I often hear novice tarot readers say, upon encountering an Ace in a reading, “You’re going to be starting something new!” I think to myself “Well, no . . . at least not yet.” The Aces represent the impulse to act that sparks (or should spark) the focus and concentration essential to mounting any well-planned initiative. They don’t necessarily drive that action directly, but they set the stage for it. Their energy is potential rather than kinetic. Think of a coiled spring or a cat poised to pounce.
“Focus” makes perfect sense in my own system of interpretation because the Aces have no distractions. They are centered and not being pulled in any other direction . . . yet. That’s why I call them the fundamental “idea” of their particular element rather than the initial, active expression or “first step.” Intense “concentration” goes right along with the nature of focus, since both imply an involuted perspective (a “turning inward” for validation of one’s intentions, a kind of touchstone for justification of eventual action), akin to a centripetal or gravitational force.
In that sense, the Aces are self-referential rather than other-directed, and stoke their own latent momentum like “building up a head of steam;” they find their inspiration within, preparatory to taking action, so “anticipation” might be another good association for them. I think it’s notable that Aleister Crowley – referring to the Ace of Disks – said “Nor are the Disks any more to be considered Coins; the Disk is a whirling emblem. Naturally so; since it is now known that every Star, every true Planet, is a whirling sphere.” As the galvanizing “root” of their particular elemental power, the Aces exemplify this primal gyration.
For a more thorough examination of this topic, see my article “A Brief Look at the Aces” in Volume 3 – Issue 3 of The Cartomancer quarterly tarot, Lenormand and oracle journal.