Hanson Roberts - Rods/Wands


In the study group thread about 6 of Rods, Rachelcat included this paragrpah in the first post:
rachelcat said:
Should we continue to discuss/wonder about why they are called rods and not wands? I agree that wands can be a bit too "magicky" for a general tarot user (that's not into magic(k)). But then why, as someone else has already pointed out, are the "rods" depicted in this deck actually Aaron's flowering staff from the Old Testament, a very magical take on the suit symbol? Wouldn't it make more sense to just depict a variety of sticks, depending on their uses (fighting staffs, king's scepter, etc.), as other decks do?
So, I start from that point, seeing the Ace of Rods is a little difficult for me to imagine this is the suit of the fire element because of the flowering edges of the rods, it makes me think that the wood is still green and won't be able to transport fire, the LWB describes this suit among other things as one of "growth, progress, advancement, animation" I suppose those characterisitcs are represented by the flowering edges, this is not an impulsive and destructive fire is more a stable fire already controlled and used wisely pretty much like rachelcat said using Aaron's staff example.


I agree, Flavio. Those flowering rods always make me think of Spring, which is not a season I normally associate with fire. In fact, there are very few seasonal cues in this deck--Rods, Cups, and Pentacles all seem to have similar imagery--everything is green and flowering under a blue or pink sky. There are a few bright suns in Rods that *could* indicate summer. There are some grapevines in Pentacles that could be associated with autumn, and Cups has lots of flowers and garlands--but nothing really obvious.

I personally tend to associate: Rods/Fire/Summer, Cups/Spring/Water, Pentacles/Earth/Autumn, and Swords/Air/Winter. That's just the way I first learned the tarot.

However, I can mentally associate both flowers and fire by considering them as the 'budding' fire of passion and creativity that this suit is known for. :)


Fast and Slow Burning

I agree that the flowering rods communicate a fiery/wands feeling without the fire: creation, bursting with energy, etc. And they are lovely and mysterious! My husband is a chemistry teacher and he is always talking about how the processes of life are chemically the same as burning. Both are oxidation. And I see that one is slow and sustains life, and the other is fast and usually destroys life. So I guess that means the rods of HR are "kinder, gentler" wands.

And yes, they do kind of confuse the season issue. It seems like the only season that's obvious in the deck is swords = winter. The swords court seems to be on a windy mountaintop in November!

And I'm going to bring back in the terminology controversy. Why are they "rods" rather than "wands"? Does it matter? As I mentioned, I would personally prefer something more neutral, like "batons" to avoid self-consciously magical terms.

What do you think?


Hmmm... rods doesn't strike you as neutral? It actually does seem neutral to me. Staves is another term I've seen, but that could be interpreted in a 'magical' way, as well.

I'm a big fan of Tarot growth (an expansionist, rather than a purist) so terms that hearken back to historical/foreign language decks don't really float my boat. :) Unless you're a French speaker, using a French deck, baton doesn't sound right to me. MHO, remember! :D

rod:Middle English rodd, from Old English
A thin straight piece or bar of material, such as metal or wood, often having a particular function or use.
A shoot or stem cut from or growing as part of a woody plant.
A scepter, staff, or wand symbolizing power or authority.
Power or dominion, especially that of tyranny.
A stick or bundle of sticks or switches used to give punishment by whipping.

wand: Middle English, from Old Norse: vondr
A thin supple rod, twig, or stick.
A slender rod carried as a symbol of office in a procession; a scepter.
A conductor's baton.
A stick or baton used by a magician, conjurer, or diviner.

baton: French baton, from Old French
A slender wooden stick or rod used by a conductor to direct an orchestra or band.
A hollow metal rod with a heavy rubber tip or tips that is wielded and twirled by a drum major or drum majorette.
A short staff carried by certain public officials as a symbol of office.
Sports. The hollow cylinder that is carried by each member of a relay team in a running race and passed to the next team member.
A short stick carried by police; a billy club.

staves: Middle English staf, from Old English
A stick or cane carried as an aid in walking or climbing.
A stout stick used as a weapon; a cudgel.
A pole on which a flag is displayed; a flagstaff.
A rod or baton carried as a symbol of authority.

Well, rods, batons, and staves all have a negative side to their definitions: beatings, tyranny, and billy clubs! There is a lot of overlap, which does make one wonder why deck designers choose one over another.

When I look at these definitions, the word staves seems to fit the suit meanings I use best. And it is more inclusive than wands. Interesting.


Lurea_aure said:
When I look at these definitions, the word staves seems to fit the suit meanings I use best. And it is more inclusive than wands. Interesting.
Maybe because my mother language is spanish and traslations of rods/wands in any english-spanish-english dictionary are not so different I wasn't aware the name of the suit could made that much difference, thank you for the dictionary definitions. I used to think the different names wands, rods and even staves were only used for the sake of novelty or variety, specially in RWS clones.

As for magic(k)al implications of the "wands" suit name, for me all the Tarot is a "magical" thing (I don't mean I believe magic power make it work) so to call the fire suit as "wands" seem fine, on the other hand, I don't believe there is space for a confusion just at looking the cards, the only "authentic magic wands" so to speak, in the deck are those in the hands of the Magician and the World dancer.

Celtic Star

This is interesting....

I'm not so sure that fire is as destructive as one might think though. When you think about the lightning that strikes some of the wooded areas out west here in the U.S., nature burns the land thereby supplying an array of needed nutrients in it's wake that spark an abundance of new growth which is very much representative of the spring, regrowth, new life.

Man tends to look at fire as destructive in nature but it's a very natural process & a very useful one but one that is difficult to control.

I think rods definitely works & that rods can be a good representation of this force although I'm not sure that it really matters how it's referred to other than it can have many different names so many can understand it from their own point of view.

But then.....what do I know:)


I was reading about flower symbolism and remembered about this thread. In general, flowers and their "cup" shape are symbol of receptivity so once again it conflicted me with the flowering staves of this deck (which I still love anyway)

I checked all the suit cards, only Ace's rod has fully blossomed, in order to "understand" the function of the flower on the rod, I imagined the Ace flower is open and collecting energy from the glorious raising sun in the background, such energy is then used by already "charged" rods all along the suit. Maybe I've watched too much sci-fi ;)


Lurea said:
I personally tend to associate: Rods/Fire/Summer, Cups/Spring/Water, Pentacles/Earth/Autumn, and Swords/Air/Winter. That's just the way I first learned the tarot.

I'm not alone?! I agree about Pents and Swords! (that is, if Swords=Air) I never thought about Cups as Spring, but what you say makes very good sense.

Ann Yu

No, it should be Rods/Fire/Spring, Cups/Spring/Summer, Pentacles/Earth/Autumn, and Swords/Air/Winter
because rods represents "growing", "planting" so it relates to spring when everything is growing.
Cups relates to summer, in the Ace of Cups you can see some lotuses there. :D


Well, here in England my Tarot Circle, my Druid Order & Wiccan friends see it this way :) :

Swords /Air /Spring /East / Dawn /sunrise
Wands /Fire /Summer /South / Noon /midday
Cups /Water /Autumn /West / Evening /sunset
Pentacles /Earth /Winter /North / Night /dark