Fire in its most raw and physical sense is depicted by an uncontrolled destructive burning; this is experienced as an overbearing force, a relentless thirst that is entirely ruled by chaos. Yet in this we find the seeds of renewal, for just as a forest fire may seem horrific and scary in the moment, it is necessary to bring rebirth to the forest, by bringing richness to the soil, and life back to the earth. The spirit of the phoenix finds itself free from its confined cage by the passage of death itself; for the key of this card is Resolve! With great resolve we can go the distance, we can transmute any difficult affair and see our challenges through; it is in this we find resolution to all that we set out to achieve.
Feeling the resolve in your heart in life will bring resolve to the challenges you face; here we have an opportunity to allow a great transition to take place. The seeds of fertility will be born from the ashes of the fire, and the phoenix in your heart will rise again. However in this moment, the labour to get there may be difficult, even painful. There is so much to do, and how can you do it all yourself? You may experience this as a good thing, or a bad thing, ultimately – your perspective will decide. You have a number of ways making it through, and the fire burning within you not only support you in seeing it through, but if you let your ego burn up along with it, it will reveal a renewed and reborn you. Just remember to take account of all that you have created thus far, so that you do not lose your way as you enter into a new cycle.
The Ten of Wands brings the cycle of fire to a completion, which also heralds an entirely new cycle. This completion is described as a raw destructive burning, and a burning and passionate spirit within. More specifically, it speaks toward a combination of a heavy burden which requires your maximum effort to make it through, and yet the inner resolve which allows this to take place. We find that by this dramatic increase in inner and outer activity, it expands our sense of self and gives us newfound strength to accomplish anything, even if the process to get there was hard. This is observed in the natural flow of life; new seeds may grow with nourishment from the ashes of the old once it has been transmuted and cleansed by fire.
This card depicts a bird trapped in a cage being consumed by the fiery inferno of engaged spiritual will. The physical body must perish in order for the soul to truly understand freedom, and here we see its spirit rising in the form of the phoenix which bursts out in creative wonder; the true spirit of what was within the little bird all along. Free of its former shell, it flies free; unrestricted by the flames or its previous limitations, and even lifts the cage which used to entrap it high into the air. In this, the cycle of renewal continues, and life changes begins again.
The Ten of Wands may appear as a sign of definite change, or a shift that is already happening in your life; this may be fueled by your inner fire, or a buildup of pressure on the outside which causes you to engage fully with life. It is up to you to choose how you see these events transpire; will you struggle against a seemingly unwinnable battle, or will you surrender to spirit and step into your power? Here you must acknowledge the great level of responsibility that comes with this card; the Ten of Wands calls you to responsibility for yourself, your past actions, those who you care for, and the future you are creating.
The phoenix in the Ten of Wands appears to lift up its former cage into the air out from the flames, which describes the resolve associated with this card, and the varying degrees to which we must apply ourselves to these tasks. We may struggle and stress over the burdens that we have set up for ourselves, but remember that it was us who choose to accept this work in the first place, and so the choice is still ours to release it. The phoenix says that the work may be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be if we are willing to let go and let the old selves fall away. Old patterns may be coming to a close, and new ones are sure to open, even if that means having a greater sense of responsibility for our lives as a result; our resolve is heightened. This card does speak towards hard work (the phoenix lifting the cage), and also great success in the making (it’s spiritual rebirth by its own passing).
In the end, everything simply IS. We are often presented with a choice of how to see and understand everything that happens in our lives. Just as the flames burn up the little bird, it is in this that it is freed from its confinement, and its spirit lives on, taking on new forms with new abilities. You might liken this to a job in which you are overburdened with too many responsibilities and is driving you into madness – yet the only thing keeping you there is your decision to stay. There is an importance in allowing old energies to be destroyed to make room for fresh energies to take their place.
Rise up with the flames of destruction, allow them to dissolve your old self and lift you into sky where infinite possibilities exist and new creative potentials are birthed. This card signifies the end and beginning, of a great spiritual cycle.
The reverse of the Ten of Wands is what happens when we resist the natural calling to release the old ways, and hold on tight to the idea that we can keep things exactly as they are. This is an impairment to our inner fire. Every atom in the universe is in constant motion, so to assume that we can prevent the natural changes of life will only cause suffering within. Here we may feel like we are honoring our commitments, but in truth we are shirking our responsibilities towards ourselves, limiting our ability to grow and evolve.
Even if we believe we can do something about it, or even make things better – this is an unwinnable game, and so you are going to continue to beat your head against a wall over and over until death comes for you regardless. Hence, here we have spiritual oppression. This may appear as clinging to destructive habits or emotional problems that we refuse to cope with because of our own insecurities or fears. It also may describe the belief that we’re doing the right thing by allowing ourselves to suffer, which we may even experience the same struggle lifetime after lifetime because of inability to accept change. If the burden in your life is a big one, chances are this is not the first time you have been faced with the opportunity to let go and take a leap of faith.
To turn this reversed card upright, simply embrace the fact that you will not grow by continuing to repeat the same mistakes. If you embrace the necessity for change, you can even support the transition process, and soon find yourself as a phoenix, rising again stronger than ever and starting a new chapter of your life; fully expanding your sense of self and strengthening your inner resolve. Change is inevitable no matter what, so all you are doing by resisting is prolonging the inevitable, embrace the unknown with a sense of awe and wonder and watch your life begin anew, just like the mighty phoenix.
The Book of Thoth
The Golden Dawn
The Tarot Handbook