King of Swords | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

King of Swords

Keywords for the King of Swords

LOGICALDETACHED
ANALYTICUNEMOTIONAL
RATIONALPOWERFUL
INTELLIGENTARROGANT
REALISTICCONTROLLING

In the image on this card, we see the King of Swords seated on his throne, looking out directly at us. His gaze is sober and severe; he makes it clear that he has no time for foolish games or frivolous distractions.

On his head he wears a yellow crown, a reference to the element of Air, and all the associated powers of reason, logic, and the conscious mind. 

We see him hold a large, shining sword in his right hand. He holds this sword out forcefully at an angle, instead of straight up like his Queen. This is likely due to the fact that, as the King of this suit, he is more concerned with action and consequences based in the outer world. 

Although not necessarily unethical, he is undeniably less of an effectively impartial observer than his Queen. As he carries the weight of great social responsibility, he cannot always afford to completely remove his own self-interest from his perception of the issues at hand.

This surely makes him a more effective leader, though it may also alter his ability to be a completely disinterested and “rational” observer of the world around him. 

Interpretation of the King of Swords in a Reading

Like all of the court cards, this can represent someone in our outer environment that shows the same qualities and characteristics of the King of Swords. Alternatively, in some instances it can also refer to how we ourselves are showing up in a given situation.

When the King of Swords comes up in a reading, it usually refers to someone who possesses a similar logical and analytical way of thinking and processing the world around them.

This King is notable for his sharp mind and intellectual prowess. He can be discerning, realistic and practical, focused less on abstract theories than on finding practical solutions to real world problems. 

The King of Swords may possess a stoic, unemotional or detached personality. At times, he can even be a bit harsh and unforgiving with other people, especially when he feels that they are not living up to his own intellectual rigor and ability.

The King of Swords clearly possesses great intellectual power. His piercing intellect and incisive judgments are what gives him such strength and mastery. 

However, it is these very same skills that make this King such a powerful leader can be misapplied and lead to the harm of self and others.

If he is not careful, his impartiality can turn into cold detachment, and the discernment he is known for into arrogance and a judgmental attitude. At his worst, he can even become manipulative and controlling as he seeks to impose his ideas and his will on those around him.

When working with the King of Swords, it is wise to remember that the powerful mind this King possesses can truly be a double-edged sword. The sword of truth we see here is an instrument which can be used to heal as well as harm, and must be applied with compassion and consideration of the consequences for others as well as oneself.

Releasing Projections, Reclaiming Possibilities

Journal Date: Monday, November 9th, 2020

I think I’m going to find that the more I distance myself from my family and all of the false projections they have made me carry, the more I will find that I can do whatever I set my mind to.

And this is probably one of the most difficult and disturbing things I have been coming to terms with: my vast (and totally wasted) potential.

In the process of looking back on my life, I can see how much potential I’ve had for success, and how that has not (yet) been realized because of my emotional problems and mental health struggles.

And by lack of support from my family. The emotional abuse and trauma that I was left with is obviously a big factor.

But it goes beyond that. 

Some of it is self-sabotage. Believing I don’t deserve to be successful.

I’ve carried around this (barely conscious) belief that I shouldn’t succeed. Not just that I may not have what it takes but that it would actually be bad for me to have success in my life (that it would make me a very “selfish” person).

I think the reasoning has been something along the lines of: “There are so many people suffering in the world. Who am I to sit here and be happy when others are experiencing so much injustice and pain? If I am happy, then I will have forsaken all of those who need help. If I am happy, I will be completely selfish and insensitive. Therefore, I can’t be successful or happy. I have to suffer in solidarity with everyone else. That is the only way I can create change in the world. I don’t want to be a BAD person, right?”

Hm. Yeah. I think there’s a lot that needs to be unpacked and understood about that. Because I don’t think it’s wise to just take it at face value. I think there’s a lot more going on there than I have really wanted to admit.


This is the major issue that came up for me when I had the short Akashic Records Reading with Leah Garza. 

She told me that I do want to help others and be in service to the collective, but I’m going about it the wrong way, with the wrong motivations.

She said that I’m holding on to this belief that “if I’m doing it just for me, it is self centered.” She also added that it’s not healthy if I’m approaching my work from a need to sacrifice to gain others approval.

I was surprised when I heard that. A little defensive for a second (because her words touched a nerve), but I quickly realized how true her words were.

That is what I’ve been trying to do here.

In some ways, my desire to devote myself to healing other people has been rooted in a need to continue avoiding my own life.

I don’t want to pay attention to my own happiness.

It’s actually kind of terrifying for me. 

