(King of Swords Tarot Card from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**
For this last essay of the year 2016, let’s go back to the Court Cards of the Tarot by examining a Tarot “royal,” the King of Swords. A good start would be to review some information regarding the royal family of the Tarot.
A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements (sometimes called “Pips” or “Pip Cards”), with numbers from Ace to 10; the Minors usually deal with day-to-day issues.
The Court Cards are actually a part of the Minor Arcana, acting as a representation of the family unit. Individually, the members of the Tarot Court represent particular personality traits, traits of people, places and events in our lives. These cards can also tell us about our own personality, and how it is perceived by others. Thinking of my Tarot cards as people, with each card having an individual personality, is one method I have used with success in order to connect with my cards. This is particularly appropriate for the Court Cards, as they are the most human of all the cards in a Tarot deck. Even the illustrations for the Court Cards show humans in the majority of Tarot decks. Generally speaking, there are three different ways that Court Cards can speak to us in a spread: they can indicate personality traits of our Seeker or someone affecting the Seeker; they can refer to actual individuals in the Seeker’s life, including the Seeker; and they can refer to the or atmosphere or personality traits of a place or situation.
Court cards offer us these descriptions of personality traits, of different ways of being or acting, so we can make use of these styles or avoid them, whichever is appropriate. Of course, the trick is to know which message is being given in a particular spread! One way to become more confident in determining this is to learn about the Court Cards themselves, and how the personality of each Court Card interacts with its particular suit. Many times if you break a particular Court Card down to its rank and correspondences, you will understand its message. Let’s get started.
Instead of numbers, Court Cards have rank. The lowest ranking Court Card is the Page, the messenger or intern or apprentice who is still learning of life and living, but who is also good at dealing with the unexpected. Next comes the Knight, the representation of strong, focused and even excessive manifestations of his suit.
Both the Queen and the King represent mature adults. The Queen manifests her suit in a feminine or yin or inner way, and the King manifests his suit in a masculine or yang or outer way. This manifestation does not necessarily correspond to gender; a man can be represented by a Tarot Queen if he has a strong inner focus, and a woman can be represented by a Tarot King if she projects a strong sense of authority. Since we are talking about the King of Swords today, we already know that our King will manifest his suit in an outer yet mature manner. Our King is concerned with results; he exhibits outer, public expertise in his field, and he is an authority figure. In many ways, the Kings of the Tarot Court can be seen as four facets of The Emperor of the Major Arcana.
Let’s talk about suit first. Our King’s suit this month is Swords. 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, often has some discomfort associated with it. 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 other Minor Arcana cards because they are deliberate, rather than as a response to random effects presented to us by the elements around us. 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 the workings of our mind and our mental state – the beliefs we have, and actions we 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.
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-edged swords, too, and they can also heal or hurt. The Swords cards also represent an opportunity to feel more empowered; think of how you feel when you solve a problem by thinking your way through it.
The suit of our King is not the only ingredient to offer an elemental correspondence. In the Tarot Court, the suit of the card has an elemental correspondence, and the rank of the card has an elemental correspondence. Pages correspond with Earth, Knights correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck), Queens correspond with Water, and Kings correspond with either Air or Fire (depending on the deck). Since we are talking about a King today, we are also talking about the element of Air, or the element of Fire, depending on the deck. For our purposes today, we will see the King of Swords as Air of Air. In its natural state, the element of Air is hot and wet, and it tends to either separate or adapt. This means our King is the epitome of logic, idealism, and discernment. He is good at analyzing and cataloguing information, and he is expert at adapting his world to fit the structures he has created and his personal ethical and moral code.
Like the other cards of the Tarot, Court Cards have astrological correspondences. Our King of Swords corresponds with the cusp or joining point of the signs of Capricorn and Aquarius. Capricorn people are stable, prudent, hard-working, practical, methodical, and ambitious, never losing sight of goals regardless of how many obstacles or distractions are in the way. They can be are a bit stoic and rigid, and they will stick to their beliefs despite convincing evidence to the contrary. More than anything else they enjoy power, respect, and authority, and they are willing to toe the line for as long as it takes to achieve those goals.
Aquarius is connected with those who have humanitarian and philanthropic tendencies, and are interested in making the world a better place. Aquarians are intelligent and inventive and they work well with others, although they can be impatient, even temperamental, with those who disagree with their ideas. Aquarians are also into technology of all kinds, and they use modern communication apparatus and social networking with ease. Aquarius is a sign of connections of all kinds from friendships to love, and it focuses on the group rather than the individual, and on the higher good of that group.
A Capricorn-Aquarius combination can offer lots of excitement. They work hard and have high standards, so they often are very successful. And yet, they can have difficulty with personal relationships, more so than the other three Kings (who all tend to be focused on the outer world rather than one-to-one interactions). Our King of Swords is good at maintaining his kingdom. He is methodical and exacting, yet he enjoys spending time entertaining groups of people. This King is good at balancing opposites, after all he is both the practical and hard-working Capricorn and the inspired Aquarius who enjoys playing with technology.
Because they are Minor Arcana cards, Court Cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Kings correspond with the sephira of Chokmah, along with all of the Twos of the Minor Arcana and the element of Fire. The Kings sit at the top of the Pillar of Force in the sephira of Chokmah, representing the Sacred Masculine and the Catalyst of Life. Chokmah is seen as dynamic thrust, the Ultimate Positive, the Great Stimulator and the Great Fertilizer (one of the symbols of Chokmah is the penis), and thus is connected to the Wheel of the Year. The energies of this sephira represent dynamic male energy and Chokmah is the origin of vital force and polarity.
The King of Swords is the father/boss/judge/leader of the Swords cards. He is commanding and authoritative; he values truth and honesty, and he is the champion of moral and ethical standards. He uses logic and analysis to solve problems and is the master of abstract thought. He can be rigid, unimaginative, overly critical, or cold, however he can use knowledge and personal experiences to make wise decisions. The King of Swords is a good judge of people and situations. He uses his intellect to analyze, so he may not be compassionate but he is trustworthy, and he can be trusted to fiercely stand by his decisions.
The Shadowscapes King of Swords is seated on his throne, his mighty Sword held in his hands, point up, one boot resting on a skull. On the sword sits Owl, symbolizing the wisdom to be found on the tip of the intellect that is his weapon; beside him are two ravens, dark as shadow (and shadow can only be present when there is illumination!). This King is a perfect blend of art, science and balance, and he is a wonderful example of a pillar of strength and morality.
The Legacy of the Divine King of Swords upholds the law and order of his kingdom, the kingdom of the mind and of theories and science. His Queen understands people, but this King understands things; “knowledge is power” is his motto. He cares for his people carefully and always puts their needs before his own. However, he expects recognition for his accomplishments and for the personal sacrifices he makes in order to provide for his subjects.
In the Thoth Tarot, the Kings are known as Knights (the Knights are called Princes in this deck), and Crowley describes the King of Swords as focusing on “activity and skill, subtlety and cleverness”; Crowley also states that this King is “fierce, delicate and courageous but altogether the prey of his ideas.”
The King of Swords is the creator and the destroyer. He harnesses and directs ideas so they can benefit everyone, and he uses his communication skills to defend the truth. He would make a dangerous enemy if thwarted, but having the King of Swords on your side would allow you to sleep peacefully at night!