Four of Swords
(The Four of Swords card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**
We haven’t spoken about the Fours of the Minor Arcana in a while. This month we will talk about the Four of Swords, and remind ourselves of what happens to the energies of a card when we move forward from the Three.
The Four of Swords is a Minor Arcana card, so as we know, the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 4, and the suit of Swords. These two ingredients alone could actually give us enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation, and we have other things to consider, too. Let’s begin our examination of this card.
The traditional image of the Four of Swords is of a knight laying on a bed with his hands in prayer position. There is a stained glass window in the background depicting a sacred image, as well as three swords hanging on the wall; the fourth sword is on the side of the bed. The knight’s helm is down, so we can’t tell if he is sleeping or meditating or dead. Some versions of this image actually show a coffin with the reclining knight sculpted on the lid. Another version of the Four of Swords shows a man reclining on the ground with his back against a rock (a very grounded image) and his sword laying by his side; behind him is a large Mullein plant (representing focus and grounding) and three other swords. Still another version shows the four swords grounded (points inserted into the ground), with a person laying on the four hilts with his face pointing toward the blue sky with its fluffy white clouds. There is stillness to these images (as if the figure is deep within a meditation or out-of-body experience) and a sense of deliberate solitude, and the sacred.
The suit of Swords corresponds with the element of Air, the Spades of playing cards, the direction of East and the color of yellow; Swords cards usually tell of some focused intent to bring forth a manifestation, or a struggle and then an outcome. Swords cards are about purposeful and deliberate actions and the thoughts, intentions or beliefs behind them. Swords cards and the effects they describe are sourced from within us; they teach us that we create our own reality from our expectations. The Swords cards give hints as to our mental state, the beliefs we have, and actions we choose to 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 Swords cards also represent an opportunity to feel more empowered; self-empowerment happens when we successfully deal with challenges, but self-empowerment can be dangerous if it is not balanced with a bit of humility.
The element of Air corresponds with truth, clarity, and our capacity to analyze or apply logic. Air also represents the intelligence that clears away the fog of ignorance so we can clearly see and understand, 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. This information applies to all the Swords cards in the Minor Arcana, including our Nine of Swords.
The number 4 is about solidification, discipline, balance, authority figures, a foundation being created, calmness, caution, being steady or difficult to shake up. There are four points to a compass, so the number 4 can represent everything around us as it is right now. If we remember that the number 3 usually represents the creation of something new, or the making real of concepts or understandings presented by the number 2, then we can see that the number 4 brings depth or solidity to that creation. On the negative side, the number 4 can represent energies that are slow and plodding, too conservative, averse to change, or suspicious.
Within the Tarot, the Fours represent the concept of the cube, very stable and hard to tip over; here we have the pause that allows us to take a breath after activating the potential of the Ace through the partnership of the Two in order to manifest the creation of the Three. Briefly, we have the potential to experience potent ideas, thoughts and the ability to reason (the Ace of Swords), the power to focus inward and shut out distractions (the Two of Swords), and the perception of personal isolation and heartbreak that can be created by focusing solely on logic and analysis without including partnerships and interactions (the Three of Swords). The Four of Swords offers a “time out,” a period of healing before renewed efforts.
The astrological correspondence for the Four of Swords offers us a bit more depth of understanding; the Four of Swords represents the planet Jupiter when it is in the astrological sign of Libra.
In Roman mythology, Jupiter is the ruler, guardian and protector of the gods. Similarly, the planet Jupiter is in many ways the ruler of our solar system. Some astronomers believe that Jupiter with its massive gravity actually protects the rest of our solar system by attracting or deflecting comets and asteroids that might otherwise threaten Earth. Like passions and emotions, Jupiter is brightly colored and covered with large and intense storms; the planet is symbolized by a lightning bolt. Astrologically, Jupiter is associated with growth, expansion, prosperity, freedom, exploration, and good fortune. Jupiter is connected to long distance and foreign travel, higher education, religion, all humanitarian pursuits, and the law (and its role as a protector of society). Jupiter is also associated with gambling and merrymaking.
