The Nine of Wands Minor Arcana card presents us with a scene of obstacles and uphill struggle – what we want is close, but just out of reach.
The Nine of Wands often appears when we are closing in on an important goal or long-held dream. At this point we are so close we can almost taste it, yet a seemingly insurmountable wall of hindrances are in the way, and the energy and efforts we have expended to get even this close have left us tired and worn down.
The question that the 9 of Wands poses when it appears in readings is this: Can we, and should we, pull out from within ourselves the final crescendo of energy that will take us across the finish line, or will we finally see ourselves defeated, cut our losses and walk away?
What the Wands mean in Tarot
The Tarot’s Minor Arcana suit of Wands is connected to the fire element. Fire is associated with our personal power, passion, willpower, intent, drive and ambition.
The Wand is a recurring symbol throughout the Tarot, appearing again and again as a sign of will and determination.
In the second Major Arcana trump card, the Magician, we have a great example of the power of the wand. Here we see the young Magician channeling his magical power and intent through the wand he is holding in his hand. The wand is the divine conductor’s baton he uses to command the other three elements, represented on the altar before him by a golden chalice, a sword and a pentacle. The Magician teaches us that our individual will is at the core of all manifestation and all creation.
Numerological meaning of the number 9 in Tarot
Numerological speaking, the number 9 signifies completion and forms a gateway between an impending ending and a potential new beginning. The number 9 is the highest single digit number, and it contains within it the energies of all of the previous numbers.
In the Tarot, the cards labeled with the number 9 deal with transition points and represent the final steps towards the completion of a life cycle or chapter.
Nine of Wands Tarot card description
Depictions of the 9 of Wands card differ from Tarot deck to Tarot deck. However, most borrow the essential symbols and details found in the original Rider-Waite Tarot. These are the ones we will be taking a closer look at here.
The injured man
The main character in the Nine of Wands is the male figure in its foreground. He is dressed simply in earthy tones, and he looks both weary and battered. A bandage is wrapped around his head, indicating that he has fought his share of battles and that life has given him a few knocks. Still, he cannot put down his weapons and rest. His challenges are not quite over yet.
The man is leaning on one wand or staff, as if holding himself upright only through the force of his determined will. Eight more wands stand before him, stuck into the ground and blocking his passage to the green pastures beyond. These additional wands represent the obstacles he has yet to overcome. They might represent the wills of other people, poised in opposition to his own. By the looks of them, they are not going to budge without a fight.
The landscape in the foreground of the Nine of Wands Tarot card, where the man is standing, looks grey and stony – it might even have been paved over with concrete. Nothing can grow here, and if the man were to lay down his weapon for a moment of rest, he would not find much respite in this place.
In contrast, the landscape in the background, behind the wall formed by the eight opposing wands, consists of grassy pastures. In this case, the grass is quite literally greener on the other side.
Nine of Wands Tarot card meanings
The Nine of Wands Tarot card is a prism of meaning and significance. Here are some of the most prominent Nine of Wands Tarot card meanings.
The 9 of Wands is an indication of resilience.
The person in the card has clearly no stranger to the battlefield of life – and yet he is still here, fighting for what he believes in and for what he wants. Resilience is a refusal to break or give up in the face of obstacles. You are made of a tougher material than the forces opposing or contradicting you. As a result, it is almost inevitable that you are going to be successful in your endeavours.
Closely related to resilience is perseverance. Perseverance is the ability to keep going when the going gets tough. When the upright Nine of Wands shows up in a Tarot reading, it is a sign of dogged perseverance in the face of obstacles or setbacks, an indication that you are not easily deterred or put off from pursuing your goals.
Being put to the test
The upright Nine of Wands is an indication of being put to the test. You are dealing with an incredibly trying, uphill situation. Your inner fortitude, willpower and determination are all being put to the ultimate test.
The Nine of Wands Tarot card can sometimes mean sacrifice. What is the figure in the card willing to sacrifice or expend in order to keep pursuing his goal or his dream? Is the price he is being asked to pay reasonable? How much time, effort and other resources is it going to take for him to break through?
When we set big goals for ourselves and have high expectations of life, we must be willing to pay the price in order to achieve it. The Nine of Wands Tarot card asks you to consider whether the price you are paying or the sacrifices you are making are in proportion to the goal. For example, you might be working many hours at a demanding job in order to provide for your family, but is all of that time spent away from your kids really worth that slightly bigger mortgage?
