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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

Rest and Relaxation, brought to you by the Four of Swords

Fours, in numerology, is the number of stability and balance. There are four points on the compass, four elements in the Western tradition, and four seasons.  There are four sides in a square, and four legs on a table. There are also four aspects to the human being–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

 

The Four of Swords signifies a time of rest and rejuvenation after a struggle or a period of intense mental activity.

 

Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Deck shows Isis reclining under the points of Four Swords.  Looking at the card, you may feel that the points are ominous and menacing Swords of Damocles, literally. Since the Four of Swords signifies an only temporary truce, this card can carry an underlying tension. But, again, it’s all in the interpretation of the card, and the same card may show something different to the same reader at each reading. Another person may see, or another reading may show, the swords as Isis’s own swords, and they keep her safe and secure while she rests before rising to face a new challenge.

 

 

In Robin Wood’s deck, three of the four swords are sheathed, and one is carved into the stone of the sepulcher.  The swords are put to rest as well.  Now is not the time for the questioner to brain storm (the Swords are aligned with the mental realm) or sharpen his wits. Now is the time to take care of herself. From the position of the shield on the chest, now is a time for, at most, a defensive position. Do not take the offensive.  Take a temporary peace to recharge before going back to the challenge or conflict at hand.  Relish the relaxation, and feel gratitude.

 

The Celtic Deck shows people having a meal. Depending on how you read the card, this scene may tell about a temporary truce or ceasefire, or a retaking up of arms after a temporary truce. On what razor thin edge is the questioner balancing? Is it heading toward peace, or an explosion?

Perhaps the questioner is more like the fellow up in the balcony, or the serving man carrying the tray of food, or the unarmed host.  What does this vantage point offer? Can they influence the outcome of the situation?

 

 

Barbara G. Walker’s Four of Swords shows a sorceress at rest, but on her guard.  Her swords form a protective boundary around her as she etches the protective pentagram onto the ground in front of her.  The four swords, with the square that they form around her, also help her keep balanced metaphorically.

She is in a cave, the symbol of the womb, and of regeneration. When she leaves her resting place, she will be stronger and better prepared for the problems that she may face. In that regard, the Four of Swords may be telling the questioner to not only take a break to rejuvenate, but to gather intelligence and possible defensive and offensive mechanisms.

 

When reversed, the Four of Swords mean that a truce or a time-out is denied, or that the period of rest and truce is coming to an end.

Heavenly Sevens

In numerology the number seven is associated with wisdom and intelligence. There is a difference between the two. A person can be intelligent but not wise, and vice versa.  Wisdom is more spiritual. Intelligence is more worldly–it has to do with what you can learn, and is cerebral.  The number 7 covers both.  It is also associated with spiritual growth and meditation. As God rested on the seventh day, the number seven implies a need for rest and introspection.

Let’s start with Wands in the Minor Arcana.

Here, the man in the kilt stares down six Wands, his own Wand blazing. Who or what is holding those other Wands? What is this man’s goal? He is fortunate to have the high ground, though, and his legs are strong in his stance. He even has a slight smile on his face. He is confident in his strength and in himself.

In the Celtic Deck, it is apparent that the protagonist on the hill is fighting against six other men. He still holds the high ground, and has a determined expression.  Generally, if Seven of Wands shows up in a spread, it’s telling you to stand your ground. You’re probably going to come out on top, or at the very least learn what you’re capable of.

Freyja, the mediator goddess between the warring gods of Aesir and the peaceful Vanir, is the goddess of the Staves. While the men on the Robin Wood and Celtic decks are confident,  Freyja is uncertain. In certain situations, it is good to be wary. It could very well be that there are aspects of the situation that you are not aware of.  Being wary will help you keep your position and maintain your supremacy.

Here is a man in a Damocles situation. What is unique about this card is that it reminds us that conflict may be caused by ourselves. We may take on to much and find ourselves overwhelmed. Such is the price tag with success, a concept associated with the Wands/Staves, as they are aligned with the external masculine energy.

Reversed, the Seven of Wands/Staves means that the questioner is overwhelmed and unstable. A retreat may be in order.  It may also mean an argument will not be won, or a request will not be granted, as they are too many things working against it.

