Have you ever seen a dog guard a bone? Or a big, juicy steak? Even a house or family they consider their own? The dog's eyes will shoot around rapidly, checking for any potential threats. They'll pace around, checking shadowy corners and passages. When they do finally see someone... a stranger, or even a familiar face that is threatening to take what is theirs... they will suddenly become vicious. Even kind and friendly dogs will turn mean when you threaten to take their favorite chew toy. The dog will usually only return to it's friendly state once they perceive the threat to be gone, or the steak is all eaten up. That guarding, diligent nature is what defines the Nine of Wands.
The appearance of the Nine of Wands card is an interesting one. We see a group of wands/staffs lined up in a row, stuck into the ground so they point to the sky. Before them stands a battered young man, leaning on a wand/staff in his hand. The man seems tired, worn, battered, and bruised – he's been through a tough fight. He looks back to the wands/staffs with almost a paranoid glance, as if someone might walk up and try to steal one at any moment. He's clearly stood his ground for a long time, and he may need to keep standing there for a while longer.
This card talks about guarding – guarding your objects, your loved ones, but primarily yourself. Your wands stand for your creative energy, that which is inside of you, so it makes sense that the card usually points to a series of personal attacks. When you see this card, ask yourself how you feel that you or your loved ones have been attacked recently. Have you developed a guarded, distrusting demeanor because of it? Have you developed a bit of paranoia? Try to see how you can work these issues out.
The Nine of Wands also speaks to diligence – after all, the man seems to have been guarding his wands for some time, and is a bit worse for the wear because of it. Despite his wounds and his exhaustion, he keeps standing, confronting those who would dare to take what is his. That takes a lot of determination. This card could be telling you to find that determination within yourself, to weather whatever storms may be coming.
Wonder what questions you should ask yourself when you pull the Nine of Wands? Here are a few. Are you defensive about anything in your life? Do you feel as if you have been personally attacked? Are you developing paranoia? What can be done to balance yourself out? Do you need determination for your current or future struggles? How can you best pursue that?
The Nine of Wands has a lot in common with the Strength card, namely determination and wherewithal. The big difference between those two cards is the call to action – where Strength asks you to find that determination in yourself, the Nine of Wands puts that determination under question, and asks if it is still required. The Seven of Wands can be paired with the Nine of Wands due to the nature of struggle – the Seven of Wands displays the struggles that the man on the Nine of Wands might have already gone through.