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.
Six of Wands: Traditional meanings
Just like the proud and victorious knight displayed on the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck version of the six of wands, this minor arcana conveys a strong and positive message of success, personal achievement, and victory. The meaning implies that success is large enough to captivate an audience, calling for some kind of public celebration. Beware the reversed meaning of the six of wand though, where any trace of positivity and optimism vanishes on the spot, replaced with shame, failure, and public humiliation. Context matters and the six of wands has a far-reaching influence on the overall reading, which should always be taken into account.
Upright: Victory, pride, honor, success, triumph, and fulfilled desires.
Reversed: Fear, shame, public humiliation, treachery, failure, and disappointment.
Upright Six of Wands
The man displayed on the Rider-Smith-Waite tarot deck for the suit of wands (and in many other decks since) represents a young man on horseback. He wears a laurel crown on his head, with another one hanging from the staff he holds in his right hand. Footmen and soldiers on his side hold the other five “wands” in the illustration.
This can either represent a knight coming back victorious from battle (or a tournament), or an official messenger bearing news of some sort.
The main meaning of the six of wands in this minor arcana suit is a victory. This card refers to a positive outcome to a challenge, project, or situation that was the focus of the reading. Just like the knight on the picture with his head held high, this minor arcana card also represents pride and personal achievements.
The triumphant aspect of the returned knight can also be a highlight of a tarot reading featuring the six of wands.
The other important element in the suit of Wands, in the meaning of the six of wands, is one of movement, of going forward, literally or figuratively. Something is moving or evolving, banishing any kind of stagnation from the current situation and encouraging progress.
Reversed Six of Wands
There are two main downsides that can be found in the six of wands meaning. The first one is an aspect of arrogance coming from excessive pride, which can even turn to pretentiousness if the subjects tend to overestimate their own abilities.
And when the six of Wands appears reversed in a reading, the initial victory parade is completely reversed too and the card now refers to a public humiliation or disgrace, a source of shame and humiliation for the subject of that particular reading. This is a particularly bad drawing in a tarot reading, especially when it is combined with negative amplifiers like the Tower or reversed Wheel of Fortune major arcana.
Six of Wands and love
When drawn in a context of a love tarot reading for a romantic relationship, the kind of victory and achievement meaning found in the card might hint at a happy relationship outcome, culminating in a large wedding reception or any other kind of public celebration of love.
Drawn reversed, however, the very negative meaning detailed above can unfortunately also apply to a romantic context. The humiliation and shame could come from a very vocal and public breakup, or be the consequence of past mistakes coming back into the spotlight with disastrous consequences on the relationship. If the card is drawn in a spread dealing with potential futures, drastic steps should be taken in order to avoid something that might damage the relationship beyond any repair.