7 min read

five of wands // a friction that forges

five of wands // a friction that forges
five of wands from the spacious tarot

hello, friends. before we dig in, i wanted to say a very sincere thank you for being here. i know that there are a lot of amazing newsletters and creators fighting for attention in your inbox, and i'm honored to get to spend a bit of time with you today exploring a card i have been excited to get into here: the five of wands.

if you're a new subscriber, welcome! you can click the button below to check out direct links to some of my most popular essays and offerings.

and if you're a paid subscriber at any level, i'll be sending out another quick note in a few hours with a fresh invite to my discord server, the 3am.tarot sanctuary. it's included with your paid subscription, so come introduce yourself, hang out, and meet some amazing tarot seekers.

lastly, all love and solidarity to the student encampments around the united states and the globe, with particular care for the students at columbia and city college who went head to head with the NYPD last night. if you have extra funds to support students that have been arrested, click here to donate.

now: take a deep breath. if you need to, grab something to drink, stretch out any tense muscles, and let's get into it.

it's not uncommon to associate friction with danger.

friction creates heat, static, energy, intensity. it's the scrape of sandpaper over wood, the rushing of water over rocks, the clash of metal on metal. in a project or a journey or a transformation, there are always rough spots — and it takes time, energy, consistency, and devotion to turn that wood velvety soft to the touch, to make those rocks smooth and polished, to gradually shift into someone who is braver or stronger or more authentically you.

without friction, without roughness, there can be no movement.

yet in the tarot (and often in life), we tend to feel friction first as conflict, anger, danger. using these words and definitions interchangeably to describe our experiences can make sense, depending on the context. after all, intensity and friction and challenges can be very uncomfortable.

but being unsafe and being uncomfortable are not the same thing. danger and discomfort are not synonyms with interchangeable meanings. one is a direct threat to our physical and emotional wellbeing. the other is knowledge, insight, and opportunity for change.

the five of wands can teach us about the power of discomfort, and help us understand what it means to sit in the feeling instead of just avoiding it.

five of wands from the anthropologist tarot (left) and the spacious tarot (right)

in so-called traditional interpretations, the five of wands is defined as a card of creative discord, interpersonal strife, and a lack of direction. this could be a need for friction, with no ability to create it (a bunch of ideas that have nowhere to go; anger or frustration without a target; a restless craving for movement without a destination) or too much friction without any kind of purpose (trying to do too many things at once and not completing any of them; starting fights that have no real purpose).

either way, there's frustration. these kinds of interpretations for the five of wands bring an uneasy, fidgety sort of energy to mind: edgy impatience, building hostility, an agitated and anxious desire to do something, anything, rather than staying still.

and on the heels of the four of wands, this card story absolutely makes sense. after all, we've been building and protecting, moving in a disciplined and orderly fashion, creating rules and following them, with great results. but eventually, inevitably, the restrictions that we put into place to support our creativity or safety start to feel suffocating. the structures we've been working within start to get in our way, to smother rather than sustain. the rules that once felt protective now feel like they're preventing growth, change, transition. and suddenly, we crave something new: creative discovery. spiritual adventures. passionate freedom.

in other words, the five of wands represents a fiery breaking point, a need for authentic change. but that transformation cannot happen if we hide from discomfort. so the five of wands gives us a choice: avoid getting burned and choose to stay stuck in our restriction? or let the fire consume us, and see who we are on the other side of the flames?

the five of wands absolutely can represent agitation, irritation, purposeless movement. but this card can also represent a desire for more, for bigger, for new. it can find us breaking out of our self-imposed cages, craving more freedom in our creative or passionate pursuits, longing to see what thrives beyond the walls. it can be a moment of understanding which fires are burning steadily, and which ones need more space, more oxygen, more fuel, to keep growing.

this card can represent an authentic and powerful craving for movement, as well as the embrace of revolution. if like me, you've been watching students at columbia standing up to cops and corporations and the national guard in an effort to support the people of palestine, if you've seen the way that this has inspired over a dozen other universities around the world to courageously follow suit, you know exactly what i'm talking about.

fire is revolutionary: it sparks, it spreads, it illuminates, it changes. fire itself is born from friction. it cannot exist without it.

image from pittsburgh post-gazette

we cannot have flames without first striking a match or a flint. we cannot have revolution without pushing against the status quo, the institutions that are built around our compliance. so why would we deny that transformation through anger itself is essential to our understanding of this card? why would we downplay fire's perpetual need for constant change?

the five of wands isn't about not being grateful for what exists, or about stirring up shit without reason. it's instead a recognition that our current needs are no longer being met by past satisfaction or standards, and change must happen if the fire is to continue burning at all. it's a demand for something to drastically shift, and the resistance that comes from rubbing up against the old ways of being that refuse to bend.

it's an invitation to let ourselves be uncomfortable, so that we can identify and act on the truth at the heart of that friction.

five of wands and hierophant from the spacious tarot

we'll talk about this more later in the month, but remember that five is a number of both physical freedom and spiritual discovery: of pursuit, of examination, of honoring what has come before while simultaneously recognizing what will work in the present. our core five archetype the hierophant is not afraid of the past, nor are they intimidated by the future. they recognize that the only constant is change, that questioning is holy, that our intellectual and tangible knowings are inextricably intertwined.

our anger and frustration reveal our sacred truths. they tell us what we care about, what we are invested in, what we are devoted to. they reveal injustice, inaction, inattentiveness. in this way the five of wands serves as a refining fire, an opportunity to try something different, to act from a place of truth.

this moment, this pivot point in the story of fire and wands and revolution, is inevitable. this is a fiery metamorphosis, a point of transition, a recognition that something must shift if we want to keep moving forward with authenticity. with this card we take a fireplace and transform it into a forge, allowing ourselves to be reborn and remade, revealing the core of magic and power and strength that was always there and giving it the room to breathe, to grow, to become something even bigger.

refuse to expand, contract into what is known to be broken and smothering, and the fire will go out. but let the fire rage and grow and shine, and it will transform everything.

text over photograph of a fiery forge: "my rage burns in my psyche with an intensity that creates clarity. it is a constructive healing rage... a way for us to learn to see clearly.  — bell hooks"

as we move into a new month, as you consider what your personal fire needs to thrive, as we recognize collective fires that are burning hot and true, give yourself space to breathe. give your restlessness permission to shift. give your sparks a chance to wander. give your questions an opportunity to form. give your fire a chance to illuminate and clarify.

where is tension accumulating? which restrictions are you struggling against? what is coming to a boiling point? where is your passion leading, and what is in the way of that movement? how are you using your resources and your vision and your energy to ignite and sustain something monumental? who is by your side as you feed those flames, as you explore your own discomfort?

what is your anger teaching you? how can you acknowledge conflict, instead of avoiding or denying it? and how might allowing friction to take up space propel you into something new, something deeply and wildly necessary for personal and collective progress?

wishing you an empowered, revealing, purposeful may, friends. stay brave, stay strong, stay focused. don't hide from the fire, or from the forge.