King of Swords

King of Swords

Keywords for the King of Swords


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. 

King of Swords Interpretation

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.

Queen of Swords

Keywords for the Queen of Swords


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.

Queen of Swords Interpretation

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.

Knight of Swords

Knight of Swords

Keywords for the Knight of Swords


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.

Knight of Swords Interpretation

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. 

Page of Swords

Page of Swords

Keywords for the Page of Swords


In the image on the card, we see the bright blue sky and puffy white clouds of a bitingly cold spring morning, one which has not relinquished the icy winds of winter. A gust of this wind blows now, visibly shaking the branches of dark trees in the distance. 

This young man hesitantly holds a sword up behind him in both hands. We notice his uneven stance, his weight resting on one foot with the other lightly to his side. We see how he appears to be ungrounded, unsure of his ability and doubting in his ability to wield his weapon.

Page of Swords Interpretation

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

Physically, the Pages tend to represent children in our lives, however, these cards can also refer to any person who has a very youthful energy and lighthearted, innocent and carefree way of being in the world. 

As a Page, this card is associated with students, or those who are new to their path in general. They tend to possess a certain pure, uncomplicated passion for life and for the way they express the energy of their suit.

As a result, the  Page of Swords will likely indicate a young person who is new to the task before her. She may feel inexperienced and unsure of herself and her capabilities.

The person represented by this page may be someone quite eager to do his best, someone who deeply desires to prove himself and earn the respect of those around him. 

While these are admirable traits, they may also at times be expressed by this person in a way that might make them seem too anxious to impress. This overemphasis on a desire to please can lead to difficulties in the form of distraction, loss of respect, as well as performance anxiety when it comes time to act on what has been learned.

This can also manifest as a short attention span, leading to scattered thoughts and trouble focusing on the task at hand. The person in question may become apprehensive and easily distracted when he becomes too eager to please.

When this card comes up, it can also indicate that we are feeling unsure of ourselves. It can also mean shyness and diffidence, as well as lack of confidence and faith in our abilities. We may be anxious to prove ourselves to the world, yet lack the necessary skills or experience required to make it a reality.

Ten of Swords

10 of Swords

Keywords for the Ten of Swords 


In this card, we come upon a disturbing scene. We see a mountain range in the background, backlit by what appears to be a setting afternoon sun. Clouds of smoke trail across the evening sky, filling the complete upper half of the car with a dark black cloud that threatens to take over.

On the ground before us, a dead man lies face down on the dirt floor. His lower body is wrapped in a blood red clot, while blood streams out from his head onto the ground around him.

We see ten swords which puncture the flesh of his back, all arranged in a line down his spine. He has not been killed once, but many times, it seems. He has suffered misfortune beyond measure here.

10 of Swords Interpretation

When this card appears in a reading, it often indicates where you feel you have suffered an extreme loss or defeat. It can feel like the world is ending after such a great loss. You may feel that you will never recover from such a humiliating failure. 

When this card appears, the loss we have experienced may very well be real. However, there’s also the potential that we may perhaps be overdramatizing the consequences that this has had or will have on our lives.

As we see in the image on the card, the man lies face down with 10 swords in his back. We may ask if all 10 of those were truly necessary. He would likely have been equally as defeated with just one sword in his back.

This is further emphasized by the position of the man’s right hand on the ground on his side. He holds two fingers extended with the other two tucked under near his thumb. 

Notice this is the same position held by the Hierophant in Key 5.  In both cases, it is a signal that all is not what it seems. Some of the truth is indeed being revealed, but another half is obscured and held back and not shared with others. 

Sometimes when this card appears it is asking us to consider our role, and our present circumstances. If this is a difficult situation we often repeatedly find ourselves in, we may want to ask ourselves questions such as:  

  • Am I truly the victim here? 
  • Is there anything I might be getting out of repeatedly playing this role? 
  • What do I get from feeling like a martyr?

We might find that we are willingly putting ourselves in a position of self-sacrifice and loss that stem from unconscious motives, such as “being the bigger person”, or the belief that “love means sacrifice,” or “selflessness is equal to goodness.” 

When this card appears, we may want to re-examine some of our current values and past conditioning, if we truly desire to have a different future outcome for ourselves. 

Nine of Swords

9 of Swords

Keywords for the Nine of Swords


In the image on this card, we see someone sitting up in bed, holding their head in their hands. They appear as if they had just woken up from a nightmare, or recalled some horrible, traumatic memory.

Now, they cry bitterly, sad tears of despair in the middle of this long, dark night.

The pain and suffering evident in this card is palpable.However, it is an experience of inner suffering, of a mental or emotional pain which may sometimes come upon us unbidden in the darkness of the night.

