9 of WandsI always think of the 9 of Wands in cinematic terms. Every action movie has some big scene at the end where the hero, having overcome seemingly impossible odds, braces himself for the final confrontation that will settle things, once and for all. This is the showdown at the OK Corral, Frodo at the Cracks of Doom, Luke Skywalker in mortal combat with Darth Vader.

In the Waite-Smith deck, our hero is bandaged and weary, stoically digging in his heals to face the final onslaught. Here, in the World Spirit Tarot illustrated by Lauren O’Leary, he has fared a little better. His pose is more active, and all his wands are aflame, suggesting the powerful resources of energy he still has at his disposal.

This fellow also seems an unlikely action hero; he’s more like a guy from a 60’s commune who’s somehow lost his way and now finds himself in big trouble. That’s a nice touch, as I can identify with such a character more easily than I can with Rambo or James Bond.

This card may appear because you’ve been caught up in a larger-than-life situation that is now careening toward final resolution. There are certainly connotations of conflict, self-defense, and heroic defiance. The feeling is one of having been beaten and hounded, and now turning to fight.

Such situations do occur in life, of course. But with this card, I always stop to ask the question, Am I being too theatrical about this? Has the conflict become larger than life, in my own mind? Am I casting myself as the hero in this action film, when a sober documentary would paint a different picture?

Yes, this turn-and-fight energy is now available to you. But do you need to use it, or not? Sometimes the showdown is effectively inevitable – things have just escalated to that point, and no one can see any opportunities to drop back and reconsider. At other times, though, we can just extinguish the torches and walk away quietly into the night.

An important value the tarot has as a spiritual tool is to take situations that feel enormous and beyond our control, and place them in a context where we can look in on them from the outside. That’s a first step in reclaiming the power of personal choice in life.