November 2018 Tarot Card Astrology: Eight of Wands
This is the second in my series on tarot card astrology, in which I discuss the Minor Arcana tarot cards which correspond to actual current astrological transits. Each of the twelve zodiac signs is subdivided into three equal 10-degree portions, called decans or faces. The tarot’s numbered suit cards, minus the Aces, correspond to these thirty-six decans of the zodiac. Yesterday I discussed the tarot’s Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer. Today I’ll explore the Eight of Wands: Mercury in Sagittarius
Over the following few weeks, first Luna will move through the third decan of Cancer tomorrow, October 30, and then starting that night, Mercury will pass through the first decan of Sagittarius, symbolized by the tarot’s Eight of Wands. Later, the Sun will transit the second decan of Scorpio, represented by the Six of Cups. Be sure to check out all the articles on this month’s tarot card astrology.
- Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer – Sunday, October 28, 2018
- Eight of Wands: Mercury in Sagittarius – Today’s post!
- Six of Cups: Sun in Scorpio – Thursday, November 1, 2018
Eight of Wands: Mercury in Sagittarius
- The Eight of Wands is titled “Lord of Swiftness” and is considered to represent quick movement, a clear and direct path, arriving at a destination, or, alternately, blasting off into space
- Mercury rules intelligence, communication, travel, commerce, and magic; he can also be a trickster. Mercury represents how we think and learn. Mercury is known for crossing borders that others cannot traverse, exemplified in his ability to lead the dead into the underworld. Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo and is in detriment in the sign of Sagittarius
- Sagittarius is a mutable fire sign ruled by Jupiter and expresses qualities such as exploration, philosophy, enthusiasm, and far-seeing vision. Its symbol is the archer and its glyph is an arrow.
- Eight of Wands: Mercury Ruling the First Decan of Sagittarius
- Mercury will move through the first decan of Sagittarius starting October 30, 10:38 p.m. through November 9, around 7 a.m.
- Best times for ritual work: Wednesday Oct 31 and Wednesday, November 7, at dawn or during one of the other planetary hours of Mercury
Mercury in Sagittarius
One of the most Sagittarian experiences I had was when I was leading the original group of people in my Tarot Geeks meetup. We were celebrating the holidays with a group dinner at a restaurant.
Two of the members, one of whom worked at the library, were talking. They were not sitting next to each other, so were talking over the head of the person sitting in between them. Both of them were Sagittarius (or perhaps one had Sag rising). Their conversation continued progressively louder and more abstract. We were watching them, not included in the exchange due to it being literally and figuratively over our heads.
My mind wandered and I started wondering about my friend who worked at the library. I knew he worked on the seventh floor, but I remembered the last couple times I was at the library I noticed the elevator only went to the fifth floor. I wondered if I could visit my friend when he was working, and if so how to get there. So suddenly, completely out of context of the conversation these two were having, I blurted out, “Does the elevator go to the seventh floor in the library?” Everyone stopped and stared at me. I suddenly burst out laughing and made some kind of joke about Sagittarius.
The entire experience was the epitome of the Sagittarian quality. The abstractness and intellectual level of the conversation, the elevated aspect of it, the speed with which they were talking, and the amount of ground they were covering, like galloping horses. And my elevator reference, although an honest and literal question, suddenly burst into their discussion like a soul lost at sea asking a ship to throw him a line. I was asking, how do I get to where you are?
Sagittarius is the archer. Mercury is communication. Mercury is in detriment in Sagittarius; its effects are weakened or scattered. A Mercury in Sagittarius communication is exactly like the one I experienced — too abstract, too fast, too far-ranging, too far over our heads to grasp.
Image of the Eight of Wands
The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) image for the Eight of Wands shows the requisite number of staffs flying through the air, angled down as if coming in for a landing. I remember first seeing that image and getting the feeling of “coming home.” Many decks show the wands being launched as weapons, such as arrows, spears, or missiles. The Robin Wood deck shows the wands blasting off into space. This succinctly expresses the ideas engendered in Sagittarius of exploration, pushing past boundaries, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
Title of the Eight of Wands: Swiftness
The title of the Eight of Wands is “Lord of Swiftness.” Mercury is the fastest planet in the solar system, and only the luminary the Moon moves more quickly through the zodiac. The Sagittarian archer can hit his target long before coming within hand-to-hand combat range. The flying wands in the tarot image express these ideas of speed, accuracy, hitting the bullseye, or sliding into home plate.
