Tarot Card Themes: Illness

Here’s something a little different. Recently my wife has been a little sick, and so one day I got to thinking of which tarot cards might represent illness in some way. You know, the way you do. So this post should be a little simpler than usual. I say “should.” Here are four cards I came up with that indicate something to do with illness.

The first is one I drew. I pondered cards that could mean illness, and then I shuffled up the good old Waite-Smith and saw what happened. The card I got was surprising.


So yeah, the Queen of Wands. I don’t think this card represents illness in any way. She’s too strong and mean to get sick. But I was thinking about it, and I think it may represent getting well.

Take a look at the card, right? The dominant color is gold, which many traditions tell practitioners to focus on if they’re healing someone. It’s the “wholeness” color, so to speak. The sunflowers link with that color and bring up the sun, which is not present in the image. So it’s in the sky, high up, not down on the horizon. It’s not about to set. These solar images bespeak power and health, things growing and flourishing. The staff is budding and leafing, after all.

Here’s what Rachel Pollack has to say about the Queen of Wands:

Confident, powerful, radiant with Sun Fire, this leonine Queen attracts admirers by her love of life, her warmth, and possibly her sexuality. She can overwhelm people at times… especially those who lack her great self-confidence, or who find life difficult and frightening. She may need to add compassion to her confidence.

So she really is the person who never gets sick — and the person who just doesn’t understand why sick people don’t get better. This card represents the power of wellness, as opposed to illness. So maybe it’s also a reminder: when you’re well, keep in mind that you may not be in the future.


So that’s that card. I went ahead and pulled out the three cards that seem to mean “illness” the most clearly to me. Here they are:


Two of them are swords, which should not be a surprise. The 4 of Swords represents a respite from toil or strife, particularly worries or fights. However, in the W-S this person is not asleep. They’re an effigy on a tomb. The “rest after labors” motif is a common one at funerals for a reason. So if you’re sick and you get this card, maybe it’s time to rest. Stop powering through things. My wife does that, and it’s usually not that great for her. Maybe go read that article on the Chronicle about collapsing on the job.

The second card is the 10 of Swords. This one most obviously represents the effects of mental illness, particularly depression. Everything seems terrible, and everything seems like it will be terrible forever. The figure in the image can’t sleep and the swords appear to strike, ghostly, through their head, paining them. The bedspread offers the only strong image of hope. The counterpane pattern shows roses growing in yellow squares, a lot like the Queen of Wands above. So while the person is suffering mental anguish, they are actually physically safe. They are in a cozy space, basically. That doesn’t mean the mental anguish isn’t dangerous on its own — look at those swords, it’s super bad. It just means there’s something to grab onto.

Finally there’s the 10 of Wands. This may be the oddest one, but then again I mentioned my wife’s tendency to power through illness. This guy is powering through his suffering. He could put half of those sticks down and come back for them. It would probably be fine. Mind you, I’m the person who does this with grocery bags, so I’m not saying I’m any better about this. If you’re coughing a little and you get this card, maybe consider slowing down or seeing if anything on your to-do list can just wait until tomorrow. This is distinct from the 4 of Swords in that you should drop everything with that card. Sleep like the dead.


Note that this post is inspired by The Tarot Lady’s blog, in which she often talks about themes of cards and teases out imagery and other symbols.


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