Yesterday morning before meeting with some Tarot clients, I went to refresh my pups’ water bowl in the office garden for them. To my surprise there were two very tiny young salamanders underneath the bowl. Oddly, this past week, I had been thinking about when I was a child and how I’d lift up some rocks in the garden and find salamanders. I had wondered if I’d still be able to find salamanders in city gardens. Though with all the fog, San Francisco is a moist city, there is no pond or regular water source or watering in the office garden. I knew that this most unexpected surprise was very meaningful for me in this intensely transformational time of my life.
Salamanders are amphibians who live in cool, moist, wet, and watery environments. Mostly they are active at night, which connects them to the Moon. Their Moon and water connections symbolize intuition, the psyche, the soul, psychic abilities, dreams, and the shadow self.
However, salamanders are also solar and fire creatures. Medieval and alchemical legendary beliefs thought that the salamander’s cool dampness could put out fires, and that salamanders could not be harmed by fire for the same reason. So powerful was this belief that their skins were made into clothing that were thought to be inflammable. Many salamanders are also very poisonous, which can cause burning hot rashes.
The salamander’s ability to both create “fire” and withstand fire is why they are associated with the suit of wands (the suit of fire) in the Tarot. (Interestingly, the lion, another symbolic animal spirit for the suit of wands, is also both a solar and lunar creature.) In the more traditional Rider-Waite deck, salamanders appear on the Page of Wands, Knight of Wands, and the King of Wands:
Biologically, the amphibious quality of salamanders make them able to adapt to different and changing environments. This too is reflected in their comfort in being both a solar and lunar creature. They are also well known for their ability to regenerate and grow whole new limbs and tails if severed, which is an ancient ability that only a few life forms today are capable of. Salamanders can adapt to change and loss to evolve, re-new, and grow.
The salamander symbolizes:
- Change, Transformation, Re-birth, and Renewal
- Connection to early times/life on earth and past lives
- Being comfortable in both light/heat/fire and darkness/cold/water
- Adaptability to change
- Visions, Dreams, & Secrets, and Awareness & Enlightenment