A man is seated on a throne that faces nearly completely to the viewer’s left. The tall back of the throne is adorned with heraldic lions and coiled salamanders. He wears a cap of maintenance under his crown. A lion’s head amulet lies over his fringed cloak which is also adorned with coiled salamanders. His robe covers to his ankles and his feet are shod. His hands are bare. He holds in his right hand an upright budding staff which extends to the floor before the podium. The sky is clear, and to the lower right of the card is the intimation of a hill or distant mountain. Sharing the podium with the man is a small living salamander.
The King of Wands is the Honest Man that the Hermit is said to be looking for. He is fair, impartial, merciful but firm, and understanding. He has seen much and has experienced much, but those experiences has not made him bitter or cynical. Those that underestimate him think him to be simpleminded and easily swayed because he gives the appearance of being without guile. But he is quite shrewd, and will quickly establish his control over the situation. Like the Queen of Wands, he prefers to settle matters gently and diplomatically. However, if no other recourse is given, he will use his power swiftly, effectively, and accurately.
Waite’s reversal of this card gives the impression of a more tired King of Wands. Still the same person, but with less tolerance for, well, bullshit. I’ve found the ill-dignified King of Wands to be a vicious adversary instead. He holds a grudge against his enemies and will risk burning down (or up) his kingdom if it meant a good chance of breaking one of them. He will use the letter of the law to crush his victim, making sure that there is no means of escape except for surrender. Maybe. If he feels generous.
In less personal matters, this card signifies a judge or judgement that will go in the Querent’s favor, or someone that will assist the Querent with handling a politically charged matter. Waite speaks of “an unexpected heritage to fall in before very long”, however I find the 9 of Pentacles is better at announcing surprise inheritances instead.