Moving along to the Coins/Pentacles:

The Seven of Pentacles/Coins is in keeping with the theme of rest and contemplation associated with the number.  Here, a man is very content with his handiwork, which is growing and almost ready for harvest.  From his gloves, it’s apparent that it took hard work to get here, but it was worth it.  This card signifies that now is a waiting period, and that good things are on the way, particularly if the question concerned financial, health, and real estate matters, which are under the umbrella of the earthy Pentacles.

The man here is contemplating his money. How much does he already have? How much more does he need? If he needs more, how can he get it?  Those may be the questions the Seven of Pentacles may recommend the questioner consider.

In keeping with the garden theme–gardens as a metaphor for fertility, abundance, richness, patience, cycles, and hard work paying off–Lakshmi is depicted tending hers.  The work is satisfying, and is not a hardship. She is full of happy anticipation. If the question is concerning whether work, education, or another venture will pay off, the Seven of Pentacles is a good omen.

Of course, Barbara G. Walker has to break up the happy-fun time and poop on everybody’s party (I mean no disrespect. Barbara G. Walker is one of my heroes. It’s just I know this change in tone is quite jarring and I wanted to add some levity).  In her deck, Seven of Pentacles can mean failure. As far as I can see, this has to do with the nature of cycles, which is one of the concepts the Earthy Pentacles have to teach –sometimes the garden is fallow or frozen. However, in the distance is a dark door flanked by seven stars, leading into the cave. What is in that cave? Is there gold? Or perhaps a place to rest and recuperate from loss? Look at the other cards.

The Seven of Coins/Pentacles reversed in other decks say basically what Barbara G. Walker’s upright Seven of Pentacles says, and also warns against impatience, laziness, and entitlement.

The Seven of Swords indicates a need to protect oneself, and vulnerability. It also indicates shadiness or deception, on the part of the questioner or on the part of someone the questioner knows.

The Seven of Swords tells the questioner to be careful–someone is either actively trying to harm them, or an impersonal crime may take place. Put up extra protection and be very watchful.  Someone may be sneaking around or spreading rumors. This card can also indicate that the questioner may be up to no good, and are about to be caught, or get themselves entangled in the negative behavior. Those who live by the sword die by it.

This picture makes me think of Caesar’s last moments. Watch your back, the cards are telling you. Someone may be a traitor.

Isis, the goddess of the Swords suit, is frightened as she carries her five swords.  Her brother/brother-in-law Set (I know, right?) has killed her husband/brother, Osiris (I know, right?), not once, but twice, dismembering him the second time,  and she must now put Osiris back together, all the while watching her back in case Set tries to kill her and Osiris again. The Seven of Swords is sympathetic. It knows how difficult it is to carry the burden of fear.  It would make a world of difference if someone came to help carry the burden, but the Seven of Swords indicates isolation, or the feeling of isolation. When the Seven of Swords shows up, it may be beneficial to take stock of whom you can trust. You may not be as alone as you think.

Okay, I’m going to point out the elephant on the wall before anyone can jump to conclusions. Yes, that is a swatstika on the wall. Yes, when I saw it, I literally flinched. But trust me, Barbara G. Walker is NOT a Nazi. Here’s the a brief history of this symbol, from her invaluable book, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects:  “Named for the Sanskrit ‘so be it’ or ‘amen,’ the swatstika has been a religious emblem of worldwide occurrence since at last 10,000 B.C.  It appeared on the oldest coinage in India, on images of Buddha in Japan, and on Greek and Roman figures of the Great Goddess…It was still used as a magic sign in Europe up to the beginning of the twentieth century” (Walker 61). Even with such an illustrious history, the swatstika is another casualty of the Third Reich, and I won’t touch it in my work with the runes (the Futhark and Futhorc do not even have the swatstika anyway).

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, the woman, who is a wise crone, has created a circle of seven swords over her as a protective amulet. She sits with closed body language, with her arms and legs crossed. The black cat by her side is her familiar, an extension of her soul and boon companion. Again, this card seems to ask whom we can trust.

Reversed, a Seven of Swords indicates paranoia, or unrealistic fear,, and indicates that the questioner must seek help. It can also reveal truly dangerous activity or a terrible threat.  Your intuition may also tell you, looking at the card, that a reversed Seven of Swords indicates the danger is past. Use the other cards surrounding it.

The Seven of Cups is a card of dreams and decisions.