The nine swords we see here make reference to the mental nature of this kind of pain, and their position fastened up high on the wall indicates that they are not something which can be of active use to us. 

Instead, they are heavy reminders of past limitations that only serve to keep us trapped in difficult conditions.

Also of importance here are the figures we see depicted on the bed and blanket which belong to this unfortunate soul. 

The blanket is covered in an alternating pattern of red roses and astrological symbols. The red roses symbolize, once again, the power of our emotions and our desires to create the reality of our lived experience. 

The astrological glyphs, on the other hand, are a reference to a more large-scale view of causality and creation, one which is deeply related to the concepts of karma and reincarnation. It demonstrates the idea that we are born into life conditions which are a direct result of our previous actions and behaviors.

It is this combination of personal desire and impersonal karmic forces that creates our destiny. Together, these cover the person in bed, keeping him contained within his own personal sphere of “fated” experience.

Carved into the wooden bed is a scene of a man whipping or beating another. This person lies defenseless on the ground, unable to resist or protect himself. 

This speaks of the fact that the suffering shown here is rooted in a serious issue. It is not a matter of a simple misunderstanding or having had a hard day. The shame and regret and loss re-experienced here is instead rooted in deep injustice, in true oppression and subjugation of others.

9 of Swords Interpretation

When the 9 of Swords comes up in a tarot reading, it typically speaks to an experience of great suffering and loss that has occured in our past. 

It can indicate a longer, more enduring experience of suffering and shame over a longer period of time. It tells of the things which have left their marks on our souls, which linger within us as fears and anxieties, and in some cases can even manifest as consuming pangs of guilt or  soul-crushing shame.

The 9 of Swords can at times refer to events so painful, they are not always even fully available to us in conscious awareness. These are the feelings and experiences we may have been forced to repress and deny in service of our own self-protection and well-being.

For example, we may bury our rage at an abusive parent who significantly harmed us during our childhood, and now have difficulty acknowledging or expressing our own anger in the present. 

This pattern rooted in unconscious defense mechanisms often leads to further situations where we are put in a position of powerlessness. There we may re-experience the original rage of our youth, and in so doing perpetuate the cycle of oppression and suffering.

This is a card which at times may even represent the deepest inner turmoil known to us as human beings. It shows the powerfully debilitating sense of shame known by survivors of trauma and abuse.

As a result, this card can represent the pain and rage which, when not allowed expression in the outer world, is often turned inward against oneself. 

Eight of Swords

8 of Swords

Keywords for the Eight of Swords


In the image on this card, we see a woman in a red dress standing on the beach at low tide. She is blindfolded and bound, seemingly trapped amidst a fence of eight tall swords.

Shallow pools of water can be seen around her; even the sea has deserted her, leaving her to her fate abject and alone.

In the distance, we see the red roofs of a tall castle high up on a cliff. Perhaps help is available, if only the woman could see it. 

8 of Swords Interpretation

When 8 of Swords comes up in a tarot reading, it often indicates some kind of restriction, of feeling trapped or stuck within the limits of a given situation.

When this card appears, we can often feel as if we are powerless, and have little we can do to change our fate.

As a result, we can feel victimized, and come to believe that we have no choice but to give into forces greater than ourselves. 

We may give up our sense of being powerful, autonomous agents of change, instead placing our only hopes in the hands of others for salvation.

We can look again to the image on the card for clues on how to resolve this seeming impasse.

If we look closely, we can see that both the ties which bind her arms, as well as the blindfold which obscures her sight, are tied quite loosely. The swords around her do not fully enclose her, either.

If she were to try, she could most likely free herself quite easily from the ties that bind her. But in order to do so, she must first believe that it is possible.

This speaks to the clearly mental nature of the sense of entrapment we see in this card. Often, we are only trapped because we have come to believe we have no other options.

This speaks to a sense of “learned helplessness” that we sometimes may develop after experiencing serious traumas or adversities. There may have been instances in the past where we truly had little power to change our circumstances (such as in childhood abuse or instances of serious violence). 

Unfortunately, due to these traumatic experiences we may have come to believe that we are always powerless in more than one area of our lives. The painful experience may become so embedded in our sense of who we are that we generalize outward from this one situation to all others.

As difficult as it may be, we must remember there is always a solution to our problems. There are always other options available to us, although they may be one we had never imagined for ourselves before. Sometimes they show up in ways that at first may seem unattractive, but ultimately may be exactly what we need.

The 8 of Swords asks us to remove the blindfold and open our eyes, and to shake ourselves loose from the ties which bind us. Once we begin to believe in ourselves again, anything becomes possible. 

Seven of Swords

7 of Swords

Keywords for the Seven of Swords 


Looking at the image on the car we are taken into a scene of a lone man at a campsite, with many tents in the background to the right.

