As a reminder, the suit of wands is driven by masculine energy and usually represents willpower, change, and an impulse to create and make something new. Scholars and academics have connected the suit of wands to the classical element of fire, and most of the cards from that suit embody the symbolic attributes of this element, one way or another.
Nine of Wands: Traditional meanings
Do not let the apparent loneliness of the man drawn on the nine of wands tarot card fool you. This is a strong guardian using patience and discipline to ensure the safety and comfort of people and things they care about. Barring any excess to that regard that might be represented by a reversed nine of wands in a reading, this is a source of stability and comfort that others can rely on in time of need, a quiet kind of strength that will rarely throw the first punch but will often throw the last one.
Upright: Defense, loyalty, stamina, discipline, and strength.
Reversed: Obstacles, martyrdom, disloyalty, stubbornness, and overly intrusive.
Upright Nine of Wands
The man leaning on a big staff displayed in the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck version of the nine of wands might seem lonely and sad at first sight. The look of determination in his eyes soon dispels that first impression though.
In this card from the minor arcana, we have a man standing guard, ready to defend and protect his ward or stand in the way of an invader. He is waiting expectantly, passive but aware of his surroundings.
The nine of wands meaning in a tarot reading represents a more passive kind of strength than the primal expression of that aspect found in the Strength of Major arcana. In the suit of Wands, this is a display of strength that is not looking for any kind of conflict, but able and willing to stand their ground should it become inevitable.
The obvious concept of protection is further enhanced with stamina and patience, two essential assets in such a situation. In a way, that person is turning into a kind of living fortress, unmoving but strong, dedicated to the protection of others.
Finally, the nine of wands tarot card also embodies the concept of discipline and structure, and the importance of a stable set of rules meant to frame and limit excessive behavior. Any social structure where order, discipline, or a clear-cut chain of command is in place can also be reflected in the nine of wands meaning, like firefighters or the army.
Reversed Nine of Wands
The archetype of the lone guard putting his life and time on the line is pushed to the extreme when the nine of wands is reversed in a tarot reading. He becomes a caricature of himself, going much too far, and as such, the card represents making energy-taxing, time-consuming, and ultimately useless efforts towards a lost cause, often driven by stubbornness or a misplaced sense of martyrdom where a better way out might easily be found.
The reversed nine of wands can also alter the point of view of the minor arcana, and the man standing guard can now represent a formidable obstacle found on the path the Querent is currently walking on, a potential source of wasted time at best, and serious danger at worst.
Nine of Wands and love
In any tarot spread or tarot reading focusing on love and romantic relationships, the nine of wands usually represents the classic “white knight” archetype, someone willing to put their life, energy, and resources down on the line for their significant other in the relationship.
When this card appears reversed in such a reading, it usually embodies the frequent downsides to such behavior, when someone becomes so protective that he or she becomes a source of oppression in the first place. This can alter the other person’s point of view, and what used to be a well-guarded castle can soon turn into a gilded cage that will change any former feeling of security into an almost claustrophobic drowning sensation that is particularly unhealthy in a relationship.