For one, what if I try and I fail? What if I’m the problem, and I’m just fundamentally incapable of being happy?

What if I went through all of this, only to find out there’s nothing even there for me on the other side?

There’s also what I just mentioned about feeling selfish.         

And then there’s another thing that’s even more complicated: What if I do achieve success and happiness at some point, only to find out I suffer even more for it?

Leah said that I fear that if I break from the norm, I will draw attention to myself, which could ultimately lead to violence.

Yes. That’s exactly it, and I think a deeper-rooted, more primal and unconscious fear than the other two I have mentioned.

She said that I have such a strong fear around this, that I fear I will actually die if this happens.

It’s true. It’s really that bad.

It’s kind of hard to understand.

Something that helps me to gain a little more insight into why this might be has to do with some possible past life stuff…

I’ve been very skeptical about this kind of thing, and I’m still not 100% sure what to really do with it.

I don’t need to come to any final conclusion about it yet, though. I can just start by sharing what my experience around this has been.                                                                                          

Cibation

Yes, cry! Cry harder, baby!

Fundamentally, the stage of Dissolution involves a process of release. Here, we are to come to terms with and finally surrender to the rage and wrongs we came up against when as the fires of Calcination burned through our Egos. It is a time of grieving the harm done to us, by others as well as ourselves. It is a time for letting go of what once was, and what we wished for and never had.

With this in mind, we can turn to the process of Cibation as a tool for healing and working through our grief. In practical alchemy, Cibation is a technique in which water is added to the remaining ashes that have carried over from Calcination.

In psycho-spiritual alchemy, it involves a similar process, where we bring our most intense emotions (symbolized by water) to the areas which are still most blocked and resistant to change within us.

HOW TO PRACTICE

  1. Start by thinking of one of our most painful childhood memories, or any painful incident from our past that remains.
  2. CRY. Really. Get into it, feel the depths of your pain, and let it all out.
  3. Rinse.
  4. Repeat.

Your focus on this meditation should be on the pure emotional energy that comes up, rather than on the details of any particular incident. Keep in mind that, appearances to the contrary, it is often in your darkness where you are to find your greatest light. If you can fully move through your emotional pain and physically release your grief, you will free this energy up to be used in another place for better purposes.

Don’t be afraid to ugly-cry if necessary. It’s okay if your mascara runs all over your face—the more, the better. It is important that this not be only a mental exercise, or even just an emotional one, but a physical experience as well. According to the principles of somatic therapy, any trauma we experience is held as memory in our body, not just in our mind.

We can’t heal something until we feel our emotions physically in our body and complete the response which may have been inhibited in the original traumatic incident.

So go ahead. Cry harder, baby.

Healing Injured Instinct

“Trauma is about thwarted instincts. Instincts, by definition, are always in the present. When we allow them their rightful domain, we surrender to the ‘eternal now.’ With the full presence of mind and body, we can gain access to the source of our own energy and enthusiasm.

“As we resolve our traumas, we discover missing parts of our beings, those that make us feel whole and complete. Our instincts house the simple but vital knowledge that ‘I am I’ and ‘I am here.’ Without this sense of belonging in the world, we are lost, disconnected from life. If we learn how to surrender to our inborn knowledge, it can lead us on a healing journey that will bring us face to face with our natural spirituality, our God-given connection to life.” —Peter Levine

I feel that this is starting to happen for me.

In some ways, I’m starting to feel more alive than I have in many years. More myself, more centered and calm than probably ever before.

After all the sadness and regret at my pain, and the grief over the loss of “what could have been,” I am finding that there is still much left that remains.

One thing I’m finding strength in is knowing how resilient I am.

I had always bought into other people’s perception that I was weak, “too sensitive,” incapable and insufficient on my own.

Now I see how different the truth is.

I am strong.

I have been through so much, yet here I am—I survived.

Queen of Swords | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Queen of Swords

Keywords for the Queen of Swords

WISEBITTER
DISCERNINGCYNICAL
ASTUTEJADED
STOICDISILLUSIONED
SELF-POSSESSEDPESSIMISTIC

In the image on this card, we encounter what appears to be a crisp and cool day at the very beginning of spring. The Earth is beginning to awaken and prepare for longer days of warm sun and the fertility which accompanies it, but a deep chill in the air reminds us that winter has not yet fully passed.

Above the head of this Queen, we see one single, solitary bird soaring high above the earth. Like her, this bird of prey is unmatched in its capacity for long-range vision. She is able to detach herself from her personal and emotional involvements in a situation and achieve unparalleled clarity on what lies at the root of the matter at hand. 