Here, the girl’s hair becomes the clouds. She is clearly in a flight of fancy. Her head isn’t just in the clouds, it is the clouds! The young girl is constructing many lovely scenarios for herself–there’s a cup of jewels with a dollar sign motif, a castle in a cup with a crown around the brim, and fireworks shooting out of the cup with the heart.  What those stand for don’t need explaining, but some of the symbols are more estoteric. The dragon in the red cup symbolizes power and passion. He’s a little bedraggled, because he’s been fighting temptation and oppression, as shown by the chains on the band of his cup.  Dreams take work to come true, and sometimes a fight.

The snake in the cup with the moon waxing, full, and waning represents, wisdom and healing. Because snakes shed their skins, they were associated with healing and the shedding of disease. The molting of snakes was seen as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The moons are symbolic of womanly wisdom, the feminine knowledge of the subconscious, the hidden, and nature cycles.

The laurel in the cup with the skull and crossbones motif is a visual pun meaning “Victory over Death” (Wood 201-208).  The last one is a mask in a silver cup.  The color of silver is symbolic of feminine energy and the moon.  The mask is the Self. Getting behind the mask means the ultimate self-knowledge.

This is why I love Robin Wood. She is so rich in meaning and her artistry is stunning.

In the dreamy Celtic Deck, the Seven of Cups shows a woman peering off the back of a boat. Is she longing for the past, which will never come again? Is she happy with the person she is with, the person rowing the boat? Actually, he’s not even rowing the boat. He’s gazing at the beautiful sight before him, seven cups in a glowing pyramid. But is that vision real, or a mirage, an illusion? Is it distracting him from the real goal at hand, which is getting to shore? Is he not paying attention to his surroundings, and putting himself and his companion at risk?

Sometimes, the Seven of Cups warns us against illusions and distractions.  It reminds us to know when to let go of a desire it is impossible to obtain, such as a return to the past, or the returning of a love who is not good for us.

In Kris Waldherr’s goddess deck, Venus, the goddess chosen for the emotional, romantic cups, is dreaming of the snake, the castle, the crown, and the victory laurel.  The skull can represent the ultimate knowledge of the afterlife, a rebirth, or holding death in the palm of your hand, or, in this case, a goblet.  The rose is for sensual pleasure, beauty, and romance.  Then there is a mysterious seventh cup, shrouded by a piece of white cloth. What is it? What surprises does the universe have in store?

There are many things to choose from. The Seven of Cups may indicate several choices, all of them equally appealing. The choice must be made, however, and the best way to think about it is with gratitude, and tell yourself that no bad decision can be made here.

Here, a poet who makes me think of the Romantic poets (those transcendent, nature loving, emotional dreamboats!) or perhaps Rumi, the Sufi ecstatic.  He has his quill and paper, and is gazing off into the soft swirling fires of inspiration, from which emerge a blonde angel (or siren, depending) with a rainbow aura. She sprinkles him with seven blood red drops from an overturned cup.  She is the Muse, watering our imaginations. He leans on a tree shaped like a hand reaching to the heavens, symbolizing the desire to break earthly bounds. Seven of Cups may symbolize a visit from the Muse, but it may be ephemeral.  Watch for insight and revelation, but also be careful of indulging false hopes or red herrings that may lead you away from what you may really want or need. For example, if you’re seriously considering leaving a wonderful person for the person you’re infatuated with simply because you’re bored.  Or, you’re taking a job that you claim to love but you only love the money.

Reversed, Seven of Cups signals self-deception, false hopes, ennui, and indecision. It also may indicate spreading oneself so thin there’s no commitment to any one thing.

Sources: Walker, Barbara G. The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988. Print.

Wood, Robin. The Robin Wood Tarot: The Book. 1998. Livingtree, 2009. Print.

The Eights

In numerology, the number 8 is associated with power and success, completion and progress.  It is a number that implies just rewards.  As you may recall, Justice is the 8th card of the major arcana in some decks, and it is a card of karma and support from the universe. In other decks, the 8th card is Strength–a card of power, success, stamina, and courage.

In the minor arcana, the meaning of the number 8 depends on the suit.  In the Suit of Wands, 8 is all about swift movement, whether literally, as in travel, or figuratively, toward reaching concrete goals or the realization of subconscious dreams.