The Nine of Wands Tarot card means courage. You have the inner oomph to not merely accept life and your circumstances as you find them, but to take risks and swim upstream, despite the adverse current trying to push you back. It takes courage and boldness to go for your dreams, and the Nine of Wands is a token of that.
The Nine of Wands can indicate that you are setting of boundaries and the drawing a line in the sand when it comes to your dealings with others. In this case, the Nine of Wands is a sign of standing up for yourself, your values and what you believe in, whether or not others agree with your views or your choices.
Knowing your limits
Another Nine of Wands Tarot card meaning is knowing your own limits, and being able to recognise when it is time to walk away from a dead-end pursuit, or from one that is simply draining your life force without bringing you the satisfaction or fulfilment you had hoped or expected.
Reversed Nine of Wands Tarot card meanings
When the Nine of Wands shows up reversed, its Tarot card meanings are turned on their head, distorted or exaggerated. Here are some of the primary meanings of the reversed Nine of Wands.
The upright Nine of Wands represents obstacles and difficulty – but the reversed Nine of Wands indicates downright struggle. You are fighting to keep going, despite the complete depletion of both internal and external resources. You are burning your candle at both ends.
The reversed Nine of Wands asks you to stop for a moment and reconsider your options. Is there perhaps an easier or more tenable path to your goal? Would adjusting your goal or your expectations slightly allow you more freedom, and the possibility of actually achieving it? Is what you wanted then still what you want now, and is it worth struggling for to this extend?
Another meaning of the reversed Nine of Wands is overwhelm. Here, you are really in over you head and are fighting in the dark. It is time to cut back, scale back, allow yourself a little bit of leeway and space to recover your strength and regain your sense of overview. Even the most brave and tenacious warrior needs a break now and then.
Sometimes, the Nine of Wands reversed suggests being overly defensive or even paranoid. You are constantly on your guard, anxious that others are against you or that they are trying to sabotage you or hinder your success. Perhaps you are simply paying too much attention to what others think of your plans.
When the Nine of Wands shows up in its reversed position, it can be a warning sign that you are pushing yourself beyond the brink of exhaustion and are swerving dangerously close to complete burnout. Your very soul is calling out for a break. Remember that success has more to do with sustained effort, rather than with how much you can bite off or overcome in the space of a week.
Not knowing when to quit
Occasionally the Nine of Wands reversed suggests really not knowing when to quit. You may be beating a dead horse in terms of business, love or career. When will you discover that you are throwing away vital time and effort on a lost cause? In this case, the battle has been fought and lost. It is time for you to move on.
Nine of Wands Tarot card interpretations
The Nine of Wands Tarot card has many layers and facet of meaning, and many possible interpretations. Which facet of the card’s significance stands out in a specific Tarot reading is always going to depend on a number of factors, including the individual Tarot reader’s interpretation and any surrounding cards.
Here are some examples of how the 9 of Wands Tarot card might be interpreted in the context of different readings.
What the Nine of Wands means in a love and relationship Tarot reading
You are facing challenges when it comes to romance and relationships. Perhaps you are fighting to convey something to the other person, but you are not being heard.
On a positive note, there is a determination to make the relationship work, and you at least are willing to put in the work, time and energy it is going to take to overcome the challenges.
It is a painful awakening when you discover the your efforts are futile. You may still be giving of your love, time and energy to a relationship that has long since died, or where the other person has quit emotionally a while back.
What the Nine of Wands means in a career Tarot reading
The challenges at work are greater than you could have foreseen, but you are still dedicated, for now, to sticking it out and absorbing whatever lessons, growth and clout can come from your current work situation.
Your job or business is draining you completely. After pouring all of your creative energy and love into this venture, it is still not getting off the ground. It may be time to reconsider your options – is it time to pivot, to come at things from a different angle or even quit?
What the Nine of Wands means in a personal development Tarot reading
You are going through challenging times. Your character is being tested, but also forged in the flames of opposing energies.
You have become stuck in an untenable situation where you are struggling to keep up – or to keep up appearances of keeping up. Ask yourself, are you headed in the right direction, or is there a path out there that would bring you more fulfilment and ease?