Tarot Talk: the Ace of Swords
Article ID: 15769
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Ignacio Ceja [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: March 30th. 2017
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The Aces of the tarot represent the beginnings of things. They are the seeds of power for their representative suits. Swords can be a troublesome. They are associated with knights, pirates, and officers in the military (the sword in one form or another is still part of the modern military officer’s uniform) . They are weapons of war, and symbols of peace. They were once the not-so-concealed firearms of their time. The Ace of Swords represents thoughts, ideas, and awareness, but also problems, self-righteousness, and manifest destiny. The Ace of Swords represents the cutting power of our words, be they true or false, spoken or printed. We must never forget that even in the tarot, the sword is a weapon.
In the Rider-Waite inspired decks, a sword is presented with its point thrusting upward through a crown. In the Robin Wood Tarot, the crown is of bay laurel, the same type that crowned the heads of the victorious in ancient Greece. In the Halloween Tarot, the suit of bats takes the place of swords. Set against a black, star filled sky, a bat whose left wing is just beginning to unfurl, dangles from its perch, a hand reaching out from a cloud. The middle finger of the hand bears the crown. The Robin Wood and Universal tarot decks also include pairs of plants that represent the union of masculine and feminine energies. This union of opposites lends itself well to the Ace of Swords, where the idea that a problem carries with it the seed of its solution. In Ellen Dugan’s Witches Tarot, the sword is presented in the air, amid a mountainous landscape. A hawk in flight is its lone companion. In Barbara Moore’s Steampunk Tarot, the sword is held upright in the strong grip of a vice, surrounded by equipment that might be found in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. The sword gleams with ethereal light from the equipment’s electrical voltage. Not unlike the bat, which hangs upside down from its perch in the Halloween Tarot, the Ace of Swords in Joseph Vargo’s Gothic Tarot is presented point downward against a black background, and surrounded by red filigree.
The Ace of Swords represents a thought, either a new thought, or the awareness of a thought that has been trying to get our attention. These thoughts can come from reading or from the media. Sometimes in a conversation, someone will say, “Hey, I just thought of something!” This burst of awareness is the Ace of Swords at work. At times, it can seem like something has been right in front of us the whole time, when suddenly struck by realization, we become aware of it. At other times, we need a little coaxing and prodding to get us to that state of awareness. The Ace of Swords lets us know that something is there, or prods us to take a closer look.
The Ace of Swords represents the truth that sets us free. The iconography of the various tarot decks shows this truth in different stages. In the Universal Tarot, a hand holds the sword; or in the case of the Halloween Tarot, serves as a perch for the bat. The seizing of truth is inherent. In Barbara Moore’s Steampunk Tarot, the sword is surrounded by machines, indicating that the search for truth may involve the use of external tools. In the other decks, the sword is presented in the air, either surrounded by clouds as it is in the Thoth Tarot or the Robin Wood Tarot, or floating, surrounded by a mountain landscape in Ellen Dugan’s Witches Tarot. Joseph Vargo’s Gothic Tarot also presents the sword by itself. In these examples, there is no search for or seizure of truth. The truth simply presents itself, and it is up to the seeker to grasp it by his or her own means, or to reject it. However, we must always remember that rejecting the truth does not change it.
The sword is an instrument of peace and a weapon of war. Swords are not used in modern warfare, and some tarot decks, like the PoMo Tarot reflects this by replacing the suit of swords with guns. Weapons of all kinds are used as instruments of peace, but what kind of peace? None actually, because no weapon can provide peace. All weapons, whether swords, guns, or missiles, only serve to ensure compliance. Making people comply with an agreed upon mode of behavior is how we keep the peace, both inside and outside of our societies. The weapon, in this case the sword, is neutral, employed by those who protect peace, like police and the military, and by those who disrupt peace, be they thieves or terrorists, alike.
The sword is also a weapon of offense and defense, and because of this, the Ace of Swords can help us find the line of scrimmage in our relationships. Words can be used to put others at ease, but they can also rile others to action. Because the Ace of Swords is neutral, it will show us where the conflicts are occurring, but we must look to the other cards in a layout to determine just what is going on. Most often, where the Ace of Swords is involved, problems are associated with misunderstanding, miscommunication, or lack of communication altogether. If the best offense is a good defense, then communicating as clearly and plainly as possible, and answering questions as soon as they pop up is a good strategy to avoid these problems.
The Ace of Swords represents courage, dedication, and resolve. A sword is not the kind of weapon that one can simply pick up and use effectively. It takes years of training, involving daily practice. It takes courage to dedicate oneself to that kind of program. There must be a good reason for doing it, and there must be a solid resolve to stick to it. The Ace of Swords can indicate where such courage and resolve are needed. It can tell us when we have to stoke the fires of dedication and persist on our current path. The Ace of Swords is not the card of a quitter.
The crown, where it appears on the Ace of Swords, represents responsibility and power, but it can also represent the illusion of righteousness. Whenever we resolve to pursue a path or a project that we know is for us, we can get tied up in the idea that our way of doing it is the only way, the right way. When this happens, we risk regarding the advice of even the most experienced among us as lesser, or even wrong. We become wrapped up in our own illusions of what is best. Sometimes we can even decide that we know what is best for other people. This illusion of righteousness, combined with the illusion of manifest destiny, can be very destructive. This is the power of the crown represented in one of its worst forms.
The Ace of Swords represents a thought, an idea, awareness, courage, dedication, and resolve. It shows us points of contention, where the line between offense and defense lies. But the Ace of Swords also represents problems, and the crown which may otherwise be seen as a sign of victory, can become self-righteous, paternalistic, and lead to manifest destiny with a might-makes-right attitude.
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