This month, we are going back to the Minor Arcana suit of Swords, and we will explore the Two of Swords, one of those cards whose message can be either a help or a hindrance to a Seeker.
The Two of Swords is a Minor Arcana card so it is most likely referring to a day-to-day issue, rather than a long-term or widely-sweeping one, but this does not take away from its potential to assist us, or to cause discomfort. The keywords for this card stretch all the way from avoidance and being stuck, to peace and serenity. How do you effectively respond to such a card? By understanding it. The best way to understand something, even something we don’t understand, is to break it down to its most basic ingredients. So, let’s get started!
The suit of Swords, which corresponds with the element of Air, the Spades of playing cards, the direction of East and the color of yellow, seems to use “no pain, no gain” as its motto. Maybe the tendency for discomfort has to do with the fact that Swords usually tell of some focused intent to bring forth a manifestation of some kind, or they tell of a struggle and then an outcome. Swords cards are about purposeful actions and the thoughts, intentions or beliefs behind them; these actions are different from the Fiery Wands cards because they are deliberate, rather than as a response to random effects presented to us by the elements around us. These actions are different from Watery Cups cards because they are sourced from analysis and the workings of the intellect, rather than emotions and feelings. They are different from Earthy Pentacles cards because they represent the mind and the thinking processes, rather than the physical world and the workings and needs of the physical body. Simply put, the effects of the Swords cards are sourced from within us; we are the main catalyst that creates the manifestation of a Swords card. In many ways the Swords cards represent our attempt to manifest our chosen reality, and they tell us that we might be causing the very challenges we are trying to prevent.
The element of Air corresponds with truth, clarity, and our capacity to analyze or apply logic. Thus, the Swords cards indicate our mental state, the beliefs we have, and actions we take (or don’t take) in response to effects around us. A Sword has two edges, a perfect metaphor for this suit, which can represent attacking or defending, logic or aggression. We are talking analysis and intellect and logic here, without mercy or compassion.
The suit of Swords is not all bad; after all the element of Air also represents the intelligence that clears away the fog of ignorance and allows us to understand what we are dealing with. Air is the medium of our voices, and it supports communications and sounds of all kinds; Air allows both expression (out from within us) and hearing (in from outside of us) to happen. Of course, words and communications are double-edges swords, too, and they can heal or hurt. The Swords cards also represent an opportunity to feel more empowered. That’s what happens when we successfully deal with a challenge!
The number 2 usually represents balance, polarity, and the energy of “distance between.” The Ace of the Tarot Minors represents the Point and the concept of Position; the 2 represents the Line (the “distance between” two points) and it brings us the concept of comparison. The number 2 offers creative partnerships, duality, tension, cooperation, diplomacy, and decisions; it offers both direction and connection, and can be considered a gateway. In the Tarot, this number represents the first time the element appears as itself, manifested. Within the suit of Swords, we have the potential to be effective while using logic and analytical thinking (the Ace of Swords), and we have the building of the protective barriers that bring us quiet and solitude and non-action or non-manifestation (the Two of Swords), so we can focus on the message of the intellect.
The astrological correspondence for the Two of Swords is the Moon in the constellation Libra, and this offers us a bit more depth of understanding of our card. The Moon is the brightest object besides the sun in our sky, and besides feelings and emotions and illusion and imagination, it is also associated with a need for security, mainly because of the unease brought by the darkness. It is feminine and passive in nature, even melancholy at times, and it represents our emotional life. Things look different when lit by the light of the Moon; colors change and shadows distort. Often the Moon helps us to see a different side of our nature. Libra offers the concept of “we are,” and it is diplomatic, objective, cooperative, and calm, and is about partnerships and balance; Libra can also be vague, distant, indecisive, dependent on others, and can lack confidence. When the Moon is in Libra, it offers adaptability, balance, harmony, and tranquility. It also tells us that conflicts are uncomfortable, and we may do a lot to avoid them because we need stability and predictability, which may be difficult to maintain because standing up for ourselves brings that conflict we are trying to avoid. The interesting thing here is that it is in the astrological correspondence for our Two of Swords that we find the feelings and emotions that are generally not found within the suit itself; here is our balance, duality, and polarity!
The traditional image of the Two of Swords is of a woman holding two Swords by their hilts before her, with her wrists or the Swords themselves crossed in front of her, as if the two Swords were blocking out the world and preventing the world from affecting her. Often, she is blindfolded, and there may be a representation of the element of Water or the Moon (both connected to each other, and to emotions, feelings and imagination) in the background, as if the woman is not even acknowledging their presence. The woman may be seated or standing, but she is stationary, well grounded, and well balanced. The image on the Thoth Two of Swords, which uses “Peace” as a keyword, shows the two Swords piercing a lotus flower, representing the intellect being restrained in a balanced manner by love. Perhaps that is how Peace is achieved, according to the Thoth Tarot.
On the Tree of Life, the Tarot Twos correspond with the sephira of Chokmah, the first actual manifestation after the pureness of Kether (Kether represents the cause of manifestation). Chokmah is found at the top of the Pillar of Force/Expansion. It is seen as dynamic thrust, and as the Ultimate Positive, the Great Stimulator and the Great Fertilizer (one of the symbols of Chokmah is the penis), and thus this sephira is connected to the Wheel of the Year. It represents dynamic male energy and is the origin of vital force and polarity. In Chokmah, pure being becomes pure force (and thus, pure formlessness), and independence is possible. Thus, the Twos of the Minor Arcana show the full power of their element and correspondence, in the purest expression. For the Two of Swords, this purest expression is manifested as inner peace, without influence from the outside world.
The Two of Swords can be seen to represent the barriers we build in order to achieve a pure focus inward. There is always danger to be found in this kind of deliberate walling off of the world. Refusing to make a decision, avoiding the truth, or denying our own feelings and beliefs can certainly be harmful to us, and they can separate us from reality. Even simply giving in to lethargy and deliberately clinging to stagnation as the world passes us by can cause us to ignore the symptoms of decay and corrosion, and allow them to grow and have more influence. Choice, after all, is a power that no one can take from us unless we allow them to take it, and refusing to chose is in the end a choice.
However, there are times when blocking out an instinctive response to the world around us is a good thing as long as it is just for today, and maintaining our cool while dealing with a difficult situation brings clarity. A temporary disconnect from the world can help us to recharge our battery, and allow us to do a bit of system maintenance by cleaning out our “temporary files” and de-fragging our “hard drive.” The Two of Swords can also represent the keeping of a secret of some kind; that, too, can be helpful or destructive.
While it is beneficial to sometimes close out the world, we should always remember that closing our heart will not bring a happy ending. We can and sometimes should create the peace that happens when we shut out the world for a little while, but we need to stay connected to our own self and to our own heart; sometimes it is during that peace and quiet that we can see our heart center with the most clarity.
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” – Unknown. Yes, the Two of Swords offers that kind of peace.