In order to understand the meaning of the Ten of Wands tarot card, it is important to know about several factors that go into the meanings of the cards. The Ten of Wands is a minor arcana card, which means it belongs to a suit (Wands) and has a ranking (Ten). In the study of the tarot, the suit and number of a minor arcana card give a big clue as to its meaning. The other important clue lies in the imagery of the card and how it personally speaks to a person who is reading it. Imagery varies by deck, and personal meanings can be very subjective, but the number and suit have a strong effect on the “standard”, or generally accepted meaning of a tarot card, which is what we are looking at here.
The minor arcana is made up of four suits representing the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. The suit of Wands is representative of the element of fire, meaning the cards generally have to do with the ideas of inspiration, change, personal power, and other topics that would be thought of as symbolic with the nature of fire.
The number ten, regardless of suit, symbolizes both a beginning and an end in the tarot. It is the ending of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one, as occurs over our entire lives in many different ways. A good example is a person who has just earned his degree in accounting and is leaving a job flipping burgers for a highly paid position in his field. Most people would agree this is a positive change, but he may be uncomfortable or even deathly nervous of the step he is taking at first. It is human nature to both have a desire for change and to fear it – to mourn the ending of one cycle as well as celebrate the birth of a new one. This is the nature of the number ten in the symbolism of the tarot.
The traditional image of the Ten of Wands is of a man struggling to carry a bundle of ten large sticks. The picture will vary depending on which deck a reader decides to use, but this classic imagery shows us that we are dealing with a person who is carrying a large burden, perhaps that of new responsibilities, which will take a lot of strength and conviction to shoulder.
The responsibilities could be simply appropriate to the new beginnings taking place in someone’s life and needed in order to achieve the desired goal. They could also be the unwanted burdens of others that are causing a need for an ending in a part of a person’s life. These are just two of the ways to interpret the card based on the symbolism of the suit, number, and traditional imagery of the Ten of Wands.
The most important message that the Ten of Wands can give us however, is that whatever burdens and responsibilities we take on, we do it by choice. It can be easy to blame others for making us feel weary by placing the weight of the world on our shoulders, but in the end we are the ones who choose to carry it rather than drop it by the wayside. The contemplation of whether our responsibilities are helping us to move forward or holding us back is the true meaning of the Ten of Wands.