What exactly are the rods/sticks/staves of the Batons suit?

Rusty Neon

In the Marseilles deck, the symbols of the other three suits relate to easily identifiable mundane, physical, non-esoteric objects: cups (or chalices), swords and coins.

The explanation of the symbol of the Batons suit (variously translated by tarotists into English as Staves, Rods, Sticks, Clubs, Sceptres, Batons, Wands, etc.) is not so clear.

What mundane, physical, non-esoteric object do the batons of the pip cards actually illustrate, historically speaking? Farming implements, weapons, firewood, construction logs, sceptres (of authority), or what? Note that I'm not looking for esoteric objects, please! (The various books which I have give plenty of those!)

The _Le Petit Robert_ French dictionary gives the basic meaning of baton as "a long piece of round wood that one can hold in one's hand and use for various purposes". The dictionary entry then goes on to give various specific meanings. Unfortunately, not one of them is expressly identified as _the_ tarot meaning. :) A baton can be, e.g., a physical support (like a cane), a ski or other pole, a shepherd's staff, a sceptre (of authority), a drum stick, an illusionist's (i.e., magician's) baton, a stick (such as crayon stick), a cylindrical object of various sorts, and an ancient currency unit. Not mentioned but a magic(k)ian's wand would also be a baton.


Rusty Neon
Puzzled in Canada


If we accept the possible historical link between the Mamluk 'polo' stick and the Bastons, then the physical object may indeed derive from this 'strange and foreign' object - an object remaining basically unknown to the European experience.

Nonetheless, the object would have easily been transformed to that suit which, from a gaming perspective, simply and clearly identifies it as different to either swords, coins or cups.

As bastons, it can also easily have all of these objects you mention: staff, wand, sceptre, or other 'stick' derived implement.

Though the Bastons may have historical connections to the Mamluk 'polo sticks', this latter may also itself be derived from Chinese bamboo stick representations - itself possibly implying a certain 'value' or number (100s, as opposed to tens).

On the Marseille, then, what we have is a representation which clearly differentiates it from the other three suits, but that at the same time can also easily be connected to one of the four classes of individuals - in this case to the peasant population.

Though mention is specifically made of non-esoteric interpretations, it may also be important to consider that one of the reasons certain elements may have become embedded in standard form is rather precisely due to their esoteric determining features.


It's interesting that you should mention this Rusty Neon, because I've been puzzling over the meaning of the hollow-looking/cross-sectioned branch which appears as the ace. This is completely different, of course, from the pip cards (cup & sword suits also show such differences . . . deniers being the only really consistent suit . . . ) Moreover, the batons in the court cards are something else again. Being new (& working for the moment with only a Fournier) I have no idea what any of this might mean.

I've been particularly 'disturbed' by the inconsistency of the ace of cups as well, but I suppose this is off-topic for this thread.

Both ace of batons & ace of cups strike me as curious images indeed.



Hi RustyNeon ...

"The _Le Petit Robert_ French dictionary gives the basic meaning of baton as "a long piece of round wood that one can hold in one's hand and use for various purposes".

Your post/question made me think of the story of Robin Hood and the duel with "sticks" (maybe only in the Disney version I saw as a child?). So I just did a quick web search and found these:

Excerpted from the first:
"Baton: In general a thick stick. Recently discovered to be used as a sport or game in 14th century Europe (depicted on tapestry now in Schotland).
Batons were also, from the early middle-ages used by the 'directeur the combat' at tournaments and duels to be able to separate the contestants. _In France, modern sport baton is still practiced along with canne."
"Bastone: _Italian stick fighting or fencing (?), references from 1670 to 1870"

The second link, if you scroll down a bit from the top, has a reproduction of an old engraving depicting the use of various wooden weapons, but I didn't see a proper reference for it at the bottom of page.

Anyway, just thought this may be another possible idea ...