Much of life is spent in limbo. We set goals, make plans to achieve them, and get to work. Depending on the scope and difficulty of the journey we embark on, there can be long stretches of being unsure if we’ll ever reach our charted destinations. There is a lot of waiting in life, even while we’re acting with deliberateness. The Three of Wands card of the tarot captures this energy of expectation without clear results. In many traditional illustrations, the card is very similar to the Two of Wands (a robed man staring out to sea), and may seem to communicate a lack of progress. The details reveal a more optimistic perspective. While the figure pictured in the Two of Wands is planning his journey, the figure in the Three of Wands is waiting for his ships to come in.
When the Three of Wands shows up in a reading, it may be interpreted to mean that you are gaining momentum towards achieving your goals. Some of your plans have come to fruition. You haven’t made it, but your hard work is paying off. This creates a change in perspective that gives you more confidence. This often signals a period of growth and expansion in your life. You’re looking forward and are ready to keep moving ahead. It’s time to keep your eyes open for new opportunities. That means looking up from what you’ve been working so hard on and looking outward, towards the horizon. The scenery may have changed, and there may be good things waiting for you (better than what you’ve planned for yourself), but you have to see them (if only in your mind) to claim them.
I also see the Three of Wands as a sign that you’re progressing at a sustainable pace. Wands represent fire and passion in the tarot. It’s easy to be overcome by that energy and burn yourself out. The stillness of contemplation is something to consider when the Three of Wands shows up in a reading. Keep going with conviction, but at a pace that allows you to develop and maintain foresight.
Every card in the tarot has a shadow side. Depending on how it shows up in a reading, the Three of Wands may represent delays and obstacles. You’ve made some progress but don’t seem to be moving ahead anymore. This causes frustration, which the card may also symbolize. Whether in its light or shadow side, when the Three of Wands shows up in a reading, it may be a good time to reassess your goals and plans. Consider what has changed in your life since you embarked on your journey.
If you’ve had some success and gathered more resources, that’s great. Does that mean you should stay the same course, though? Are there better opportunities you may be missing? Are there other people you should be collaborating with? As you’ve matured, has what you want for yourself changed too? If you haven’t been having much luck, is it worth another push, or is it time to hang things up and move on to something else? This is an extremely difficult question to answer, and it may take you some time to make a decision. That’s all right. Even so, if you’re feeling stuck and frustrated, consider if you’re trapped in the sunk cost fallacy — you keep putting in more effort, because of all the effort you’ve already put in, not because there are any meaningful gains to be made. It’s akin to throwing good money after bad. The fire the suit of wands represents may symbolize impermanence. No matter what choice you make, it’s all right to change your mind, especially if new information or circumstances come your way. Be confident but flexible, and trust that your ships will come in.
Originally published on the A Cynic Learns the Tarot Patreon.