However, this may at times predispose her towards solitude and loneliness. She has a tendency to be aloof and to keep others at a safe distance. This may prevent her from developing the kind of ties to others that are integral to feeling safe, supported and emotionally fulfilled in life. 

Closer to the Earth and the world of the Queen of Swords we see thick, dense clouds which make the air feel heavy. These formations even appear a bit foreboding, possibly even ominous, in the weight of their condensation.

They suggest the kind of gravity and seriousness of purpose reflected in the character of the Queen of Swords. She possesses a kind of understated and subdued type of beauty in which all excess and ostentation have been eliminated. She carries herself with a restrained elegance and stoic attitude that emphasizes only what is essential and true.

Interpretation of the Queen of Swords in a Reading

Like all of the court cards, this can represent someone in our outer environment that shows the same qualities and characteristics of the Queen of Swords. Alternatively, in some instances it can also refer to how we ourselves are showing up in a given situation.

The Queen of Swords is someone who has seen it all and lived to tell about it. Often, she has come to her knowledge under difficult circumstances. She has suffered, and experienced loss, and much grief throughout the course of her life.

She may have experienced tragedies which would have defeated anyone who did not possess her resilience, endurance and resolve. However, it is these painful circumstances which have given her the wisdom and discernment she possesses today.

As a result, this Queen tends to someone who is honest, direct and clear in her communication. She is capable of seeing through deception and lies, and rejects all attempts by others to manipulate her or be anything less than honest.

This Queen is a woman who is worldly and wise, and by far the most experienced and discerning among her counterparts. She knows she can trust herself, and can be quite proud of her skillful and accurate judgements regarding what is true and what should be done.

The clarity, insight and wisdom possessed by the Queen of Swords is immensely valuable in this world where most things are not what they seem, where deception and dishonesty seem to be the law of the land. She possesses the wisdom of extensive experience, and the resolute will required to act on her knowledge.

As mentioned before, the wisdom of this Queen has been hard earned. She has seen enough of the world to know better than to trust too quickly. Unfortunately, this can mean that she may develop an inclination toward bitterness, and express herself in ways that others find acerbic and harsh. 

She may also become a person who appears “jaded,” someone who lacks faith in others and tends to distrust even the existence of noble sentiments and ideals such as altruism and love.

The Queen of Swords may find herself burdened with heavy feelings of despair and hopelessness, and if she is not careful, might become depressed and disillusioned. At times, it can speak of a woman who is so focused on her sorrows that she is unable (or unwilling) to see the sincere goodness, generosity and joy that still can exist around her.

Injured Instinct

Journal Date: Saturday, November 7th, 2020

“I think you can see that a dilemma of profound consequences is set up if the people who are supposed to love and protect us are also the ones that hurt, humiliate and violate us. This sets up a double bind that undermines people’s basic sense of self and trust in their own instincts. Our sense of safety and stability in the world and our interpersonal relationships become undermined by childhood abuse because we carry these early thwarted—that is, deeply conflicted—survival pattern into adulthood.” —Peter Levine

I’ve hated myself ever since then. I’ve been disgusted by myself. And have believed that my mom must have been right. That I’m worthless, and a lost cause, and don’t deserve to be here. 

That I should hide, or even die, because to show my face in polite society is an insult to all those good people I’m trying to fool.

This is what I have believed, and eventually, have gotten oh-so-good at creating as my actual life experience.

Deep down, I was so invested in believing this about myself, that I forced it upon myself, even in circumstances where there were people who wanted to like me.

I’m thinking of all the times when there have been people who have liked me, respected me, admired me, and even wanted to try to love me.

I just couldn’t handle it. 

It was too much for me. I didn’t understand it. Couldn’t trust it.

It gave me the deepest, most terrifying sense of anxiety and dread.

I had to “fix” it immediately. I couldn’t keep up “the lies.” I was terrified of what would happen when they discovered the “truth” about me.

So I was compelled to show them.

[insert horrible betrayal here]

Look at me. “This is who I am.”

Do you love me now?

That’s right. 

I DIDN’T THINK SO.

And over time, I got so much better at showing people “who I was” up front.

It took a while, but soon enough there was not even a chance for them to try and love me; I did my best to make it obvious how much I hated myself (and how much they should too) right from the very beginning.

Amazingly enough, some people still tried!

It was always such a shock to me. It was what I said I wanted, but I could never tolerate it for long.

I was obsessed with my compulsion to “tell the truth” about what I was, and to prove how unworthy of love, respect, or even common human decency I was. 


What a crazy, stupid, unnecessarily painful life this has been.

