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What is the Meaning of the Three of Wands?

Enlightenment Tarot Three of Wands

The Three of Wands stands for understanding on the spiritual level (wands). Three of Wands upright: integration. Three of Wands reversed: fragmentation.

Binah means understanding. There are two types of understanding: gaining insight into a context and creating a context.

The Tree of Life with Tarot cards

You know the first type of understanding as contextualizing. For instance, contextualizing science means to understand the scientific context and its principles. Contextualizing a person means to understand that person’s history and current situation. 

You may know the second type as contexting. After a creator conceives an idea for a new product, she defines the context in which that product can thrive, e.g., the target market. If a writer has an idea for a story, contexting implies choosing a genre and designing a plot. If a dancer has an idea for a dance, contexting means choreography.

On the level of the Three of Wands, contexting means conceptualizing ideas.

Prior to a reading, the Tarot reader should determine the context of the querent’s question. This is where the four levels of human expression come in. Let’s say, the querent seeks advice for a health issue. If the Tarot reader finds the significator in the pentacle pile, this may indicate a physical ailment. If the significator shows up in the sword pile, this may indicate a mental health problem or a psychological issue that caused a physical ailment.

Three of Wands symbolism

Three of Wands

The picture shows three wands arranged in a triangle. These wands represent intention, ideation, and understanding.

Triangles are stable. Intention, ideation, and understanding establish strength — an important secondary meaning of this card.

Once we turned an intention into an idea and understood its application (context), we find ourselves in a position of strength, and we got an opportunity.

Established strength gives birth to conviction. Conviction is the root of faith in our undertakings. Mind it’s the root of faith. Faith relates to the Karma card. A position of strength creates faith in our karma.

The opposite of faith is hope. Hope signifies the holding on to cherished ideas that are failing.

The five Psychological Core Meanings of the Three of Wands

We derive the psychological meanings of Tarot cards from their position on the Tree of Life.

According to the Enlightenment Tarot framework, the Three of Wands represents Binah of Tiphareth, the sphere of understanding on the intentional-spiritual level of human expression.

The Tree of Life with Tarot cards

Every Tarot card represents a faculty or power of consciousness. We can use faculties of consciousness constructively and destructively, which produce either a fortunate or an adverse state of mind. Hence, every Tarot card has five core meanings.

The five core meanings of the Three of Wands are:

  1. Faculty of consciousness: Conceptualizing (an idea)
  2. Positive use: Integration (of an idea)
  3. Negative use: Fragmentation
  4. Favorable internal experience: Sense
  5. Adverse internal experience: Senselessness

Reflective Questions

If the Three of Wands appears in your spread, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I understand the context of my situation?
  • Do I think about the context of my soul or only my ego?
  • Do I think enough about the context of other people?
  • Am I integrating or am I fragmenting?


The Three of Wands signifies the fertile ground into which we plant our seed ideas, and the growth begins.

Where Do Tarot Card Meanings actually Come From?

The meanings of Tarot cards come from various sources. The most common are:

  • The position of the Tarot cards on the Tree of Life
  • Astrological correspondences (signs, planets, & houses)
  • The symbolism of Tarot cards
  • Intuition
  • Meanings that pertain to fortune-telling

Most of the Tarot card meanings you can google are astrological correspondences and go back to the Golden Dawn and Arthur Edward Waite. Astrological meanings dominate at present because Astrology is a divination tool and favors fortune-telling. But these meanings are unsuitable for (psychological) Tarot readings.

If you are interested in an overview of the astrological correspondences, you can download a high-resolution chart by subscribing to the Enlightenment Tarot.

Tarot card meanings are a bit of a mess since the meanings that pertain to their position on the Tree of Life are mixed up with astrological correspondences, symbolic interpretations, and fortune-telling connotations. That’s tedious to memorize. Further, tarotists’ opinions, knowledge, and linguistic backgrounds shaped some of these interpretations. Last but not least, many meanings are fuzzy, contradictory, and overlap. If you want to understand why they overlap, read the article How to Deal With the Overlapping Meanings of Tarot cards

The meanings of the Enlightenment Tarot are based on an objective, holistic framework: the Tree of Life and the four levels of human expression. The resulting meanings are transparent and logical, and hence, easier to memorize.

What do Various Tarotists Say about the Meaning of the Three of Wands?

Before we examine the Enlightenment Tarot framework, let’s explore what different tarotists said about the Three of Wands.

Usually, tarotists consider the astrological significances of Tarot cards. The Three of Wands is associated with the second decanate of Aries, sub-ruled by Leo and the sun.

What Paul Foster Case Said About the Meanings of the Three of Wands

For the Three of Wands, Paul Foster Case offers the keyword established strength

He arrived at that meaning by considering the triangle symbolism and the fact that the Three of Wands relates to the second decanate of Aries which Leo and the sun sub-rule. The Tarot card associated with Leo is the Strength/Suggestion card. 

Paul gives the secondary meanings of courage, persistence, pride and nobility, mental energy, leadership, and ambition. These are common character traits of Leo natives. 

The inauspicious meanings are conceit, arrogance, and insolence, which are negative Leo character traits.

