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Join Date: 26 Aug 2002
Location: Deep East Texas
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Maat Tarot Study group:Wands, Swords and feathers


If there’s one association that persists in the tarot, it is that of the minor suits with the elements of earth, water, air and fire. Earth and water seem to be monogamously mated to disks and cups (respectively), but fire and air are harder to pin down. It’s their nature, I suppose.

Most literary sources pair swords with fire, and the angel who guards the gates of Eden does not hold an airy sword. Yet, a sword lives in air if it lives anywhere—until it penetrates its objective, at least. Wands, well—fire makes sense as an associative element because one can easily make torches out of wands, as well as matches, cook fires, and the like. I wasn’t altogether sure how wand + air pairing would work in the Maat, but the 8 of wands certainly works well.

To begin with, the arcana reminds us that a wand doesn’t have to be wooden: anything with a rod-like shape that is associated with air can be a wand. Or a sword, too, for that matter. A feather, for example, can represent either. The Margarete Petersen Tarot uses feathers to represent Air, but these feathers get very ruffled as the suit progresses. Obviously her feathers are meant to be swords. But, feathers in the Maat must balance hearts. That’s how the Goddess, Maat, discovers one’s character. The light heart, free from heavy weight of bad behavior, is the heart she looks for, cherishes, and admits to her paradise.

So, Maat's feathers are associated with feelings. Therefore, when Julie Cuccia-Watts says that this lunar cycle’s key words are “I feel,” we begin to see the phrase enlarge. The primary focus of the feelings in this lunar cycle are those that arise from the bonds of family and friendship. But these bonds engender more than sentiment. Almost insensibly they build within us standards by which we judge ourselves and others. They produce feelings about ethical matters: “I feel this is wrong,” we say, or “I feel that this is the right thing to do.” These feelings involve the will as well as the heart. In this last quarter of the moon in Libra which brings an “acute awareness of high ideals and standards,” this arcana is very well placed. And, it forms a fine transition to the next lunar cycle which emphasizes the more active aspects of the wands.

Meanwhile, we see a woman of obviously good character writing a letter. Her quills in somewhat regular positions across her desk are a little reminiscent of the suspended wands in RWS. But they are placed with obvious purpose—some in different inks, some stored and one looks like it’s waiting to be sharpened. By contrast, the 8 wands in RWS seem enigmatic, not natural and likely not arranged by a human agent.

Mystery is present in the Maat’s version as well, but it’s so ordinary we fail to appreciate it. Look at the women in the painting above the writer’s head. They’ve been reading a letter together, and their faces are filled with light. One of them cradles a love bird. This is the effect that the writer hopes to achieve. She’s using her wand (the quill) to indite the words that will produce that result. How can marks on paper cause someone’s voice to speak in one’s mind? And cause ones heart to contract with fear or fill with joy? Yet it happens all the time.
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