Ace of Swords: Academics and Angst

While swords have the reputation of signifying misfortune (see the Barbara G. Walker card), they also are about intellect, wit (as in “razor”), and communication skills. Because they are associated with the element of Air, Swords are also about travel. Ace is the first card of a suit, a fledgling idea, a flickering light. The Ace of Swords may indicate something profoundly different from gloom and doom.

Kris Waldherr

Kris Waldherr

 

Kris Waldherr’s Ace of Swords has a certain beauty, even though it is sinister at first glance, all stabbed into a barren wasteland, and all. Inscribed on the hilt is the Ankh, symbol of everlasting life, and above it is the symbol for Hathor, the cow-eyed Egyptian goddess of the restful arms. Is the handle of the sword always a fan, or does it fold back? Fans and feathers are symbols of Air, the element of freedom, intelligence, swiftness, travel, and lessons learned. The Sword as a symbol for medicine also comes into play here, because sharp things can kill but can also be used to excise infection and tumors. The goddess that Kris Waldherr uses for the suit of swords Isis, who brought her husband Osiris back to life from the dead. In Inuyasha, Sesshumaru (spoilers) brings the little girl Rin back to life with the power of his sword Tensaiga.

IMG_1449
The Ace of Swords for the Celtic Deck looks like an offering on an altar. During school and other tasks involving brain power, such as writing a book or doing research, a person who genuinely, sincerely wants to reach her intellectual goal devotes her mind to the task. The laptop, the desks, the lab becomes an altar to the goal.
The Celtic Ace of Swords is also the Sword in the Stone of Arthurian legend. The gaining of wisdom and knowledge the Swords refer to can be arduous. If the knowledge gained is a “life lesson,” the process of gaining the knowledge will probably be trying at best and absolutely terrible at worst. It takes a strong person to come out the other side with grace. King Arthur was the only person who was worthy enough to pull the sword out of the stone, and still had to plow through a ton of crap, with a lot of personal flaws. Life can suck. It takes an amazing person to push through the suckage and come out as good or better than they were.

IMG_1450
Barbara G. Walker (of course) comes to the party with skulls and the swirling souls of the damned. Her Ace of Swords reminds us that all must die, even kings. We all have shitty days, even if we have a lot of money and power and are personally rather attractive. We’re not alone. Everyone else is swirling around with us.

IMG_1451
Back to happier thoughts. Robin Wood’s Ace of Swords is full of glory and epiphany. The light of revelation shines through the clouds. The Sword itself is crowned with laurel. It is sharp and powerful–check out that gleam. It soars on golden wings, and it says that you can too. The questioner is intellectually powerful, and/or has a gift for communication. If travel is in the offing, it will be swift and smooth. The questioner is ambitious and motivated to accomplish his intellectual goals.

Key words: intellectual endeavors
conflict
travel
possible medical issues
Accolades for intelligence

Advertisements

Our Maiden, Our Mother, Our Mistress

Let me preface this with good news:
I was accepted into a Master’s in Social Work program in a great place. I’ve spent the last few months moving and getting into the swing of scholastics. I have just finished several presentations, and several papers (one a 25 pager). The semester’s winding down and I miss blogging!

I’ve been noticing alignment with the Moon and my life. The Moon is my ruling heavenly body. The full moon in Capricorn fell on my birthday, and Capricorn is the opposite sign of Luna. Then, on my first day of classes, there was a New Moon in Virgo, the sign of diligence and hard work in the Moon phase associated with beginnings. Finally, for one of my classes, I visited a Hindu Temple. The night I chose to visit just happened to be on the full moon in Taurus, a good time to mix intellectual duty, spiritual fulfillment, and fun. Therefore, I feel that it was time to talk about the Moon.

IMG_3632
The Moon, drawn by Mary Guinan for Julian DeBurgh’s Celtic Deck shows white stones surrounding a mysterious golden glow. A great pearl of a full moon gleams down on the scene. The Moon is a mystery. What are the secrets the questioner is in the process of uncovering? The Moon tells that there is more than meets the eye. The Moon casts her silver and pearl glow over rituals and meditation, protecting and illuminating.