Mythology of the Eight of Wands
I never learned a story for this card, but a colleague suggested “Arrow to the Sun,” a Native American folk tale of a boy who was born from an arrow shot by the Sun. He grew up not knowing who his father was. When he became older, he left home to find his father. He went out into the world of men asking the people he met if they could lead him to his father. Finally Arrow Maker recognized him as a son of the Sun and fashioned the boy into an arrow and shot him to his father. He passed four initiatory tests, each one — based on the illustrations — involving a descent down a ladder into the specialized chamber of trial, then subsequent ascent. Four pairs of descent and ascent add up to our eight wands in the card, or more simply, four pairs of ladder side bars for eight wands. The boy is transformed and brings the solar energy back to the world of men. This story incorporates many of the Mercury in Sagittarius qualities of exploration, crossing borders, and blasting off and returning.
Interestingly, one thing that prompted the boy in the story to find his father is that the other boys teased him and wouldn’t let him join in their games. This reminded me of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Eight reindeer (not counting Rudolph) pull Santa’s sleigh. This would be another story that works well with the Eight of Wands symbolism. Eight coursers traveling the entire globe in one night leaving behind generous piles of gifts. Generosity is associated with Jupiter, the ruler of Sagittarius, and Santa is certainly a jovial figure.
The Astrology of the Eight of Wands
The Eight of Wands is a perfect expression of Mercury in Sagittarius. Interestingly, this is a card that trips up a lot of beginning readers. It’s easy to understand the meaning of speed and to see that in the card image, but beyond that, what does it mean? I think this confusion is part of the loss of power we see due to Mercury’s debilitation in this sign. It’s almost as if the sense of the card is somehow over our heads. Its significations fly past us too quickly. We jump to the quick definition and skate across surface meanings. The Sagittarian arrows hit their mark quickly, but if we only watch them fly above we haven’t understood them. We must run after them, collect them, explore high and low to see where they have landed. We may need to travel to the Sun and back, but the experience will transform us and we will return with new powers. There is no character in the Eight of Wands. Why? The astrological secret to the Eight of Wands is to be the arrow.
The first face of Sagittarius is the cardinal section of the sign, and is appropriate for beginning new things. All the speed of Mercury and exploration of Sagittarius is concentrated in this initiating portion of the sign. Think of all the potential power locked in the tautness of a drawn bow, when every muscle is quivering with the need for release. Mercury in the first decan of Sagittarius is the racer on the mark, the thoroughbred at the gate, and the rocket fired up. It is the shivering exhilaration of the countdown at the moment it transforms into the explosive release at the blast of the starting gun.
Ritual Work for Eight of Wands: Mercury in the First Decan of Sagittarius
I will base this ritual on the one I provided yesterday for the Four of Cups: Moon in Cancer. Please read that post for additional suggestions on how to develop, personalize, and perform this ritual.
Mercury will be in the first decan of Sagittarius starting October 30, 10:38 p.m. through November 9, around 7 a.m. The best times for ritual work will be on Mercury’s day, Wednesday, and at Mercury’s planetary hour. There are two Mercury days during this time frame: Wednesday Oct 31 and Wednesday, November 7. The hour of dawn is always the hour of hte planet on its own day, so dawn is the easiest time to remember for doing your ritual work. But use a planetary hour calculator to find the other Mercury hours during the day.
Remember to review the ritual and gather your supplies in advance.
You can choose any hymn or prayer to Mercury that you like. Other expressions of this divinity are Hermes, Egyptian Jackal-Headed God Anubus, and the Hindu Monkey God Hanuman. Choose any deity from your pantheon that has the qualities of Mercury such as those listed at the top of this article and throughout its content. We’ll use the Orphic hymn due to its ubiquity.
Hermes, draw near, and to my pray’r incline, angel of Jove, and Maia’s son divine;
Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow’rful arts could watchful Argus kill:
With winged feet, ’tis thine thro’ air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse:
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine:
With pow’r endu’d all language to explain, of care the loos’ner, and the source of gain.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Corucian, blessed, profitable God;
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortals kind:
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear;
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and memory’s increase.
Statement of Intention
Meditate on the Eight of Wands and the idea of Mercury in Sagittarius until you recognize the qualities you’d like to develop in yourself. State these in a concise sentence or phrase. Common Mercurial topics include eloquence, ease of communication, improved memory, increased business or trade, or safe journeys. You might find your intention in the card image, such as an easy and smooth conclusion to a situation (when the wands are landing) or an exciting new opportunity to explore (when the wands are blasting off).