Celtic Eight of Wands, illus. by Mary Guinan

In Julian De Burgh’s Celtic Deck, the Eight of Wands stampedes toward the viewer with a look of confidence, a wonderful sign for the questioner.  If this card were reversed (upside down), however, the rider would be bucked off the horse, or crushed under it.  

Robin Wood’s Eight of Wands


Robin Wood’s tarot deck shows Wands–the suit of energy and accomplishment–flying out of Earth’s orbit and shooting past the moon. In the background is what appears to be the planet Jupiter, which is the planet of luck.  Again, very auspicious if upright.  If reversed, it means that there is some crashing and burning going on, or else there’s not enough thrust to get off the ground.

Kris Waldherr’s Eight of Staves

In Kris Waldherr’s deck, the Eight of Staves is framed by seething, roiling lava. This fiery energy could imply inexorable movement that melts or burns away any obstacles.  In the background of the card is striking lightning.  That’s what the energy of this card can be like–it can be a tremendous bolt out of the blue, a stroke of good luck or inspiration.  It can also indicate messages, whether positive (upright) or negative (reversed).  Messages, opportunities, or ideas are things to watch out for when this card is received.

Barbara G. Walker’s Eight of Wands

Barbara G. Walker is sort of a throwback to the Middle Ages when everybody was dying left and right and you were lucky to get through the day without bringing out your dead or having your crops die of blight or getting whacked upside the head by a lord’s cudgel. She does have a point, however. Sometimes, when things move too fast, or we push too hard, or have too much pride, we end up falling off our Pegasus (Pegasi?).  Eight of Wands reversed, or upright in the Barbara G. Walker Deck, can indicate poor planning or excessive pride, like that of another famous wing-clad mythological figure, Icarus.  


The keyword for Eights of Pentacles (or Coins) is learning.  


Celtic Eight of Pentacles

The Celtic Eight of Pentacles shows a young person minting his own money on a forge. Perhaps that is the message of the Eight of Pentacles–diligence, hard work, passion, and a willingness to learn (embracing of the Beginner’s Mind) will lead to wealth and fulfillment.  


Robin Wood’s Eight of Pentacles

Robin Wood’s deck shows a young boy happily engrossed in creating the Pentacle. The Pentacle’s five points stand for Fire, Earth, Air, Water, and Spirit.  Through this work and learning, the boy will become a well rounded “master of the elements”–a Magician.  The fog lifting from the mountains in the background could represent an obliteration of ignorance. 


Goddess Deck Eight of Pentacles

The Eight of Pentacles in Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Deck shows Lakshmi (the chosen goddess of the suit) creating not only abundance, but beauty. Lakshmi is surrounded by beauty, and the magnificent golden Pentacle is the crowning glory, made by her own hand. This card can represent genuine talent on the part of the questioner. Flowers, symbolic of abundance and fertility, frame the card.  


Barbara G. Walker’s Eight of Pentacles

Barbara G. Walker’s Eight of Pentacles depicts an initiation. The Red Mother aspect of the feminine triad lays hands on the White Maiden while the Golden Crone looks on in the background.  This card breaks the traditions of the others by showing an esoteric ritual, and I am now in the frame of mind to see it as encouragement to go off the beaten path in terms of learning, careers, and goals. It could also represent networking, and may be encouraging the questioner to seek others who share their interests and kind-hearted mentors. 


Reversed Eights of Pentacles may represent an unwillingness to learn or work. It could also mean unrewarded or unacknowledged work.  


Eight of Swords indicate entrapment, restriction, and oppression.  However, the questioner should look closely at the cards.  


Celtic Deck Eight of Swords

The woman on the card for the Celtic Deck seems to be mourning a loss represented by the swords clustered behind her. She seems barred from what she needs, and is forsaken. What the swords are barring, and what the swords represent, are both up to the questioner and the reader.  There seems to be a smooth path in front of the woman. While it may be uncomfortable, lonely, and filled with despair, the new path may gradually lead to fulfillment and joy. Great things stem from forced change.  


 

Robin Wood Eight of Swords

Robin Wood’s Eight of Swords shows a woman bound and blindfolded, marooned on a small strip of land, surrounded by eight swords.  Again, the card shows a path. It is a narrow path. The questioner may have to grope his or her way out of this.  There probably will be stumbles, and the questioner will feel helpless. However, the water on the sides may not be as deep or as rough as the questioner imagines. In fact, it rarely is. The path is there, and it is smooth.  Go slowly and be gentle.  Reversed, this could indicate very rough times ahead, in which case the other cards can be consulted for advice, or, it could mean that the rough times are ending. Use your intuition.  