IMG_3636

Here we have the Crab, naturally, and two wolves gracing Barbara G. Walker’s Moon card. The Crab is venturing into new territory from the mysterious, primordial pool, called by a full moon that’s pregnant with possibilities. The wolves sing to Luna as she rises above two pillars flanking a golden path that leads to darkness. It’s a little eerie. Where does that path lead? Is it safe? Is it safe to follow the moonlight? Will we find treasure, or…lunacy?
The Moon pulls our tides, and may also pull our blood, at least, I think so. Water is also full of treasures, but also threats, just like our subconscious.
By the way, the nine blood drops curving around the Moon there? They represent menstrual blood, and there’s nine of them to represent the nine months of pregnancy. Fun fact: the words moon, month, and menstrual all have the same root! The Moon is associated with the female, although in Japan, Tsukuyomi, is a Moon god, and the Germanic tribes had Mani, and the Mesopotamians had Sin.

IMG_3628

Kris Waldherr chose Diana/Artemis for her Moon card. Diana is the Huntress, and she is known for her harsh punishments (such as turning a guy into a stag and having his own dogs rip him apart, because he saw her bathing), and yet, she has a nurturing aspect to her as well. She helped her mother, Leto, deliver her twin brother, Apollo, right after she herself was born. She was also the protectoress of girls right until they were married. She healed Aeneus after his battle injury in the Trojan War. The Moon itself is associated with illusion and lunacy, but, it is also a source of healing and creativity.
Nature, and the Moon, are cyclical. Life is cyclical–waxing and waning with periods of activity and periods of rest. Diana, the Maiden, is the first aspect of the Goddess, followed by Selene, the Mother, and finally by Hecate, the Crone.

IMG_3622

In a more verdant landscape than Walker’s, Wood’s Moon features a little crustacean strolling out of a pond that is blue, not black, and the thin path winds between a small wolf and a very large beagle into a misty rolling field. The mystery we see in Walker’s card is still there, but it seems more nurturing somehow–perhaps because there’s some luminescence in the distant horizon, and there’s plant life. Instead of two pillars, there are two stone caves. The caves, as we’ve discussed before, symbolize the Earth Mother’s womb.
If you look at this card, it can be full or a crescent, waxing or waning. If you see the Moon as waxing, or growing bigger, it might be a fortuitous time for new beginnings. If it is waning, something may be coming to an end.
A wild wolf and a loyal dog have come together to serenade the Moon in a duet. The domesticated dog and the feral wolf unite their qualities in the Moon. The Moon is a loyal, loving mother, but may give you more than you bargained for. Case in point:

IMG_1134

Dorcha is Epona’s Wild Daughter. You can find her in The Faeries Oracle, by Brian Froud. She’s part of the group of Faery Challengers. She forces the reader to confront what Jung called the Shadow self, or the parts of the self we label bad. She accompanies us through depression, anxiety, and nightmares, like Hecate. Like Hecate, she may be misunderstood. Just because there is no light at night does not mean the Moon is not there, and just because somebody shows you frightening things doesn’t necessarily mean they are evil.

IMG_1133
Laiste is Dorcha’s sister. She believes in pulling pranks to wake people up, like when the Moon’s light makes things look like things they are not–turning water into solid ground, and trees into skeletons. She embodies the mystic Moon, and can be whimsical. However, just like Dorcha, she wants you to be open and go deep. She and Dorcha are adopted daughters of Hecate, the dark side of the Moon who can be fierce, but shows surprising flashes and glimpses of beauty. Hecate will then always become Artemis again, new and full of promise of new beginnings, and then become the gentle, loving Selene, and back to the Goddess of Magic.
I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so happy Luna is my ruling body. She’s everything–young, old, mother, maiden, wise woman, Queen of Witches. She guides and obscures. She’s also in a close, personal relationship with Water, element of dreams, love, and emotion. She is silver and pearl. She is Maiden, Mother, and Mistress.

Ace of Swords: Inspiration and Expiration

Before we discuss the Ace of Swords, let’s first review Aces and Swords.  Aces are the cards that indicate new beginnings, and Swords correspond to the element of Air.  Swords are symbolic of intellect, rationality, reason, wit, problem solving, and challenges.  They can also signify medical care, ill health, betrayal, and sadness.
Because I like to get bad news out of the way first,  let’s begin with Barbara G. Walker’s Ace of Swords, titled, as you can see, “Doom.”

