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Tarot and the black poles...

The one thing I always tell my students when learning to read tarot is “look at the cards”.

Before you speak, write, pick up a book or head to google- look at the cards.

They have pictures for a reason- the cards speak with the rich image of symbolism. Each time we have a spread in front of us there is a unique blend of symbols just waiting to be seen.

One of my favourite details in the Rider-Waite deck (I am so in awe of Pamala Coleman-Smith) is the black poles. To my knowledge (do correct me if I’m wrong- I am always keen to learn) the black pole can be found in three cards- and is a unique link between these three cards.

The Fool carries his knapsack on a large black pole. It is not a wand like the suit of wands, nor a staff like the hermit and the 8 of cups, it is a large black pole.

One of my key interpretations of the Fool is pure potential (the number 0) and an un-incarnated soul (before birth, after death).

The reason I have this association is partly through practical examples, as well as the symbolism - the white sun (seeming pure and not of this physical existence) and the white rose (also in Death). Where the red rose is the physical body- with red life giving blood, and the bloodless or pale rose is the body with out the blood flowing. Or as the Norse would say “death makes a man pale”.

The next card the black pole appears on is the 6 of swords. Like all cards it has many meanings, but one reading sticks in my mind. It was a client having a very, very difficult time and she just wanted to know how to cope. I did a three card reading and it was knight of cups, 6 of swords, knight of pentacles. I loved the images and instinctively I said “ your guides have got your back, just trust you will know what to do”.

I turned to the card at the bottom of the pack- and there was the fool. That was the first time I made the connection with the 6 of swords and spirit guide, to me the link seems much clearer in the Druidcraft tarot.

Of course spirit guide isn’t in everyone’s world view, and the 6 of swords can have many meanings. But that black pole always catches my eye and reminds me this card can be about “intuitive” or “divine” guidance.

The last card (I am aware of) the black pole being in is the 10 of pentacles. In my Facebook page, and on my zoom classes I have been called out many times for having quite a negative take on this card. Which is a fair point- I can’t help but notice the Tower in the back ground with the two figures- clothed in blue and red- and the card feels on the edge of chaos to me.

But notice carefully the old man (or is it the young man?-perspective is chaotic in this card) is holding a black pole. To me this is a suggestion that the old man is an ancestor who has passed.

I have seen the 10 of pentacles refer to ancestral wisdom and gifts, the value of heritage and culture, as well as literal inheritance. Starting to understand the older man outside of the courtyard has helped me look beyond the potential chaos and madness of accumulation that has in the past clouded my view of this card. It has helped me to see the practical wisdom in this card- the circle of life, and that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves.

The card I'm still musing on is the Lovers. The fiery tree seems to have a straight black trunk (where as the other tree has the brown trunk we would expect.) Is this the Tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden- "for the day you eat from it you shall surely die"? And therefore linking all the black poles to death, pre-birth, our un-incarnated soul, our ancestors?

I'm still exploring this, musing on the idea- and sharing it as a work in progress.

Have you spotted any more black poles in the Rider-

Waite tarot? I’d love to know.


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