3 of Wands: Aries II
Decan ruler (Chaldean): Sun
Hermetic Title: Virtue/Established Strength
Corresponding majors: The Sun (Sun) and The Emperor (Aries)
In the 2 of Wands we saw the ruthless conquest; in the 3 of Wands, we see the reconstruction of the land and the power of good government to attend to the well-being of all. An Emperor has many jobs: he must conquer (2 of Wands), he must govern (3 of Wands), and he must celebrate (4 of Wands) or ritualize his leadership, if his reign is to last.
New growth, clothed in green
According to the Latin Picatrix, " this image causeth nobleness, height of a kingdom, and greatness of dominion." The images of this decan coalesce around the form of a woman, and strangely enough several of them specifically point to something going on with her leg - she has one leg, or one leg is bared, or she is stretching out her foot. Often she's clothed in a green dress. (And a couple versions mention a horse head or horse-like face. Huh, weird - on Monday I dreamed of a horse, its head in a stockade, and carefully placing my feet in a field strewn with horse dung.) It is hard to know what to make of the one-legged woman in green, but I can’t help thinking of a seedling as it first sprouts, unfurling into the light and trying on its new spring green. Done with the husk-cracking drama of birth, the seedling now passes into a stage of active growth.
From martial conquest to solar rulership
In the transition from conquest to governance, we perceive the penetration of Mars followed by the steadying influence of the Sun, king and light of all. We'll see that pattern, Mars--> Sun, repeated five times throughout the minors. The courageous 7 of Wands gives way to the prudent 8 of Disks. The 5 of Cups' grief will give way to the 6 of Cups' nurturing. The 9 of Swords' cruelty gives way to the 10 of Swords' surrender. The active blueprint of the 3 of Disks gives way to consolidated power in the 4 of Disks.
Not every decanic minor card ruled by the sun looks all that solar. But this one, with its bright golden prospect and relaxed but alert attitude, most definitely does. The Sun's exaltation degree (19° Aries) also falls in this decan, making the Sun an honored guest in the house of Mars. To extend the metaphor: perhaps good government is an honored guest in the house of conquest. (It certainly is not a permanent resident at any rate!)
The 'Virtue' of reciprocity
Whether or not that is the case, I have found in personal practice that this card does correspond to the sacred relationship of guest and host - the benevolence and respect with which you treat a stranger. The 3 of Wands turns his back to the viewer in a gesture not of dismissal, but of trust.
He looks out upon the ships he's sent to sea, hoping they will return his investment threefold. The 3 of Wands is sometimes called the Lord of Virtue, and it is a portrait of responsibility. If one acts in good faith, one can hope that that faith will be returned and reciprocated. In Kabbalah one often speaks of the 3rd sephira, Binah, as a "palace of mirrors". Therefore, "3" cards are manifesters and force multipliers. The bright idea and passion in the suit of wands will lead to the material results in the suit of disks or pentacles, in the natural course of things.
All in good time
This notion of the sun as the good steward of the hours is a fundamental one. The Orphic Hymn to Helios puts it this way: ἔργων σημάντωρ ἀγαθῶν, ὡροτρόφε κοῦρε. The signal of "good works" (or perhaps "the works of good men"), son who tends the hours. I have often found this card to indicate a wait - but a wait for ripening rather than, say, the snagged cogs of the 8 of Swords.
This fruitful awaiting, this hopeful expectation, reminds me of what it's like to engage in a magical act - and then stand ready for its successful outcome without forcing the process. Great power for self-determination is said to reside in Aries II. In 36 Faces, Austin Coppock goes so far as to say: "it is the key to creating pocket realities which do not obey the laws of the collective reality field in which they exist." Put another way, it is establishing a universe in which you establish the laws of nature, and then see that it is good.
When you draw the 3 of Wands, cultivate hopeful expectation. Have faith in the good efforts you have already made. Invest in well-thought-through acts of benevolence, as your generosity will be reciprocated in the long term. Make your own rules, and live by them.