horns are immense and radiate bright light. He holds the energy of life in his body and horns.  He is movement, nobility, dweller in the wild, and energy on the move, always, alert, aware, clever, and shifting. His body creates, and also feeds others energies.

The Knight (Son) of Wands from the Motherpeace Tarot
by Lorena Moore

"A clown; the energy to delight; light, relaxed spirit; freedom."

My impressions:
A smiling young "wild man" adorned with horns, body paint, and a belt of deer hooves dances with an animal skin, a wand, and a rattle.  His antics amuse the woman and children who watch him.  A small fire in a ring of stones, the sun above, and the yellow background represent the Fire of Wands.  The Fire of his spirit shows in the warmth of his connection with others, and his agile outdoor dance suggest his affinity with Air.  His attention is on the watchers and their reactions, but he plays to his audience as a sacred clown who inspires joy and laughter to restore balance.

Knight of Wands
New Tarot


The Knight of Wands from the New Tarot
by Lorena Moore

"Handy, witty, strong, lucky; endearing charlatan mountebank hero who marries the princess and lives happily ever after.  Sure he does."

My impressions:
A muscular young man with shaggy blonde hair, black horns, boots, and fur-trimmed tunic twirls or juggles four flaming wands:  a circle of Air and Fire.  Concentration shows in his face, and easy confidence in his relaxed stance.  Like his brother in the previous card, he is a horned performer who demonstrates control of Air and Fire through dexterity and lighthearted skill.  Unlike the Son of Wands, his act seems to be mostly an idle amusement for himself, or perhaps for the viewer of the card.

The Knight of Wands from the Robin Wood Tarot
By Konstanza Greer

Undoubtedly, the Knight of Wands is the most energetic character in the Robin Wood Tarot. He charges into a scorching windswept desert on a rearing horse whose mane and tail are made of fire. The horse looks scared while the Knight of Wands himself looks content and comfortable in his saddle. Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that his horse caught fire? When he’s wrapped up in an endeavor he can become oblivious to the needs of others and leave them burning. The horse is galloping so fast, the Knight is almost squeezed out of the picture. Clearly, this guy is not here to stay. As fast as he entered our lives, he will be gone.

His suit of golden armor almost seems to melt in the heat of the desert and the flames of his fire. His armor only protects his torso while his arms, hands, thighs, and knees remain bare, suggesting that in spite of all his energy, courage and daring, he may not be entirely prepared for his adventure. He focuses on the big picture and doesn’t get bogged down by details. His energy and enthusiasm for his cause are so great that the ashes of the horse’s tail and mane will fertilize the barren desert, engendering new
growth and development.

Robin Wood’s Knight of Wands wears a helmet in the shape of a male lion’s head. This Knight welcomes challenges that allow him to prove his strength and courage. He is happy to slay any lion or dragon that dares to cross his path. The lion shaped helmet also suggests that while the Knight of Wands enjoys the center of attention, he prefers solitary adventures to companionship. If we want to start a new creative project or take a new direction in our lives, we will need the Knight of Wands’ ability to follow his own

The Knight of Wands in The Hudes Tarot
by Leah Samul Copyright 2003

Knights and Wands both indicate fire, therefore, the Knight of Wands is all fire.  Like fire, he moves quickly, and like fire, his energy can be contagious, spreading to all those around him.  He has the all properties of Wands, which include courage, tenacity, will power, and a generally optimistic spirit, magnified by his energetic nature as a Knight.

When a quick thinking, fast acting person is needed, The Knight of Wands is your man.  (And naturally, the card can also indicate all these characteristics for any woman who pulls The Knight of Wands in a reading; I simply use the male pronoun as a convenience in this essay.) He is a good person to be a police officer, or, of course, a fire fighter.  Since fire is his element, he knows how to handle it, symbolized by the fact that he needs only one hand to hold the Wand.  But, since he knows fire is dangerous, he wears heavy gloves as a protection.  In previous times, he might have been a fearless warrior.  In the 21st century, in addition to the above listed vocations, he can also be an excellent advocate in a court of law, a passionate fighter for any kind of cause, or even a firebrand revolutionary.   He is the type of person who can inspire others through his own personal example, for he truly "walks his talk."

Because he is a man of action, long range planning is not his strong point.  He would rather jump into the problem, whatever it might be, and solve it as he goes along.  To use an example from modern day software, he is more likely to be a self-taught hacker than a careful, university trained computer programmer.

There are some possible problems, as with any card.  He finds it nearly impossible to stand around waiting for things to happen; his need for action can impel him to jump into a situation before things have been properly thought out.  He would not tend to suffer from burn out himself as he would exhaust those around him, since they don't have his inner fire.  He holds other to the same standards he asks of himself, and he tends to demand a lot of himself.  And, sometimes he rushes into things with so much energy that he scares people away.  But nonetheless, this is an excellent card, filled with courage, will power, and a bright spirit.

The Knight of Wands in the Greenwood Tarot
by Joanna Powell Colbert

In the Greenwood Tarot, all the court cards are animals and the Knight of Wands appears as a fire-colored Fox.

The LWB doesn't have much to say about this choice, other than saying that the fox "retains a beguiling mixture of wisdom and playfulness."

The image of Fox on this card shows him looking away from the viewer to the right. He is clearly very interested in something happening off in the distance. His ears stand at attention, on "high alert."  At his
feet is a Y-shaped branch that looks a little like an oversized slingshot and may be a dowsing rod.

In the natural world, a person is very lucky and most likely skilled at woodcraft to see a fox in the wild.  They are masters of camouflage and excellent at hiding from humans and other animals by blending in with their surroundings. They appear on the edges between woods and fields most often at dusk and dawn, those liminal places and times that are neither here nor there but are shapeshifting from one to the other.

In the guise of Fox, our Knight of Wands embodies the character qualities of stealth, cunning, curiosity and alertness.  He is a master of "magical" camouflage, invisibility and disguise. His highly
sharpened senses of sight, smell and hearing are symbolic of his psychic abilities.

In many mythic tales, Fox is right up there with Raven and Coyote as the quintessential Trickster. It is in that role that I see this Knight of Wands, more than anything else.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I see Uncle Al winking and giving this little experiment a “high five.” There are many aspects of Aleister Crowley that we will never recapture or appreciate, but I think this look at his favorite Court are a definite glimpse into the enigmatic paradigm that launched a whole new world in Tarot thinking…



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