On the left, we see a great cloud of smoke along with a crowd of people gathered around what appears to be a campfire. 

While everyone is away from the scene, a man appears in the foreground carrying away five out of the seven swords. These had been placed standing in the ground, left behind while their owners were busy with their evening meal. 

The man who now possesses five of Seven Swords is tiptoeing away quietly.

This is not an accidental injury, but premeditated theft. He is well aware that what he is doing is wrong, but that doesn’t stop him. 

In fact, the man even seems to take a perverse pleasure in his misdeeds, as evidenced by the slight smirk on his face at the moment of the crime.

7 of Swords Interpretation

When this card comes up in a tarot reading, it often asks us to pay very close attention to the situation at hand. It can indicate that we’re being lied to, cheated or fooled. 

There may be something about our situation that is not what it seems, and we would be wise to inquire further before proceeding. 

However, this card does not only come up when we are the victim of a betrayal or theft. 

There are times when this card seems to call us out, asking to take a look at our own behavior. It wants us to consider if we are truly being ethical or fair in a given situation. Are we acting in ways that are dishonorable, or that go against what we know to be right?

If so, the Seven of Swords asked us to reconsider and perhaps change our course of action. It may be momentarily satisfying to try to get the upper hand, however, in the long run, this way of interacting with the world is ultimately damaging to ourselves. 

The consequences of unethical or manipulative behavior, such as that seen in the 7 of Swords, often diminishes what we would consider to be in our own best interest in the long term.

Six of Swords

6 of Swords

Keywords for the Six of Swords


We see before us three travelers undertaking a journey at dawn. A mother and her child sit in the front of the boat, along with six swords standing upright, sustained by their sharp points piercing the bottom of the boat.

Having escaped in the darkest hour of the night, they now allow themselves to be guided from turbulence into calmer waters. 

The pain of the past is present, but not pressing. They are conscious of their grief, but take refuge in knowing that the worst is over now. The waters behind them are clearly disturbed, but the path ahead of them is all smooth sailing.

6 of Swords Interpretation

When the 6 of Swords comes up in a tarot reading, it often refers to a situation in which we are leaving certain sorrows behind us. 

We may have recently had a breakup, or left behind certain difficult family dynamics at home. We might be ending a painful relationship or friendship that ultimately was causing us more harm than good. 

This card indicates that we have now taken an important step forward towards a healthier and happier new future.

Although we may still carry with us a certain amount of sadness from our past experiences (as symbolized by the 6 upright swords on the boat), we know we can now trust that the worst is over.

We may still be sitting with our tears, and this process of grieving could well continue for some time. But there is a part of us which is at peace, for we know that we are moving forward towards a better future. 

Five of Swords

5 of Swords

Keywords for the Five of Swords


In the image on this card, we see three people arranged in a disturbing scene. 

Dark storm clouds streak the sky over troubled waters. Nearest to us we see a cruel-looking man displaying a savage grin on his face. He seems proud of himself, gloating about his recent conquests, clearly proud of his acts of violence.

In his hands he holds three swords, while two more lay strewn on the floor by his feet.

Behind him, we see another man walking away with a defeated look on his face. Beyond him is yet another, who stands facing away from us, his head in both hands in a gesture of sorrow and deep grief.

5 of Swords Interpretation

When the 5 of Swords appears in a tarot reading, it can signal the experience of loss or defeat, one where we may have lost out against a stronger or more cunning opponent.

However, it often speaks to a more disturbing dynamic at play than a simple loss. It is usually more concerned with losses that result from unethical or even criminal motivations. This card also refers to circumstances filled with betrayal, open dishonor, outright aggression and hostility.

It is what results when one (or more) of the parties involved have lost their moral compass, and instead determined that the ends justify any means used to obtain them.

The 5 of Swords in a reading can also indicate power plays motivated by selfishness and a desire to “win” at all costs, without any regard to ethics or integrity.

It is motivated by a desire for dominance that often has little to do with the value of whatever object or material benefit is obtained by use of force. Here, a logic of cruelty and ruthlessness rules the day.

If you look at the image on the card, you will see that the victor now possesses five swords, more than he is even capable of holding himself. We see in evidence here the logic of exploitation, which seeks to amass power and wealth above all. 

It is done for the sake of meeting the ego’s needs, rather than to alleviate any true material deficiency or want. It displays a “survival of the fittest” and “winner take all” mentality that we are only too familiar with in this era of late-stage capitalism.

Finally, it must be noted that this card does not only refer to the devious acts of other people. At times when this card appears, it may be we ourselves that have been acting dishonorably. 

We should always consider the option that we have not been acting with integrity, and if so, resolve to more clearly examine our behavior and make whatever changes may be necessary.