The Ten of Wands, The Bohemian Cats Theatre Tarot
Bohemian Cats

Overwhelmed? The Ten of Wands shows intense struggle under pressure.

Our Ten of Wands card shows a tired ginger cat carrying a very large bundle of sticks.

The Ten of Wands in tarot signifies being burdened and pressurised to what can be an overwhelming degree.

We want our Ten of Wands image to immediately convey the pressure and exhaustion of feeling you have taken on too much. But at the same time, the image needed to be broadly designed enough to have a range of appropriate possible interpretations – this card can be about all sorts of different pressures, physical, emotional, psychological or even intellectual.

On a practical design level, as we wanted the cat in this card to look less elaborately dressed than in some of our other imagery, we made the costume from cotton, rather than silk velvet (it is more matte in tone) and kept the embroidery quite understated. As ever, the jabot is made from antique lace – we added an antique “tiger’s eye” hat pin as a detail.

The ginger cat Ten of Wands card for The Bohemian Cats' Theatre Tarot

The final image is, we feel, pleasingly restrained with an almost antique look – and  yet it packs some emotional punch.

The Ten of Wands is one card in which the influence of the Sola Busca deck on Pamela Colman Smith’s designs for the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) cards, can be particularly clearly seen. However, interestingly, her Ten of Wands seems to be based on the Ten of Swords in the Sola Busca, rather than on any of the Wands cards.

The Ten of Wands, The Rider Waite Smith RWS Tarot
The Ten of Swords. The Sola Busca Tarot

The Sola Busca deck, which is  currently in the Pinacoteca di Brera museum in Milan, was engraved in 1491, likely in Ferrara, and hand-coloured about a decade later in Venice. Fragmented and unpainted versions of this deck are also preserved in the Albertina in Vienna and the British Museum in London.

Regarded as the oldest complete seventy-eight card tarot deck in existence, The Sola Busca deck is named after the Milanese noble family who owned it for approximately five generations. It was the first tarot deck produced using copperplate engraving and is the earliest known to illustrate the Major and Minor Trumps in a style that has become standard, featuring characters and objects in allegorical scenes. This approach was revolutionary during the Renaissance as at that time decks would normally have had illustrated, but not scenic, suit pip cards. Today, some of these cards may seem familiar because, in 1909, Arthur Edward Waite commissioned artist Pamela Colman Smith to illustrate the cards for the deck, now known as the Rider Waite Smith Tarot, that accompanied his book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910).

Colman Smith drew inspiration—and for nearly a dozen cards, very similar imagery—from the Sola Busca deck, which was exhibited in black-and-white photographs at the British Museum in 1908 where she presumably would have seen it.  Interestingly though, Colman Smith based her Ten of Wands card on the Ten of Swords in the Sola Busca (see above) rather than on the Wands cards (see below).

The Sola Busca Tarot, Batons
The Sola Busca Tarot, Batons
The Sola Busca Tarot, Batons

You can see other Wands cards on these posts. The Queen of Wands, the Two of Wands, the Knight of Wands.

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