None of this was necessary.

None of this was even really about me, at the end of the day.

Back then, I was just doing my best to be a good girl. So I just kept carrying all the crazy projections my family sent my way, no matter how painful or detached from reality they were.

God, it makes me sad to look back on my life and see the truth of what has been.

How easily it could have been another way.

This pain, this shame—it was never mine to carry.

I don’t want to keep holding onto it anymore.

I’m ready to be free, and just live as my own self.

I don’t need to do this anymore.

I’m ready to be free.

Bain Marie

One method that can be utilized in the process of Dissolution is known as the “Bain Marie.” The name essentially means “Mary’s bath,” and is a reference to the woman who invented the process, Maria Prophetissa, a Jewish alchemist who is said to have lived sometime around 100 B.C.E.

She invented the “Bain Marie” for use in laboratory alchemy, where it was intended to wash the burned material left over from the Calcination phase. The basic concept is that of something like a double boiler, where the water in the central vessel is kept at a constant temperature through being submerged in another container of boiling water.

It is the larger, outside container which is subjected to the direct heat, allowing a more gentle, stable process to occur in the container in which the actual contents being washed are held.

The Bain Marie is also useful in psycho-spiritual alchemy, and in this instance, refers to a cleansing and calming meditation we can use after experiencing the difficult emotions associated with personal calcination.

How to practice

We begin by calming ourselves with several deep inhalations and exhalations of our breath. Then we can start to imagine ourselves in the warm, soothing waters of the Bain Marie. 

We may also choose to imagine ourselves in a warm ocean, held by the waters of the all-loving, compassionate Divine Mother.

As you breath in, imagine the warm water permeating your energy body that need to be cleansed, gently soothing difficulties as it washes away all impurities. 

As you exhale, you can imagine all of the pain and hardness inside of you melting away. 

You can repeat this process as many times as you need to until you feel yourself cleansed and soothed by the element of water.

You may decide to draw yourself a warm bath and perform this meditation while submerged in the water. You can also add salt to the bath, which is known to be both physically and energetically cleansing.

As you finish your meditation, you can imagine that all difficulties or negative energies have been captured in the water, and watch as it flows down the drain and out of your life forever.

The Compulsion to Repeat

Journal Date: Saturday, November 7th, 2020

It’s still hard for me know what’s real. I’m always too quickly inclined to blame it on myself, or to assume that I’m just overreacting.

I don’t think that’s actually the case in this situation right now.

And now that I’m looking back on my childhood with different eyes, I’m starting to think I wasn’t actually overreacting then, either.

I was having all of these intensely negative emotional reactions to intensely negative life experiences. Things really were that bad. I wasn’t wrong to be deeply upset by what was happening to me. My feelings were perfectly appropriate to the difficult and extremely painful situation I was in.

I only learned to distrust and deny myself because of what the rest of my family demanded I accept. The gaslighting that went on cut me off from any sense of knowing what was right or wrong.

I had no clue how to feel or react; no matter what I did, I somehow found that I was always wrong, again.

And it wasn’t just what I did that was wrong—it was me, I was wrong.

Fundamental bad, fucked up, broken, unworthy and unloveable, or as my mom often told me then, “hopeless” and a “lost cause.”

This was probably the worst part of it all.

My distrust, denial, and even disgust with myself.

It got me into so many stupid situations that I had no place being in, that were re-traumatizing and perpetuated the same despair I’d always felt.

“Here’s one of the more unusual and problem-creating symptoms that can be developed from unresolved trauma: the compulsion to repeat the actions that caused the problem in the first place. We are inextricably drawn into situations that replicate the original trauma in both obvious and less obvious ways.” —from Healing Trauma by Peter Levine

a page from my journal — 11/7/2020

How can I liberate myself from this now?

How can I call this part of my soul back from where I lost it so long ago?

I don’t know how yet. But I know I’m willing to try.

Knight of Swords | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

Knight of Swords

Keywords for the Knight of Swords

BRAVEHARSH
BOLDDOGMATIC
COURAGEOUSARROGANT
DIRECTRECKLESS
OUTSPOKENFANATICAL

In the image on this card, we catch sight of the Knight of Swords as he rushes into battle. With his sword held high above his head, he appears to us as an unstoppable force charging forward to fight for what he believes in.

This sense of frantic energy and movement is palpable here: the blurred and jagged clouds in the background leave us feeling jarred and uneasy. The trees on the lower left are depicted blurred, at an unnatural angle that shows us how we have been thrown off-kilter by the rash energy of the Knight of Swords.