For instance, Mercury rules divination, astrology, eloquent communication, and can be invoked for increased business. That combination is a perfect match for a professional astrologer or tarot card reader, who might set the intention to increase their divination business by becoming more eloquent and speaking clearly to an ever-expanding community of clients. It’s always best to write your own intention, but if you’d like a template as a starting point, consider adapting the following. I like fancy writing in my rituals, but use your own voice and ask Mercury to guide even in the development of your intention.
On this day of Mercury in this hour of Mercury, Hermes the swift-footed and giver of heart-delighting speech, you rule this first, initiating portion of the sign of Sagittarius the archer. I ask you, Immortal guide, ruler of the marketplace, divine translator, to [increase my business by granting me your eloquence as I translate esoteric wisdom for those who seek my services, bringing an ever-expanding community of clients to my table, and guide my tongue to speak to them the words that they most need to hear] (use your statement of intention).
You can make your altar as elaborate or as simple as you like. I tried to list supplies in decreasing level of importance, with required or practical items listed first and decorative items listed last. However, feel free to substitute as needed, choosing for this ritual items that reflect the qualities of Mercury or of the sign of Sagittarius.
- Small table (one of those folding TV trays works great in a pinch) or clear area on a shelf to set up the altar
- Orange, multi-colored, or rainbow colored cloth (Mercury colors) to cover the altar
- Mercurial incense such as storax, frankincense, lavendar, cinnamon, clove, or gum mastic
- Orange candle
- Eight of Wands tarot card
- Orphic hymn to Hermes (or appropriate prayer of your choice) printed or written on index cards
- Your statement of intention for the ritual, printed or written on an index card
- A caduceus wand or other Mercurial symbol such as a winged hat, winged shoes, or traveler’s bag/wallet/messenger’s bag
- Gemstone such as Opal, especially Fire Opal
- Other Mercury symbols, including photos or art of Mercury, roads, signposts, traveling, visiting exotic locations, Gods of speech or writing, or symbols such as a pen or scroll
- Mercurial beverage: Lavender or cinnamon tea
- Mercurial food: Anything spiced or flavored with Mercury-ruled plants, herbs, or spices, or expressing Mercurial attributes, such as combining, mixing, or crossing borders–“fusion” styles of food, etc. Wheat, honey, olives, strawberries, cinnamon.
It’s best to prepare ahead of time. If however, you find yourself suddenly free during an hour of Mercury, especially on a day of Mercury, between October 30, 10:38 p.m. through November 9, around 7 a.m., feel free to improvise as necessary and say your prayers and intentions extempore.
- Set up a basic altar. On a table or clear area of a shelf, place your appropriately colored altar cloth, candle, and incense. You can also include any other Mercury related symbols or decorations that will help you connect with the energies.
- Have on hand your prayer or hymn, your tarot card, and your statement of intention.
- Find a comfortable seated position (standing works depending on how long your ritual is) at your altar. Ground and center yourself, perhaps using the fourfold breath.
- Light the incense.
- Read the prayer or hymn that you chose eight times (eight is the number of Hod, the sphere of Mercury on the Tree of Life). You can use eight coins, stones, or other counters to keep track, moving one from a “to-do” pile to a “done” pile with each reading. Feel a deep connection to Mercury, remaining fully present and aware of the planet during each recitation, and taking a moment in between to feel its energies.
- Next you’ll focus this increased awareness of Mercurial energy by turning your attention to the Eight of Wands tarot card. Meditate on it briefly, becoming immersed in the scene.
- Read your statement of intention eight times (the number of the card), asking Hermes (or whichever god or goddess of writing and communication or other Mercurial attributes you have chosen to work with) to assist you with your intention.
- It is then necessary to ground the energy. You can kneel down and touch the ground with your hands, or place your forehead and hands, palms flat, against the altar. See and feel any excess energy sinking into the earth. You can follow this with eating and drinking (give preference to Mercurial beverages and food), a traditional technique for grounding.
- You can leave your altar out for the nine or so days that Mercury is in the first decan of Sagittarius and return to your intention during any Mercury planetary hour or time of need during Mercury’s transit of this decan, or you can put everything away.
If you have any question about this ritual, please leave them in the comments! I’d also love for you to share your experiences with this practice in the comments.
Upcoming Tarot Card Astrology posts for Scorpio:
Six of Cups, to be published on Thursday, November 1, 2018
- Six of Cups: Sun Ruling the Second Decan of Scorpio
- Starting November 2, 6 a.m. through November 12, 4 a.m.
- Best times for ritual work: Sunday, November 4 and Sunday, November 11, dawn
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.