The Three of Wands

Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

The Three of Wands Tarot Card Meaning

Symbolism and Interpretation

The Three of Wands


A person stands on a rocky shoreline and gazes out over the bay, where there are two sailboats and a clipper ship in the distance. The person is wearing a black hat and a colorful printed robe. A lit lantern is placed on the ground nearby. The person holds a staff in one hand, with two more staffs standing behind and nearby.

Low hills are visible in the distance.

The sky is overcast, with a rainbow visible and sunbeams breaking through the clouds.



Rewards from long term effort. Plans are underway. Foresight. Travel. Success with large projects.


Missed connections. Lost opportunities that cannot be regained. Unexpected delays. Creative block.

Upright Meaning

Our social conditioning informs our reactions to new experiences.

Established position and power. Networking. Help and support from longstanding professional relationships, or the connections between allies and colleagues… the “friend of a friend” who can help. You can count on shared interests and the good intentions of your partners.

A stranger arrives who brings far-reaching changes and opportunities to your life. The type and scale of the changes will depend on the surrounding cards, but at minimum your world-view will be impacted.

Waiting and watching for one’s ships to come in.

The querant in the three of wands is more still and contemplative, more attuned to nature and the environment. It is the fire across the river and beneath the mountain. One gazes into the light at dawn and dusk to find a deeper motivation and inspiration for action. Whereas the two brings up ideas from within, the three looks outward to find a worthy purpose to light the way.  The three also reaps the rewards of action, employing one’s own work and the work of others to achieve goals. The three does not have a barrier between self and nature, beyond that found in nature: the cliff, the river that must be crossed…

The beauty of tarot is that what you see is personal. It can be pensive contemplation. It can be mercantile, watching one’s (cargo) ships come to port (or leave for foreign shores). It can be opportunities and travel. It can be the calm after (or before) the storm, or even the eye of the hurricane.

The traditional image (Rider Waite) is definitely more peaceful overall and has always looked to me more like “at sunrise or maybe early sunset” with the golden sky, but it also is hard to tell if it is ships with cargo or Viking raiders in the distance. My selection of boats, landscapes, and other imagery is the result of a dialogue between myself, the image in the photo-editing software as it evolves, along with the search function on Pixabay and other stock photo sites. Sailboats and a clipper ship because those just looked better than the others I found at the time I was creating this card.

The “light-beams through clouds over distant mountains across the bay” because you’d be surprised how hard it is to find a good landscape photo that fits the requirements for any given tarot card…. the best I found with the right amount of river/bay/ocean between the foreground and background that also included mountains (or cliffs) in the distance and a rocky foreground was the photo you see of a scene in Iceland. I darkened it for the drama and added the rainbow because I liked it and it looked like it needed one, and also rainbows can signify fortune, opportunity, hope, and success after hard work or difficulties, all of which fit with the traditional interpretations for the card.

Reversed Meaning

Misfortune due to circumstances outside of your control. Sinking ships. A project fails despite your best efforts. Treachery from one you had believed to be an ally or at least to have good intentions.

Missed Opportunities and connections. Don’t be at the airport when your ship comes in. Inadequate resources for the project at hand. Underestimating the level of effort and resources required to accomplish your goals or complete your project.

Unexpected delays and obstacles.

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