What Arthur Edward Waite Said About the Meanings of the Three of Wands

Usually, Tarot cards picture the positive use of the power of consciousness they represent. The minor arcana of the Rider-Waite Tarot picture positive and negative applications. This carries some risk. Negative imagery offers a negative suggestion to the querent’s ego and subconsciousness, which may lead to a negative manifestation down the line. That’s why the Enlightenment Tarot uses geometrical arrangements of  wand, cup, sword, and pentacles for the minor arcana as well as positive, psychological titles. 

Arthur Edward Waite believes that the Three of Wands is an auspicious card and that it indicates a successful enterprise through collaboration

This is how Arthur commented on the design of the card: A successful merchant prince observes his ships, which bear his merchandise and which are sailing over the sea. It is as if the successful merchant prince were looking from his side towards yours with a view to help you. With these pictorial symbols, Waite emphasized the meaning of collaboration

He derived at the meaning of collaboration considering the position of the Three of Wands on the Tree of Life. Binah is the sphere of Neshamah, the soul of the universe. Neshamah is the mother of all collective souls, the soul of mankind, the soul of a galaxy, the soul of our planet — that’s Gaia — and the soul of a society, communities, businesses, family, and relationships. As long as there is a collective soul, there is collaboration. 

Arthur agrees with established strength and offers the following additional meanings: enterprise, effort, trade, commerce, discovery, co-operation in business, end of troubles, and suspension or cessation of adversity.

With that, he blurs the picture. For instance, the Three of Wands does not represent an entire enterprise, only its collaborative aspect. However, the other meanings like trade, commerce, and cooperation in business are indeed collaborative efforts.  

Arthur offers the inauspicious meanings of toil and disappointment, which are the effects of failing collaborations.

What Etteilla Said About the Meaning of the Three of Wands

Etteilla, a French occultist and the first known professional tarotist, offers the favorable meaning of enterprises and end of worry. As mentioned, the meaning enterprise is too general. The Ace of Wands stands for the initiation of an enterprise, the Two of Wands for the idea of an enterprise, and the Three of Wands for the context of an enterprise.

It’s unclear how Etteilla arrived at the meaning end of worry. Maybe he believed that collaborations end worries, which makes sense.

What Papus Said About the Meaning of the Three of Wands

Papus, another French occultist and the founder of the Martinist Order, offers the meaning realization of the commencement of an enterprise. If by realization he meant understanding, this is a valid interpretation.  

Papus adds that the basis of the work at hand is established, and that the enterprise can be carried out without worry. If the idea is the commencement and the realization of an enterprise is its basis, then this makes sense.

What Gregor Mather Said About the Meaning of the Three of Wands

MacGregor Mather, the founder of the Golden Dawn, offers the favorable meaning of enterprise, undertaking, commerce, trade, negotiation, hope, desire, attempt, and wish. These meanings are more or less in line with those of Waite. But they are also a bit fluffy.

What Mme. Le Marchand Said About the Meaning of the Three of Wands

Mme. Le Marchand, a 19t century, celebrated Parisian fortune teller devined the Three of Wands as follows: By inheritance the querent will come into possession of a handsome country seat, where she will live for several years, but too extravagantly. When all her money is gone, she will move into a small country town, where she will play a great part to last.

That’s fortune telling, so no comment.

The Psychological Framework of the Enlightenment Tarot

Every Tarot card represents a faculty of consciousness. We can use a faculty of consciousness constructively and destructively. This produces favorable and adverse experiences.

We can express faculties of consciousness on four levels:

  • The spiritual level (wands/fire/intention)
  • The creative-feely level (cups/water/imagination)
  • The intellectual level (swords/air/intelligence)
  • The bodily level (pentacles/earth/bodily action)

The four tools on the magician’s table symbolize these four levels:

  • The wand (spiritual)
  • The cup (creative-feely)
  • The sword (intellectual)
  • The pentagram (bodily)
The Magician or Attention Tarot card

These tools correspond to the four so-called elements: fire, water, air, and earth.
For this reason, the Enlightenment Tarot wands are made of fire, the cups consist of water, and the pents are made of earth. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to illustrate something made of air, since air is invisible. For that reason, all swords are made of crystal to show at least transparency.

The Enlightenment Tarot derives its meaning from the Tree of Life and the four levels of human expression. This is an objective, holistic framework that reveals the psychological imports of Tarot cards and their faculties of consciousness. Read more about this framework in the article The Psychological Framework of the Enlightenment Tarot.

The Enlightenment Tarot project attempts to rediscover the original meanings of the Tarot cards that pertain to their position on the Tree of Life. These meanings are simple, clear, and easy to memorize.

Do you want to Learn more About The Enlightenment Tarot?

If you want to delve deep into the psychological meanings of Tarot cards, read the book Tarot of Life.

If you are curious about how the Enlightenment Tarot came about, read this article.

If you are interested in learning how to perform psychological Tarot readings, subscribe to receive a free copy of a guide on how to perform psychological Tarot readings.

If you are looking for a psychological Tarot deck, you came to the right place. The Enlightenment Tarot deck derives the cards’ meanings from a holistic and transparent framework that is easy to learn and memorize. All major and minor arcana carry psychological titles, and the court cards display psychological profiles. Have a look at the Enlightenment Tarot deck here.

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