Kris Waldherr’s deck shows Isis, the wife of Osiris, deep in despair as she tries to find her murdered husband’s body so she can bring him back to life.  If she stands, she can see that the swords are not unmaneuverable; she can tiptoe her way out of them.  It may be, however, that she (and the questioner) may need to rest and have a good cry before she gets up and work their way out of the challenge that is bringing her such despair.

A battle-weary, weather- beaten crusader sits astride a gray horse, a symbol of death, on Barbara G. Walker’s Eight of Swords.  The shadows of the swords on the sand form the shapes of crosses, a symbol of death and loss (like grave stones). Is the crusader grieving his fallen comrades, or does he feel guilty? Look to your intuition, the other cards, and, if you are the questioner, your own feelings.

The key words for the Eight of Cups is disillusionment, disappointment, letting go, and moving on.

The girl on the Celtic Deck’s Eight of Cups card tearfully flees a man in the background, running past eight cups artfully stacked. Her frustration and anguish is apparent.

 Robin Wood’s Eight of Cups shows a man leaving behind eight golden cups to venture out into the great unknown. The mountains, symbolic of enlightenment, are shrouded in mists of uncertainty, but he is not deterred. The Eight of Cups may indicate frustration and disappointment, but it may also show something wonderful coming to replace that which is outdated.

The goddess Kris Waldherr chose to represent the Suit of Cups is Venus, and she shows her looking back in indecision at eight cups. This leave taking may not be easy. There may be regret. But what is more regrettable–staying in an unfulfilling job/relationship/any life situation, or leaving for something better? The cups may be beautiful, but may be filled with something brackish. The Eight of Cups may be telling you to not stay in something that makes you unhappy for appearance’s sake.

Barbara G. Walker’s Eight of Cups shows what may be the only sad faun I have ever seen.

 All Eight of his Cups are spilled into a pond. He leans against a dryad, or tree spirit.  This is Pan, the Goat god, and Helice (the virgin form of Hecate, Greek goddess of magic, crossroads, the night, and necromancy) mourning the loss of their rites and their ways of life (Walker 22).  Sometimes, the the Eight of Cups may indicate something taken from the questioner’s life, not a voluntary leave taking, which is hard enough.

The Eights of Cups and the Eights of Swords may seem contrary to forward motion. It must be remembered that the oppression, fear, and despair brought on by loss is covers the changes that are happening deep in the questioner’s life.  These changes may be all but invisible, but as the clouds clear and light breaks through, there may be glorious surprises.  I know.  In the darkest time of my life, I once “woke up” (at around 8 p.m.) where I was and found incredible peace and joy. I don’t know what it was, but I believe that something was working on me, slowing blowing a tiny, tiny flame to life inside my heart. Or maybe a seed was planted, and it was slowly taking root.  Perhaps this has happened to you.  I hope it has.

Source: Walker, Barbara G. Barbara Walker Tarot: Instructions. Stamford CT: US Game Systems Inc., 1986.  Print.

Page of Swords, or, A Really Snippy 12-Year-Old

When I was having my conversation with Kafi Gaultier about how best to learn tarot cards, she pulled a card from her deck as an example. The card was the Page of Swords.  She showed it to me, and said, “Let’s say you pull this card in the morning. Be on the lookout.  Think about what it means. Think about what really stands out to you about the card.  You may get a paper cut, or you may have to deal with a snippy twelve-year-old.”

Why a twelve-year-old?  Why, because we’re talking about the Page/Princess. Pages and Princesses tend to indicate a child or young adult in the questioner’s life, and usually a female. However, just like the Princesses of Pentacles, the Princess/Page of Swords can also indicate an aspect of the questioner, and may not always indicate a female.

