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.

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The Lovers (NSFW)

In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s look at the Lovers (really look at them, in one case).

The Lovers card is, of course, a portent of love.  Barbara G. Walker even included Eros (Cupid in Roman), the personification of love, in her Lovers card. However, being a critical reader of cards (like a critical reader of literature) involves looking at the details as well as the big picture, and reading between the lines. For example, the officiant of this marriage is a priestess, not the traditional priest.  This is not only a legal marriage; there is a deeper, subconscious connection.

Barbara G. Walker writes that since the young man is between an older woman and a younger woman, this card may indicate a choice between mother and wife, youth and maturity, body and spirit (Walker 8). If this triangle sticks out to you, by all means, that interpretation may be what your intuition is pointing you toward. On the other hand, the older woman may seem like a wise teacher, giving her blessings to the young couple. This may tell the reader that the relationship in question is blessed and approved, by destiny if not by the couples’ parents. If the teacher archetype really sticks out for you in this card, it could mean that the questioner should contemplate (or is contemplating) the pursuit of a passion, in all its many forms. They may be beginning a yoga practice, or starting a painting, or about to go on a date. This is a good omen that they are on the right track!

Venus is, of course, the perfect goddess to represent The Lovers in Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Deck. While Venus (Aphrodite in Greek) was a goddess of romantic love, she was also a goddess of beauty in general. Thus, if Venus (or The Lovers) show up in a reading, they may indicate a surge of creative energy, or simply that the questioner needs (or is being given) plenty of beauty to feast on.  This can also indicate a person with a gift for making things beautiful.

This is where it gets racy–

Sometimes The Lovers are just The Lovers. The card is simply telling the questioner she has a crush, or lusts after a new partner. Look closely at the moon in The Lovers card for the Celtic deck– Mary Guinan drew it as a waxing crescent. This could be the beginning, or the honeymoon phase, of a relationship, and it is swelling just as the moon does.

Okay, send the kids out of the room, if you’re squeamish–

I’ll give you a minute to get the staring out of your system.

All done? Good, because there’s more to this card then privates and thingies and naughty bits, as in all Robin Wood cards.  The nudity, while of course underscoring romantic love and sexual passion, is also symbolic of a pure, unashamed state. This could be speaking to a relationship where the couple is secure in themselves with each other, or the two are exploring new things together, a la Jasmine and Aladdin. This state can also describe a new interest in the questioner’s life. Remember “beginner’s mind”? This Zen concept is defined as the purest, most open state of mind, the mind most receptive to learning. The person’s interest is unadulterated.

Looking at other parts of the couple’s bodies besides the very obvious ones, you may notice the color of their hair. Yes, they have hair on their heads. The man has golden hair, and the woman has raven hair. You may also notice that the man is balancing a sun, and the woman is balancing a moon.  They are connected by a arcing rainbow.  This is symbolic of the balance between yin and yang, male and female, bright and dark.  The masculine attributes of strength, ambition, power, and consciousness is equal to, no more or less, to the feminine attributes of intuition, the ability to plumb the subconscious, and nurturing.  Combined, this leads to fertility (as can be seen in the blossoming flowers and fruit on the card).  This fertility may be physical, artistic, intellectual, or spiritual. If the question is about a couple, they would seem to be a perfect match (of course, nobody’s perfect, but they’re pretty happy, indeed!). If it’s about an individual, this means that this person is extremely harmonious internally.

The Lovers can also mean that the person has committed himself to a new spiritual or intellectual practice.  The beloved in this case is a Higher Power, or a new philosophy of life.  It may also show that the questioner has chosen to commit to her Self, and this is a romance that lasts a lifetime.

Reversed, The Lovers card means that He or She is Just Not That Into You, or there is a lack of commitment in the scenario being analyzed.  There is a mismatch.  It might not work out.

But enough negativity.  As we have seen, The Lovers is an excellent card for, well,  lovers. However, it shouldn’t be underestimated as a one-dimensional card. It can refer not only to the love between a lover and the beloved, but between the lover and a Higher Power, a Lover and Nature, a Lover and Art, a Lover and Philosophy– the list goes on, including between a Lover and the Self.  So, if you’re single for Valentine’s Day, don’t despair–as The Lovers have shown us, Love should flow freely wherever the heart wills it, not just on our romantic partners.

I’d like to leave you with some quotes by Rumi, who knew a thing or two about Love:

When life ends we are given another.

Love is the water of Eternal Life;

when you enter that immense sea,

you will know that each drop of it

brims with Life.

We are in love with Love

because Love is our salvation.

Our guide is the Soul

and Love, the water of life.

Woe to him who cannot find the source

for his path is barred by ignorance.

Your body is woven

from the light of Heaven.

Are you aware

that its purity and swiftness

are the envy of the angels

and its courage

keeps even devils away?

You stepped on the ground

and the earth, pregnant with joy,

gave birth to infinite blossoms.

The cheering spread up to Heaven!

