After writing up my deck interview with the Mary El I just couldn’t stop thinking about the wonderful wolf in the 7 of Wands, it reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I sat with the card for a while and soon realised what it was: there is a poem by Robert Frost titled Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening, which ends with the lines, “the woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
In full, the poem reads:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Remembering those last lines I realised that this Seven of Wands feels like an embodiment of those words. This wolf can hear the call of the woods on this darkest night of the year, she feels the pull of a forest full of prey and indulgence in her wildest side, but she directs her will towards her task and continues running down her path, she will not be distracted, for she has promises to keep.
According to the more traditional tarot systems, the Seven of Wands is all about taking a stand for an idea or belief; it’s protective and unafraid of confrontation and unpopularity, it is squaring up to a mob mentality.
It’s speaks so highly of Marie White’s imagery that all of this can be conveyed in the close up of a single white wolf. In those fierce green eyes we can see that determination, steadiness and an unwavering dedication to what it is she has to do; she believes in something and you can see it written all over her face. This belief in something greater than herself is what drives her to stay out of those oh-so-tempting woods, and to find the strength to act according to her highest ideals.
Naturally, this got me thinking about the black wolf in the Seven of Cups where we have another wolf close-up, but a completely different energy. Conversely, this darker wolf has unleashed herself into the wild and runs deep into those woods, lit by a full moon. She has broken her promises, discarded her beliefs and chosen to indulge in all of the things those wild woods – and her darkest self – have to offer. She won’t even look you in the eye, so lost is she in some other realm of shadow fantasy.
I find this juxtaposition between the two cards fascinating, and I think it taps into something interesting about the cards’ meanings. On the one hand, we have a deeply held belief that drives one to protect and defend, and on the other, a belief in absolutely nothing; a cynical dulling of all else but the indulgence of ones darkest desires and hedonistic pursuits.
After mulling these cards over for a bit I decided to check out the Chariot – the only other card that contains wolves – and read a little bit about what Marie White had to say about them. As card number seven in the Major Arcana, the Chariot also corresponds to these two cards numerologically – something that White was clearly cognisant of, as she does in fact relate the wolves of the Seven of Wands and Cups to the wolves standing on the far left and right of the pack being guided by our Chariot woman. In the guidebook she (as many tarotists do) utilises Plato’s metaphor of the chariot (also influential in Freud’s theories of the Id, Ego and Super-Ego); the hypothesis that the conscious mind (specifically, the ego) operates as a charioteer, harnessing two horses, one black and one white, representing the darkest and highest aspects of ourselves, finding moderation and right action in the middle-ground, neither too dark or too light.
I must admit, I usually only utilise some basic numerology in my readings, most often to find the quint card (where you ad up the numerical total of a spread and reduce it until you have a corresponding Major), and if you’d asked me before how the Chariot related to the Seven of Cups, my answer would not have been very heartfelt or particularly concise. I’d never really thought of the 7 of Cups as the antithesis of the 7 of Wands before, but now that I think about it, it makes sense, particularly as they correspond to the opposing elements of water to fire. It just took this imagery, the black wolf to the wands’ white, the broken promises to those kept, for me to see it.
I’d like to explore this relationship further by viewing each number as a spectrum of experience with its numerical Major in the centre and the elemental opposites on either end and see what other juxtapositions I can dig up. Yeah, duh. Why haven’t I thought of that before?! The Two of Swords and Two of Pentacles spring instantly to mind…off to investigate!