10 of Wands

In the Rider-Waite-Smith version of this card, a person staggers forwards. The way they are holding their wands is quite ridiculous, spread out like a fan in front of their face. They can’t possibly see where they are going, all they can see is this great load of projects, ideas, actions, obligations, or whatever else these wands represent. Surely it would be better to put a few of those wands down? Carry them one or two at a time, perhaps?

It’s a shame that the wands suit – so filled with passion and dynamic energy – should end up here at this place of overwhelm. In this, it represents our immaturity with the element of fire. Fire is such a powerful force. As we’ve seen throughout this suit, it can rile us up, get us so excited about our ideals and our ideas, it can bring about positive action, it can encourage us to fight for what we truly believe in. But of course, we can have too much of a good thing, and fire left unchecked can be all-consuming. 

That’s what’s happened here. We have taken on more than we can handle, and the result is, we are lost. Overwhelmed. Burned out. Little Red Tarot

It is hard enough to keep track of your own actions and their consequences. Trying to control or manipulate everyone around you is sheer madness. You just need to worry about you.

According to the nineteenth century French historian Jules Michelet la joie de vivre is a harmonious state, a peaceful existence within nature. In English, “the joy of living” is associated with all those things that make life worthwhile. Alas, while the work has seemingly been done, all the projects have been completed and everything on the to do list has been ticked off, there is little la joie de vivre to be found in this depiction of the ten of wands. The body language tells it all. These individuals, dangling on the end of the puppeteers strings, are clearly exhausted.

Most of us can relate to this. People in our fast, modern society are suffering from from a combination of the drudgery of urban living, overwork and technology that holds them on puppet strings like the ones restraining the individuals we see here. And this is not a particularly new phenomenon. Artists from Hogarth to Hockney and Delacroix to Daumier have long been fascinated by urban life and the impact on individuals.

For the American painter Edward Hopper the city was a place of lonely, seedy lives and desolate dead spaces. His vision of New York resembled the poetry of TS Eliot, whose pessimism about city living he shares: “Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,/The muttering retreats/Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels/And sawdust restaurants with oyster shells”. Nighthawks(1942) is set in a Greenwich Avenue diner, where people are thrown momentarily together in the urban wasteland. It is like a scenario for a film noir, but the deliberate flat bleakness of the buildings and empty street make it more existentially challenging than any thriller. Copyright: Art Institute of Chicago.

A therapist would no doubt diagnose these characters in the ten of wands with burnout. Burnout is the loss of meaning in one’s work, coupled with mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion as the result of long-term, unresolved stress. Of course burnout does not only come from work related situation. I drew this card as a part of the Tree of Life Shadow Work spread I decided to complete using this deck. The question connected to this card asked me about aspects of my childhood that were worth considering.

This Ten of Wands triggered memories from my childhood and teenage years. It bought back, in a rush, the feelings that I had as I tried to mediate, placate and soothe my unhappy mother, carefully watching every word that was uttered, convincing her to unpack those bags and stay. It bought back the strain of having her unburden all her rage about her missed opportunities, her despair at the traumatic events of her life. My mistake was ever thinking that I could fix anything for her. It was sheer madness! She carried all of that, unresolved, to her grave!

Is The Ten of Wand Resonating?

Do you have tell tale signs of burnout, of compassion fatigue?

Ask yourself:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?