The moon glanced  amazed at the stars.

Sources: Rumi’s Little Book of Love: 150 Poems That Speak to the Heart.  Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin, editors. Charlottesville: Hampton Roads, 2009.

Walker, Barbara G. Barbara Walker Tarot.  U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 1986.

Gentle, Luxurious Taurus

Taurus calls, to my mind, absolute luxury and beauty. It is ruled by Venus, planet of not only beauty and luxury, but also love.  Taurus loves deep and warm, but since its energy is that of the element Earth, they have a practicality and steadiness. While Libra is also ruled by the planet of love, the energy of love in this placement is, in keeping with the air element, more intellectual, more abstract, and, when the Libra is out of balance, fickle.  Taurus is steady as a rock, and while the swift lyricism and charm associated with Libra is not normally associated with Taurus, Venus gives this earthy placement a nice boost in that department. The Taurus has exquisite taste, and a poetic mind.

The Earth energy aligned with Taurus is the energy of the lush rain forests, succulent flower gardens, fecund fruit orchards, and fertile fields.  Taurus energy is not just vibrant green and rich brown, but the brilliant pinks, reds, blues, purples, and aquamarines of all the flowers and gem stones the Earth gives to us as gifts.  If Taurus were fabrics, it would be velvet and silk.  It is a musical energy, and music is a gift for Taurus–even if they can’t sing or play, they are deeply affected by and resonate to music.

I have a friend who is a Taurus, and a friend who has the Moon in Taurus.  They are both very dear and they are both fabulous huggers.  You can seriously melt into their arms.  Raven Kaldera (buy his book!)  describes Hathor, the cow goddess of Egypt that he has assigned to the Taurus Moon, as having “restful arms” (64).  This is certainly true. There’s just something so comforting about a Taurus presence. This is a soft-spoken, gentle energy.  They also tend to smell nice, like a lawn after a soft rain.

It is fitting that the animal for Taurus is the Cow. Cows are known for being sweet and wide-eyed, and nurturing toward their young. A calf is open and trusting. Someone with the gift of Taurus energy has a talent for making people feel loved.  If a Taurus loves you, you feel amazing and deserving. They open up to you and trust you.

Naturally, their is a Shadow to the Taurus, and that is the Rampaging Bull.  Bull-rage is not something to mess with. This is a very physical, visceral anger, that is slow to build and then explodes and flows over anything in its path like lava or scalding steam.  Taurus does not intellectualize his or her anger, and the ability to reason oneself out of one’s emotions is not one of the gifts this energy gives to the people who tap it.  Another good analogy is thunder and lightning. Thunder may begin as a tiny rumble, but then it increases into the darts of the gods.

Another aspect of the Shadow of Taurus is gluttony. This is the sign of the Gourmand, but it can easily devolve into having no standards, and, with the natural exquisite taste and aesthetics of this sign, that is a waste of potential.

Another Shadow of this energy is that of the Indolent.  An unbalanced Taurus has no curiosity. This may not be due to a boring personality, though that may be the case, but to an aversion to change. The Taurus, as we all, must remember that even the Grand Canyon was created through a process of change. If it must be taken slowly, that is all right, but steps must be taken, because the purpose of the motionless is to deaden and decay, making room for and feeding growing things.

Taurus has a gift for creation. This is a creative energy, and, just as important, a sustaining one. Taurus is strong and resilient, and willing to get their hands dirty and put their backs into it.  If this dirtying of the hands and straining of the back is done for the people they love, this could be as much a pleasure as lounging on a satin divan, listening to a sunset concert while sipping ice-wine and letting chocolates melt in their mouths. For many Taurus people, or those who are in the stream of Taurus energy, giving is as effortless as the giving of the Earth herself.

Archetypes, people and animals associated with Taurus

The Cow

Hathor, the Cow Goddess of Egypt

Thor, Norse God of Thunder

The Gardener/Nature Child

Gaea, Tara, and other Earth Goddesses

The Sensualist

The Artist/Musician

The Poet Rumi (read his poetry, it’s down to Earth and yet has that warm, ruby center that the Earth itself possesses

Elephants–for their quiet intelligence (Kaldera 224-225)

Ganesha–for his lust for the finer things in life, as well as his earthy intelligence and loving nature (Kaldera 224-227)

Hints for bringing Taurus energy into your life–

Go to a lush, green, growing place. Surround yourself with flowers, vegetables, and fruit, which are not only lovely but symbolize Earth’s fertility

What do your eyes find beautiful? Your ears? Your nose? Your mouth? Your fingertips? Feast on these things at least three times a day.

Give and receive more hugs. Most mammals die without physical contact. This is quite true for Taurus. Get massages.

Are there any rumblings of thunder in your life? Any irritations or angers threatening to explode into a fire storm from the sky? How can you solve these problems?

Carry a little elephant around, to remind you of Ganesha’s relaxed wisdom, to bring luck, or just to make you smile.