Kris Waldherr’s Princess of Swords

The people that Princess/Page of Swords may indicate can, indeed, be snippy. Swords are aligned with the element of Air.  Air is the element associated with strife, conflict, and problems, including the need for medical care–the “scalpel.”  However, Swords are also associated with mental acuity, intelligence, problem solving, communication, and travel. As such, drawing the Swords (ha ha, I just got that as I typed it) is not necessarily a negative thing. The Princess of Swords can indicate a decisive person, a person who knows what she or he wants.  It can also indicate a young person who is cool and calm under pressure, someone who is rational, someone who is a problem solver.  Let’s say someone wants to know how well their grades will turn out this semester. If the Princess of Swords pops up, they can feel a little more confident. The Princess can also remind the questioner to not slack off on the flash cards and outlines. 

Since Kris Waldherr chose Isis to represent the Suit of Swords, it is important to discuss grief and pain, which Swords may indicate. Isis was in terrible grief after the murder of her husband, Osirus. Even if the questioner is an adult, they may find themselves regressing, or grieving in a childlike way (which is certainly not a bad thing; what is “an adult” way to grieve, anyway?).  Isis also brought Osirus back to life by sewing him back together–this Page may indicate medical care or a sick young person. 


 

The Celtic Princess of Swords is seen in a relaxed but alert pose. There is no doubt that she can defend herself if necessary.  Since this is the Swords suit, which is mental (as opposed to the physically energetic Wands/Staves, or the emotional Cups, or the practical Pentacles/Coins), and aligned with communicative Air, this defense– or offense, if the card is reversed–is typically verbal. The person that this card may indicate may be the wielder of a scalpel tongue. When upright and happy, this Princess is witty and eloquent, a charming joke teller and raconteur. If someone who works with children is curious about how a new kid is going to turn out, the Princess of Swords may indicate a child who is intelligent, maybe even gifted, and motivated, but may be socially aloof, or even catty.  

You may also notice that the Celtic Princess of swords was drawn by Mary Guinan as fixing on a point with a clear, intense gaze. Swords, and the Air element, indicate foresight and diligent planning. When this Princess has a goal, she will get it.  


An examination of Robin Wood’s Page of Swords reveals a few things. One, the Pages/Princesses of Swords all seem to prefer the color blue (except for Skuld; we’ll get to her in a second).  Blue is the color of the Heavens. It is associated with Air.  It is a calming color, and the darker blues are associated with higher learning, intelligence, and professionalism–think of all the schools that use blue as a color. Robin Wood’s Page is clad in sky blue, to indicate clear thinking and foresight. 

Two, the Page is brandishing the sword, but in a joyous manner.  She is thrilled with her capacity for ideas. Her management of her sword, which we may think of as symbolic of the brain’s ability to cut away obstacles that keep us from enlightenment, seems to be parting the clouds above her, letting in the sunshine of epiphany. Of course, this is just my interpretation of the card right now. You may see something else. 

Third, the Page has winged shoes. This is clever because of the allusion to Hermes, aka Mercury, who was the god of communication and travel, among other things. Swords can indicate swift movement and swift messages.  What details stand out to you? 


Our last girl is Barbara G. Walker’s Princess of Swords, also known as Skuld. 


Skuld here is a Valkyrie.  As such, she’s not a cuddly little girl. She is stringent, tough, and bold. The Valkyrie’s would lead troops into battle and gather up the souls of the brave afterward. The storm clouds below her (you can also see storm clouds in Robin Wood’s Page of Swords card) indicates this possible strife and trouble. Depending on what you see, the questioner may be able to rise above the problems, or part them, or they might not. Other cards, and whether the Page of Swords is upright or reversed (upside down) will let you know. 

Anyway, not just any soul was acceptable to Skuld for gathering. She was only interested in the brave, the honorable, and the intelligent. She had a keen eye for the real thing, and no tolerance for hypocrisy or phoniness. The person in question may just have that gift for discernment, a mind like an X-ray or a laser that is able to see through any person they meet to see if they are the real deal.  They have high standards, because it is illogical, in their opinion, to settle for anything less. 


Because the Princess of Swords may indicate an aspect of the questioner, she may choose to send messages through dreams.  The dreamer may see a young person, especially a young girl, who may appear to have the characteristics of the Princess or Page of Swords. She may be wearing blue, and carrying a sharp object. Or, the dreamer may find him- or herself back in school, preparing for a test. The child in the dream may also be grieving.   


Archetypes and people associated with the Page/Princess of Swords, Positive (upright): 

Precocious children 

A very cerebral young person 

A quick wit 

A very efficient manager

The ambitious new worker 

Travelers 

A child who needs medical care, but will heal 

A convalescing person


Negative (reversed) Associations

Scalpel tongues 

Malicious gossips 

Someone who is choosing not to live up to their mental potential 

Someone who is not thinking clearly

Someone running with scissors

The hyper-logical, at the expense of their hearts and bodies. 

