Prince of Wands: A
at an Enigmatic Legend
Valerie Sim, CTGM
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.”
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.”
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
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
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
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.
Knight of Wands from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot and the Spiral
By Nanette Furman
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.
Knight (Son) of Wands from the Motherpeace Tarot
by Lorena Moore
"A clown; the energy to delight; light, relaxed spirit; freedom."
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
Knight of Wands
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."
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,
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.
Knight of Wands in the Greenwood Tarot
by Joanna Powell Colbert
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
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.
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…