Clutching a sword, a sorceress stares at the reader impassively, sizing them up. Behind her swirl the spirits who float in the ghostly ether.  A crowned skull is at her feet, not only to remind us of death and doom, but to proclaim that in the world of Air, intellect is king. 
Interestingly, I notice, right now, that the swirling spirits look like sperm fertilizing an egg! This, to me, symbolizes that sorrow and strife can be used to create something new. 
Since Ace of Swords signifies new beginnings, if it appears in a negative reading or if you feel a warning vibe from it, take it as something that may be preventable.  After all, the sorceress isn’t stabbing at the viewer; she’s simply eyeing him warily.  The questioner might be able to use his problem solving skills to nip this in the bud. 

Beginning the cycle of Ace of Swords cards that depict a lone sword standing point-down, I should like to present the Ace of Swords from Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Deck.  The sword stands in the arid desert, the pyramids in the background. The culture of ancient Egypt (Isis is the goddess chosen to represent the Swords in the Goddess deck) is rich in invention, story, art,  theology, medicine, and government.  This intellectual fertility belies the seemingly lifeless desert.  Air people are gifted in these realms, and seem to be good at everything they try.  The Ace of Swords could thus be a signpost to a new interest for the questioner, one they will be particularly sharp at (sorry for the pun).
In an interpersonal reading, the Ace of Swords may indicate that the person the questioner is curious about is very intellectual and competent.  It may also be a little heads-up that this person may be more comfortable in her head than she is anywhere else in her body. This person may be emotionally cold. On the other hand, this person might be witty, well-traveled, and fascinating.
The ankh and a bull’s head glyph are etched into the sword’s handle.  The ankh is a symbol of life, luck, and love, something we cannot have without intelligence.  The Bull’s Head symbolizes the bulls of Egypt who represented Ptah, the god of crafts and inventor of the Word. Word is thought made visible, which is a fitting paradigm for Air!

The beautiful Mary Guinan art used to illustrate Julian De Burgh’s Celtic Ace of Swords shows the sword softly glowing, and vines growing out of and around the stone of the window. The brightness of a passionate intellect shines, and sometimes bursts, forth from the brow of its owner.  Athena, an intellectual, Air-y goddess (Raven Kaldera chose her as the patron goddess of the Sun in Aquarius), was born from the brow of Zeus, the ultimate idea. Her birth came with pain for Zeus–the worst migraine times 100–reminding us that Air is the element of pain and discomfort.  Some ideas are breech  births, or involve a difficult gestation. Like the ivy on the card, sometimes ideas must push through a layers of difficulty to shine forth. 
Here, the sword is in a block of stone, an altar.  Remember The Sword In the Stone, and Arthur having to pull the sword out of the stone to prove himself worthy to be king? The Ace of Swords may present a challenge that calls for the questioner to prove herself, either to the world or to herself.  Perhaps there is a job interview or the questioner is returning to school.  The open window behind the altar shows the road to adventure, and perhaps success. 

Robin Wood’s Ace of Swords is, like all her cards, rich with symbolism. What stands out to me is the location of the Sword–instead of planted, it is floating in its element, surrounded by a “brain storm” of clouds.  Or, perhaps the clouds, which form a tunnel around a flash of light, are muddled, everyday thoughts, and the light is inspiration. Inspiration means, literally, breathing in, as well as messages from the Muses.  Again, very fitting thought for Air.  The Ace of Swords can tell the questioner of coming “divine inspiration, total disillusion”  just as KMFDM sang of in their song “Light.” 
The blue stone at the center of the hilt is deep blue of clarity and calm.  It is hard to tell whether the sun is glinting off the blade, or if the light comes from within the blade itself.  Either way, the intellect is anointed–it is even crowned with laurel and white roses. The twining plants are similar to the Greek caduceus, the symbol of healing and medicine.  The element of Air heals through invention, through finding cures. 
The sword, while it inflicts pain, and can kill, also slices through illusion, like Kali’s knife.  It hacks through the brambles that form a barrier around the Edens of our dreams.  It cuts a clear, clean swath, and lets in the sunlight and fresh air.  It may bleed us, but, as Rumi says,  “The Wound is the place where the Light comes in,” where we learn love and gratitude, the greatest knowledge there is.

Nine of Pentacles: Dreams Come True

The Nine of Pentacles has been showing up a lot in my own personal readings, so I think it best if I write about her (she has a very feminine energy to me, which I will explain).  I also think she’s a suitable card for around St. Patrick’s day, because it is a wish card, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Numerology assigns the qualities of altruism, compassion, and mastery to the Number 9. It is the number that signals a completion, the home stretch.  The Nine of Pentacles usually foretells wealth, luxury, and security. I also like to think of it as a karma card–you’ve laid down the foundation for your wish, and it is coming true.