A grieving child, or grieving inner child 

A sickly person

The Sixes

The number six, in numerology, is associated with harmony, calm, recovery, recuperation, the past, acceptance, serenity, and family. It is an others oriented number, and is the number of service and community.
The keyword for the Six of Pentacles is generosity. Either the querent (the person the reading is for) is generous himself, or someone else will be generous to them.

Barbara G. Walker’s Six of Pentacles, shown here, shows a lounging woman donating to a musician who has come to beg her favors. She gives him a coin like it ain’t no thang.  The Six of Pentacles shows the opportunity to give in a way that makes the giver feel good, or receive with no strings attached.

The Six of Pentacles can also indicate the receiving of an honor or an award, as seen here in the Celtic deck.

The generosity of the Six of Pentacles is fair and just, which is why Robin Wood chose to show her benefactor holding the scales.

The Six of Pentacles is also generous with knowledge and friendship, as demonstrated by the Hindu goddess of luck, Lakshmi.

The Six of Swords is a card of flight, of respite, and of travel. It isn’t really a card of rest, more like a lull in the action where you can regroup.

This respite may not exactly be relaxing, as you can see in the Celtic deck. Some days you feel like the warrior carrying off the spoils of war, and sometimes you feel like you are the spoils. Either way, there won’t be a lot of resting going on. There may be some desperate scrambling, like the lady here who is trying to grab a sword. This may be a tense time, even though nothing may appear to be happening. Swords are mental, so other people may not see the struggle.

Here, the people in the golden boat look like they’re going to have to confront the Sphinx. Again, this may be a mental challenge, not a physical one, and may not be external, but internal. Life is full of riddles, and you may be stagnant unless you take a risk and answer one of your “riddles.” What riddles are in your life?

Isis, the representative of the Swords in the Goddess deck, is forlorn as she cruises the Nile. Perhaps she’s looking for pieces of her husband, Osirus, so she can put him back together. Have you ever had to “pick up the pieces” in your life? It sucks, but at least the worst is over.

Robin Wood’s Six of Swords is the most soothing. The ghostly figure can be a guardian spirit, or an angel, or a returning loved one. The swan is a symbol of grace, and the swan’s wings fold protectively around the figure as the swan floats him toward a new life. This reminds us that we are not alone.
I’m kind of going through a Six of Swords time of my life right now, so I’m going to focus on them.

The Six of Wands (Staves, in Kris Waldherr’s Goddess deck) represent victory and glory. However, it should be remembered that it is not the last stage of the 1-10 cycle of the minor arcanas. There is more joy and adventure coming up! Be sure to enjoy this Six of Wands energy!

This fiery redhead is Freyja, the Norse goddess of beauty and creativity. In Norse culture, the foundry was a font of fiery creative power.  Iron works were not only useful, but works of pride.

This Robin Wood card is full of details. Perhaps you are drawn to the horse, one of the children in the background, or one of the crystals on top of a wand. What draws you to this detail? Pretend you are the object. What does it mean to you?

The Six of Wands is full of joy and power!

The sun motif on Barbara G. Walker’s card is no accident.
Reversed, Six of Wands is a sign of “a dream deferred,” delays, even humiliation.

Six of Cups is the card of nostalgia, childhood, and happy family life. It tends to show up when daydreaming about the past, or when a childhood buddy is about to come a-calling.

Robin Wood’s Six of Cups makes me smile whenever I see it. Look at how cute it is! It suggests a happy, idyllic time with a loved one, where you’re just having innocent fun.

In the Celtic deck, an older couple looks happily at the six cups floating. It is a card of reminiscing of good times.

This card is quite simple. It’s a lovely cottage and six cups full of flowers. What kind of flowers do you think they are? Are they rosemary for remembrance? Little daisies for innocence?

Now we’ve all had our sunshine and flowers, and Barbara G. Walker wants to throw in some nightmare fuel. Here Six of Cups reminds us of vulnerability, and of being small, and how scary grown-ups can be. Is the mother towering over the child in this picture benevolent? It’s 9 o’clock–do you know where your inner child is?