Libras are usually very focused on the people around them, and how they interact with those people. Libras are true team players, concerned with balance and cooperation, with fairness to everyone. Libras always put their minds to good use, considering and balancing carefully before choosing a course that brings the highest good to all. Because Libra is Cardinal Air, this sign initiates through new ideas, and by being a balancing force among people. Libra is about partnerships, and about a focus on other people rather than just on the self. Libras are most happy when they are paired up with another, and they are good at partnerships of all kinds. Balance is important to Libras, too, and they don’t like conflict. Libra corresponds with the planet Venus and with the element of Air. They use the intellect and their ability to communicate to form those partnerships and to maintain harmony.
When Jupiter is in Libra, matters focused on equality, liberty and balance are of importance. The energies associated with Jupiter, expansion, growth and good fortune, harmonize with the traits of the sign of Libra, partnerships and collaborations, and bring us balance, harmony and equality, a good foundation for building on and improving all kinds of relationships. Communication between groups and people will be positive and beneficial, and patience, compassion, empathy and an effort toward manifesting the highest good for all are possibilities for the future. This combination does not necessarily create passion, but cool, calm and collected is a good state of mind in which to be.
The Fours have a place on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; they are found in the sephira of Chesed in the middle of the Pillar of Force/Expansion. This sephira is seen as the place of both expansion and stability. Chesed represents Mercy and tells us that love cannot happen without understanding. Chesed also represents the concept of authority, which brings the danger of self-righteousness and at the same time offers us the opportunity to learn humility.
The Wild Unknown Four of Swords shows a lamb with a brightly-glowing third eye chakra, all curled up and serene beneath four Swords hanging point-down above him. This tender, untried youth is resting below four Swords hanging precariously above him, and yet he does not appear frightened. He is alert, so he knows those Swords are there even though he does not even spare them a glance, but he is not even prepared to run should they come loose. Perhaps his stillness is part of his protection. It is as if he is keeping those Swords up there with his serenity, his stillness, his awareness of what is going on around him, and his belief, his mental force . . . his Will!
The Thoth Tarot Four of Swords is called “Truce”; the original name for this card was “Lord of Rest from Strife.” Crowley states that Swords are weapons, and weapons are connected to the discipline of war, not of peace. Thus, while equilibrium and justice are a part of this card, the “truce” being represented in the Thoth Tarot Four of Swords is a peace enforced by the threat of violence, a mutual deterrence. That kind of peace is not usually lasting.
The Llewllyn Welsh Four of Swords shows a woman warrior, resting with her hair streaming under her head, her eyes closed, and her mouth slightly open, with her white dog asleep beside her. In the background are four Swords floating above her, holding up a curtain that shields her, and a tree with naked branches whose trunk appears to be echoing the position of Christ after death on the cross. The card represents a vigil, withdrawal and silence, asylum, finding sanctuary, and a deathlike phase in life which incubates future dreams.
The Legacy of the Divine Four of Swords shows a man asleep, floating above a bed of four Swords with points facing downward, representing an inward focus. Behind him is a round stained glass window through which light shines faintly as if from the moon; upon that window is the Greek symbol for Christ. A hawk flies above the sleeping form, dropping a red rose, representing life, and a white rose, representing death. The card represents the need for recuperation, inactivity, physical healing, and distance from the stresses and responsibilities of life.
Our first three Swords cards, the Ace, Two and Three of Swords, have caused an imbalance that often creates the perception of being harmed. The Four of Swords can represent a pause or truce or mutual deterrent, or a time of silence and isolation used to prepare for challenges to come. Often it is necessary to take a moment to absorb what has happened thus far within our current situation, and this card offers that valuable pause. The truce represented by the Four of Swords does not happen due to weakness, but rather through a conscious and deliberate choice and through a balance of power. After all, the truce is “supported” by Swords, the suit of the intellect. This moment spent in limbo is not a surrender, but rather it gives us the opportunity to heal and rejuvenate, so we can once again face the challenges of the day with renewed optimism and focus.
About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.