 

Barbara G. Walker’s Nine of Pentacles shows a pregnant woman in a garden rich with blooms. The keyword for the card is “Accomplishment”–but she hasn’t given birth yet.  There is still some eager anticipation to go.  The work is mostly done, however, and she can sit back and watch as creation hits its own momentum.  This pregnancy does not have to be a literal, physical one that ends in the birth of a child. It could be a business, a degree, a novel, an invention…the list goes on.  A wish has come true, and a reward is due.

The white elephant in the garden is no accident. He is a representative of Ganesha, the Hindu remover of obstacles, the god of luck.  On his back is an offering in a golden bowl.  The woman has made her sacrifices, and Ganesha has noticed.  The Nine of Pentacles, like all Pentacle cards, is concerned with practicality, and hard work.  A stroke of luck that seems unconnected to any actual work on the questioner’s part is probably an unexpected gift for sacrifices the questioner made, or good deeds done, that he or she may not even remember, or thought was too tiny to make any big difference.  But small causes may lead to large effects, and nobody knows this better than Ganesha. He rode on the back of a mouse, after all.

 

Kris Waldherr’s Goddess deck shows Lakshmi, our lady of the Pentacles, in a garden, greeting a dove, the messenger of peace and good tidings. This card is analogous to the dove. It tells you that you are entering, or are already in, an idyllic period in your life. The card is rich in the colors of gold (color of wealth and nobility) and the pinks and purples of the large gerbera daisies around the border. The blessings of the questioner are as plentiful as the daisies’ petals.  The color pink is the color of joy.

Robin Wood’s Nine of Pentacles is rich with color and life. The vines are rife with an abundance of nourishing, delicious, sweet grapes (packed with antioxidants!) and deep red roses.  The woman in her garden is provided for, not only with food, but with beauty and sensual delights.  Her red sleeves indicate her energy and love of life, and her purple skirt is symbolic of royalty, along with her gold embellishments. Roses, of course, have thorns, which, to me, symbolizes that the reader has paid his dues to get to this place of joy and prosperity.

Her hawk is her messenger, the bird that connects the earth to the heavens and the gods to the mortals. But this is where the imagery gets tricky–the hawk is tamed. It’s hooded and its talons are bound by leather strips.  This could symbolize the questioner’s self control and focus. This is a good thing–it means the questioner showed up for her own life.  It means she buckled down. The golden fence can show that the questioner will (or has) achieved harmony and security in his life. However, the appearance of the hawk, combined with the elaborately designed golden fence, may indicate a self-imposed imprisonment.  The Nine of Pentacles may be warning to not value security so much that you stop taking risks (Wood 113).  It all depends on your intuition.

 

The illustration Mary Guinan drew for Julian DeBurgh’s Celtic Deck is the only one (of my current decks, anyway) that breaks away from the woman in the garden theme.  The sea has just enough of a wave to bring the warriors smoothly home. The man in the bow stands tall and strong.  The sky is soft behind them.  Their mission was a success. Their leader’s sword and shield are of gold, and their boat is in beautiful condition. Depending on your own intuition as a reader, or the other cards surrounding the Nine of Pentacles, you may determine that the fulfilled wishes portended by the Nine of Pentacles will either come as a result of back-breaking work, or a walk in the park.

Yet, even when I look at this card, I refer to it as a “she.” Perhaps because of the association with the nurturing, traditionally feminine Earth, and also the fact that there are nine months to a pregnancy.

 

Reversed: Reversed, the Nine of Pentacles means that either your dream will be disappointed, or postponed. Perhaps there are more steps that must be taken before it reaches the promise of the card. Or, there should be a change in the way you’re going about achieving the dream in this late stage of the game. It could also mean that you have lost enthusiasm for the dream, and need to do some soul-searching to figure out what it is you really want.

 

Archetypes: Pregnant women

People getting closer and closer to their goal

Business start-ups

a romantic partnership or friendship that can bring security and creative fertility to both parties

An artist or writer nearing the end of their projects, OR someone who is now courageous enough to sit down and take the steps necessary for the project to gain momentum.

 

Source:

Wood, Robin. The Robin Wood Tarot: The Book. Livingtree: 2009.

This book is chockfull of information about the symbolism of Robin Wood’s art, card by card, by Robin Wood herself.  If you are a student of symbolism, this is for you.