9 of Wands - no vegetation


For purposes of learning the flow and patterns of the Camoin Tarot de Marseille pip cards, I laid them all out on a table, in order from Ace to Ten. I noticed that all of the pip cards have some sort of vegetation or ornamentation, except one: the 9 of Wands.

In the Wand series, the 8 of Wands is the first to lose the side leaves, but they return again in the 10 of Wands. So what is it about the 9 of Wands that such growth is not pictured (or needed)?

9's can represent completion, integration, fulfillment, accomplishment, the end of a cycle. Wands can represent Will, action, assertion. Combining these, the 9 of Wands could represent completion of action, or fulfillment of the Will.

So perhaps the totality of force or energy in the 9 of Wands is complete in itself, and thus external or supplemental ornamentation is superfluous?

Your thoughts?...


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The Carole Sédillot book Ombres et Lumières du Tarot mentions this as well, suggesting that the absence of stems and leaves suggests that the 9 of Wands has been cut off from some source of power.

In the ninth year of the war. . . .

I'd say that what's missing is the Earth. Like the old soldier in the Waite-Smith tradition, the battle has gone on for so long here that, although the enterprise of Wands has gone well, the guard is attentive at his post, the position is fortified, and we are dealing from a position of strength here --- on the other hand, at this point people have forgotten what they're fighting for.

War is all we can remember; it is the backdrop against which our lives are measured. We have too much invested in the conflict to re-examine its purposes; the hostility is too rooted into every aspect of the lives of the veterans, that they can never go home again. There is a disconnection here from some larger purpose that has been forgotten.

It was in the ninth year of the war that the Iliad begins, and it all starts to seem rather pointless at this time. The Greek allies have begun quarrelling among themselves; the story of the Iliad is how the greatest hero of the Greeks, Achilles, was persuaded to return to the field.


The nine of battons indeed does not have vegetation in traditional representations on the Marseille deck, but neither has the ten of Cups (excluding considerations of the Aces). Interestingly, in the Schaffhouse versions, only the ten of Cups has no 'vegetation', which the nine includes!

Admitedly, the Camoin deck, which is a little different, places a flower-like depiction inside the (top) laid cup on his deck. It otherwise maintains, as do the standard Marseilles decks, the 'aridity' on the nine of Bastons.

In terms of the nine of wands, I like ihcoyc's reminder that the Illiad opens in the ninth year of the war - a detail I had never paid attention to.

With regards to the number nine, here is a quote from the third century Alexandrian Christian Anatolius, from On the Decad:
  • On the Ennad

    The ennad is the first square based on the first odd number, just as four is the first square based on the first even number. The sequence from the monad to it adds up to 45, which is the time within which they say that nine-month children begin to be formed. The eight spheres revolve around the ninth, Earth. It too is called 'that which brings completion', since it completes nine-month children. Moreover, it is called perfect, because it is the product of three, which is a perfect number, taken three times. Homer [in the Iliad 7.161] says, 'All the nine stood up'. Nine is also said to contain the principles of concords - 4, 3, and 2; [...]

    translated by R. Waterfield, first published in Kairos Newsletter 1987/8, reprinted in Alexandria 3, 1995.
Given the usual-ness of associating the nine with 'completion', it is worth reflecting that even at this time - and undoutedly earlier, this and other numbers have qualities we still consider similarly (as we should expect as numbers are reflected upon).

Rusty Neon

(1) For me, the lack of vegetation in the TdM 9 of Batons brings to mind the hermit of the Ninth Trump with staff in hand (being the central baton of the 9 of Batons card) travelling persistently, bravely, with conviction, despite hardship, through the barren wasteland. Further, the lack of vegetation can represent the Asceticism, Self-Sacrifice on the part of the hermit.

(2) To tarot author Alain Bocher writing on the 1760 Conver TdM, the lack of vegetation brings to mind Winter. Nature has to die before it can be born again. He even has a good play on words involving the French word Neuf which means Nine as well New: "Tout sera Neuf." "Everything will be Nine/New."