Even the birds we see high up in the sky on our right seem to be strangely positioned at random. Each faces a different direction, each of them displaying a notable lack of internal cohesion or harmony.

This rash, hurried and incoherent energy is also visible in how the Knight and his white horse are only partially depicted in the frame, their bodies stretched out across the scene as they rush forward into action.

While the Knight has his eyes intently focused on what is in front of him, his horse instead looks with a backward gaze toward his rider. He appears worried, unsure of his destination and unwilling to trust the direction of his Knight, further indicating the sense of confusion and lack of cohesion expressed through this card.

Interpretation of the Knight of Swords in a Reading

Like all of the court cards, this can represent someone in our outer environment that shows the same qualities and characteristics of the Knight of Swords. Alternatively, in some instances it can also refer to how we ourselves are showing up in a given situation.

When the Knight of Swords comes up in a reading, it tends to describe someone who is bold, courageous and brave. He is passionate about his ideals and not afraid to do whatever is necessary in order to defend them.

This Knight can be quick to anger, and has a tendency to impulsively express his emotions before giving much thought to the consequences of his actions. He is often direct, and is said to often be “brutally honest.” 

He is not known for being someone to mince words or “beat around the bush.” Instead, he has a habit of quite aggressively asserting himself with others. He can be clumsy and irresponsible as he demands his opinions be taken as facts. 

At times, his absolute certainty and total conviction in his beliefs are what may be required of the situation. When confronted with malevolent forces of oppression and injustice, we must be willing to take a stand and act boldly in services of our highest principles. 

Fortune favors the bold.”

When the Knight of Swords appears in a reading, he may be encouraging us to take the same type of courageous and decisive action that he himself is known for. He often asks us to follow his lead and take swift action in the battle which lies ahead.

However, it is wise to use this approach selectively and with great awareness and discrimination. Not all situations call for this aggressively bold way of engaging with the world. 

We know that the Knight of Swords is someone who can be quite given to extremes. He possesses an unfortunate tendency to become unflinching and dogmatic, and utterly unwavering in his demand for ideological compliance. This can lead to behavior that is fanatical, authoritarian and even oppressive in its expression.

We should do our best to exercise proper discernment if we are to act in ways characteristic of the Knight of Swords. It is often said that we should look before we leap, and there is good reason for that. We may find ourselves experiencing unforeseen and unfortunate consequences if we act before thinking.  

This Knight reminds us that we should take care to temper our desire for bold, swift action with appropriate clarity and purpose if we are to truly be effective in the world. 

Descansos

Journal Date: Thursday, November 5, 2020

I just finished an exercise Estés suggested we do in this chapter on rage in Women who Run with the Wolves. It’s called “Descansos,” and here we are to mark all the little (and large) deaths of our lives.

Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone’s journey in life halted unexpectedly. To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las muertes chiquitas, and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas, have taken place.”

Estés encourages us to make our own descansos, to sit down and examine our lives, our losses, all the places which must be remembered and at the same time, put to rest.


I had a lot of crosses to mark.

My life has been filled with losses. One right after another, with little chance to recover in between.

At this point, I have between 25-30 crosses marked down to represent what I have lost.

Descansos

It’s a lot, but somehow it still doesn’t feel like enough.

I don’t even think my greatest losses are even on here.

My deepest pain comes from having missed something more intangible than a job or a boyfriend or anything I listed here before.

Maybe my greatest loss is actually me. My own self.

To have grown up never knowing (not to mention never liking) myself.

To never have felt at home. Not even in my own body. 

Especially not in my own body. This was a source of shame, and where I could locate all of my pain. Better just to not be here. To escape, by whatever means necessary.

And not just my body. I was estranged from all of me.

Always looking outside of myself for the “right” answer. 

The “right” way to look, think, feel, act, be.

I didn’t even know what I was looking for.

I just knew that I was doing it wrong.

I was just wrong, period.

I never belonged to myself. 

That’s the worst part.

I was in such a rush to give myself away. I would sell myself off to the lowest bidder. I was constantly in a rush to find the quickest way to betray myself next.

It’s very sad.

Looking back on all of this, I feel so tired. 

Exhausted. 

What was the meaning behind all of this?

It’s hard to understand.

But I’m starting to feel ready to grieve my losses. To grieve, and to let go.


“Remember in ‘The Crescent Moon Bear’ the woman said a prayer and laid the wandering orphaned dead to rest. That is what one does in descansos. Descansos is a conscious practice that takes pity on and gives honor to the orphaned dead of your psyche, laying them to rest at last.

“Be gentle with yourself and make the descansos, the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived. Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.”