Minor Cards: Staves


Representing the Classical element of fire, what could be more suitable than the emblem of wood.  A reasonable ordering of wood pieces by size would be twig, stick, stave, and log.  A stave is a good fire starter, it can be carried, it could hold up to a glancing sword or give a good club across the head.  Staves can be architectural, good for tent pole, scaffold or palisade, where we get the idea of staving off hunger by fencing our livestock in.  Wood is temporary but useful, lasting long enough to serve a purpose.  Fire burns until its fuel is spent, and moves when it can to where there is more.  The work of feeding a home fire is continual, repetitive and necessary to stay alive.  Perhaps there are reasons the element for wood, for all its usefulness, constructive and destructive capacities, is matched to the passions and energy of humans.  Fire is the visual for the way humans effect each other, not the internal feeling of cups but the expression, the cause and effect, of feelings acted upon.  Fury, rage, heroism, compassion, all intangibles brought to life, that come from the heat the burns at 98.6 degrees in the human form.


King of Staves

This king is driven by a need for greatness.  Though a totalitarian in every respect, visions of his own grandeur haunt his dreams, his people are dragged along with him, but this occasionally works out well.  Should his vision be of wisdom, science, or destruction, those around him share in his fate.

French folk lore identified this card as Alexander the Great, the philosopher king.  In our modern deck the King of Clubs often holds a mirror.


Queen of Staves

This good queen is master of the arts, everything she touches turns to gold.  Her understanding tends deep and she is most moved by subtle and meaningful matters.  She is constantly on the road, chasing after wonders, pursuing legends of more. She is patron of the market place, exploring its diversity, rewarding quality with patronage. Her treasures are experiences, which she brings home to better the lives of her people.  Her poetry brings clarity to conflict, and shapes the people’s memory and collective wisdom.

In 1700s France, this card was known as Argine, a scramble of Regina, meaning Queen.


Horseman of Staves

This noble is on a quest for valor, better understood today as reputation.  He’ll do whatever it takes to stake his claim as leader of the pack.  The trouble is one person’s idea of good isn’t always shared, and this hero character can be quixotic or worse.  Comedic ruin can come from pursuing what at first seemed like a good thing, much harm can come at the hands of a person who believes their objective is noble.

In 1700s France, this card depicted Lancelot.  The veritable knight in shining armor, it was also called Servant of the Lady.


Page of Staves

This passionate worker is the epitome of mover and shaker.  From seating arrangements to the performance of music, this Valet makes the magic happen.  When it comes to creative solutions, inciting a riot, or getting someone elected, this is who keeps their finger on the pulse of the times and it is their savvy on which their superiors rely.



Ace of Staves

This card is a meditation on the element of fire.  It is wise to consider your passions, and see how they shape your decisions and the course of life.  This is the part of the world that you can change, you build the fire and illumine the dark around you.  You build the device that lifts the stones.  Focus on what you are able to do, not what you can’t change.



Two of Staves

Perhaps it is in battle that some things are decided, but battles are decided by the skill of the soldiers.  When two staves collide it is the sound of practice.  Title, privilege and luck may set the stage for our fates, but it’s what you do with the materials at hand that really matters.



Three of Staves

When one has aligned themselves with the forces of their choosing, our own lives become the fruit of our labors.  We exhibit the virtues of that which guides us.  This is a neutral card, everything depends of the nature of the project that was undertaken, to produce these results.



Four of Staves

It’s a simple matter when undertaking a project that once it is finished the result may be assessed.  Having the labor and the enjoyment or lessons combined is a balance of closure, a single full experience to add to the many that life offers.



Five of Staves

Even within passions that are well reinforced around us, well conceived and executed, the very uncertainty of heading a certain direction is inevitable.  It may seem as though anxiety is there to block any notion of progress.  This is because the future has yet to happen.  Take action, or no change is the only certain outcome.



Six of Staves

It can be fairly said that victory is only possible when the effort is considerable.  There are easy victories, but the point is that the use of force is necessary to effect change.  The type of victory is sure to reflect the kind of force, while difficulty is a separate matter entirely.



Seven of Staves

While the odd numbered cards have that old Pythagoras sense of something added to a symmetry, the seven is more malevolent in the other suits.  Being the passions, Staves describe qualities that motivate both good and unpleasant aims.  Victory is a neutral balance, its nature can be undesirable.  Honor is a passion that, even misguided, can discipline our other fires.



Eight of Staves

The greatest fruit of experienced passions, shaped and directed, honed to excellence, is speed.  The master craftsman gets better results in less time.  The skilled orator knows which notes get expected reactions.  Contours evolve as shapes are streamlined. Effectiveness yields swift and decisive  results.



Nine of Staves

Even the most burning creative desire is only as capable as the level force they are able to apply.  A steady fire is required to melt the metals.  One can have all the experiences in the world and still not possess the necessary verve to produce an effect of them.



Ten of Staves

Like the Swords, this card produces a curious climax as the highest card in the fire element.  But it isn’t difficult to imagine that in the face of any truly total passion, a consuming fire, there isn’t room for anyone or anything else.  This card could be named obsession, but the results are in the realm of domination.