In the Five of Wands, we see a group of young men gathering together to practice their technique at using quarterstaves, a weapon from the Middle Ages that was made famous by Little John from the tales of Robin Hood. Donned in various colorful smocks and leggings, they fight with fiery enthusiasm and concentration. Their staves are actually wands, and we can see that they practice out of the sheer enjoyment of participating in an athletic activity with others, without wishing to do permanent harm. The ground is bare – probably a practice ground that has been made ready for the intense physical activity they are pursuing. One can almost hear the loud whack the staves make when they make contact with one another. Activity is alive in this card, reflecting a friendly competition that naturally requires some aggression but is by no means menacing or vicious.
The Five of Wands is often interpreted as one of conflict or competition. Ultimately, however, it expresses a desire to be ready for true battles, and the ambition and energy it takes to become fully prepared. No one is born with the perfect skill set to take on life’s challenges or obstacles. Only through meticulous practice can we begin to prepare ourselves for the tests that are served to each one of us later down the road. Like living in a college dorm prepares a young person for eventually living on their own, or how a band practices their songs before preforming – the show cannot go on until it has been run through a least a dozen times or more before it is introduced to a live audience. And competition, when taken in the right attitude, can hone our skill set, sharpen our attention, and drive us to better ourselves. But without the desire for self-improvement, we’ll never attain the edge we need to progress in life and eventually become victorious in whatever small battles we’re faced with. Don’t forget that in practice rounds we often make mistakes. We start out green, with little knowledge or experience, but just like learning lines to a play, or finding our best position in soccer team, we must discover our strengths through trial and error. When we can accept our errors as learning opportunities, then we’ve done what the Five of Wands is reminding us so vividly to do – approach life’s hardships with an attitude that perfection does not come overnight and with some effort and humility, we can grow strong enough and smart enough for anything life throws our way.
In conjunction with taking on challenges and preparing for life’s tests and trials, joining forces with Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is an obvious choice. Thriving in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, this creeping succulent is commonly known as water hyssop and spreads quickly with small white flowers that bloom from Spring until Fall. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve mental health, memory, and promote rejuvenation, current clinical studies show that it does indeed improve verbal learning, delayed word recall, memory acquisition, as well as reducing anxiety and ADHD symptoms. It has been described as a calming cognitive enhancer. The triterpenoid saponins are adaptogenic, protecting us from the harmful effects of stress, and are believed to be responsible for most of the herb's pharmacological actions. In conjunction with Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), the two express impressive neuroprotective properties which are now being explored by doctors with patients experiencing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative disorders that induce memory loss.
The ambition and eagerness of the Five of Wands paired with the cognitive enhancements of Bacopa teach us to improve our learning curves with humility and grace. Life’s challenges may bruise us or knock us down, but the art of true growth is the act of getting back up and dusting ourselves off – determined to face another round.
*Tarot reading is based on the Rider-Waite Tarot Card deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith
Pollack, Rachel. Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom. San Francisco, Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, 2007. P177-178
Raman, Ryan, MS, RD. “7 Emerging Benefits of Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi).” Healthline, 18 August 2023. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bacopa-monnieri-benefits
Stuart, Armando Gonzalez PhD. “Bacopa (Brahmi).” The University of Texas El Paso, “n.d.” https://www.utep.edu/herbal-safety/herbal-facts/herbal%20facts%20sheet/bacopa.html
Walker, Eric A. Walker, Pellegrini, Mark V. “All About Bacopa Monnieri.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 17 March 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK589635/