Comparing 6s & Judgement
(image: The Rider-Waite tarot deck)
Many Tarot cards can seem similar enough to each other that interpreting them when they both show up in a spread can be challenging. Beginning last month, we started using a new method to understand the cards: comparison. This month we will compare a Minor Arcana card, the 6 of Swords, with a Major Arcana card, Judgement. We will explore similarities between these two cards, and then we will look at the differences. I will be using card images from the Rider Tarot Deck for this analysis.
First, the similarities. The basic messages or interpretations of these two cards have commonalities. The 6 of Swords usually represents moving away from some troubling or challenging event of the past. The Judgement card represents an opportunity to be judged and receive absolution so we can begin again with a clean slate. Both cards tell of moving away from difficulties and toward optimism and a new start.
The traditional image on the 6 of Swords shows a ferryman carrying a woman and a child, as well as six Swords with points grounded into the boat. The boat is crossing a body of water, with the far shore visible in the distance. The traditional image on Judgement shows an angel supported by clouds and blowing a trumpet. Below are men, women and children, with gaze and arms raised upward, standing in coffin-like boxes which are floating in a body of water, with a shoreline visible in the distance.
Both of these cards have water in their images (although neither correspond with the element of Water). This tells us that both cards are connected to feelings, relationships, connections, creativity, and cleansing. In the Tarot, water can also indicate a journey of some kind, with the figures in the 6 of Swords attempting to move beyond the challenges of the first five cards of the suit of Swords and the figures in the Judgement card moving beyond the successes and failures of the life just concluded, being reborn to a new life.
Both cards correspond to a number. The 6’s of the Minors offer the balance of horizontal and vertical momentum. This balance is paired with healing achieved through negotiation, and together they often present such concepts as equilibrium, peace, comfort, ease, and acceptance, both self-acceptance and the acceptance acquired through effective interactions with both friends and enemies. This is particularly true of the 6 of Swords, which tells of balance and healing that can come from logic and analysis.
Judgement is the number 20 of the Majors, and 20 breaks down as 2 + 0 = 2. The number 2 in the Tarot represents polarity and conflict, as well as balance and equalization; the number 2 also represents the concept of “distance between,” which is connected to dynamic balance. Without the number 2, we can’t have positive and negative pairs. The number 2 represents partnerships and relationships, and it presents to us all the concept of choosing between one or the other. Both of these card numbers represent balance as well as the diplomacy and cooperation that creates relationships.
Both of our cards have correspondences on the Tree of Life. The 6 of Swords corresponds with Tiphareth, the sixth Sephira on the Tree, the second on the Pillar of Balance (which is the “trunk” of the Tree), and it represents harmony, equilibrium, and the epitome of balance. Above Tiphareth is a void known as Da’at or the Abyss; the Abyss separates Deity/the Higher Self and the rest of our life experiences. Traveling upward through the Abyss is considered an initiation; it is an uncomfortable but beneficial process that involves coming to know our Shadow Self, and thus our entire awareness. The 6 of Swords represents that moment when we decide that traveling upward through the Abyss is worth the discomfort, mainly because we have received a glimpse of what could be on the other side of the void.
Like all Major Arcana cards, the Judgement card corresponds with a Path between two Sephiroth. The 31st Path is also considered an initiation, it connects Malkuth (the physical world of action and physical, outer reality) and Hod (which provides analysis and communication). The 31st Path is the Path of Perpetual Intelligence, of psychic development, and of former incarnations which have offered us evolution and brought us to where we are in this life, and it teaches us how to use the knowledge of how we got here to this “now” in order to move forward.
Time to explore some differences. The 6 of Swords is a Minor Arcana card. 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. Major Arcana cards, on the other hand, usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives because of their universal nature.
There are differences in the interpretations as well. The pair shown on the 6 of Swords are taking their Swords with them rather than leaving them behind. This card could be indicating that we can’t escape the challenges being addressed and we should try to work through them. The figures on the Judgement card are all naked, without any belongings at all. We are being told that being reborn is a one-direction event that truly allows us to start over without any baggage.
There are differences in the appearance of the water in the images of these two cards. In the 6 of Swords, the boat is being paddled away from the rough water at the near side of the boat and toward the quiet and calmer water in front of the boat and beyond. In Judgement, the water appears choppy and rough, showing the more inexorable and sometimes inescapable personality of the element of Water.
Speaking of the elements, our two cards have different elemental correspondences. The suit of Swords corresponds with the element of Air, the Spades of playing cards, and the direction of East. Air adapts; it 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 perception (in from outside of us) to happen. The direction of East corresponds to the season of Spring, sunrise, and the waxing moon, all representations of beginnings, growing, and expanding.
Justice corresponds with the element of Fire, the playing card suit of Clubs, and the cardinal direction of South. Fiery attributes, as well as those for the direction of South, include creativity, ambition, growth, passion and actions, and how their presence or absence can affect our lives. Fire shapes and transforms; it is about our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexual passion), our creativity, and presents the possibility of interaction with Spirit or the Divine, or actions or passions manifesting in line with Divine Will. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us.
Astrologically speaking, the Six of Swords represents Mercury when it is in the sign of Aquarius. This combination is found in unconventional people who prefer to do their own research rather than taking the word of others. Here we have the joy of learning something new, and the ability to offer a new perspective. This combination is about not doing things halfway but rather full-tilt, and it is about being accepting of the differences of others.
The Judgement card corresponds with the planet Pluto, and with power, metamorphosis, and cycles of dying and becoming. Pluto represents the part of a person that destroys in order to renew, through bringing buried or repressed needs and drives to the surface and expressing them, even at the expense of the existing order.
Major Arcana cards have correspondences that don’t usually apply to the Minors, but we can still work with them in order to understand both Judgement and the 6 of Swords. Judgement is the archetype for three experiences that are common to all times and all cultures: Evaluation, Reward, and Completion. The Judgement card represents rites of passage that occur when we are held accountable for our past choices, decisions, and actions. It is only through being evaluated, and then receiving the fitting reward (whether pleasant or uncomfortable) that the events can finally be completed, the accounting books can be closed and put away, and a new cycle can begin. Our 6 of Swords presents evaluation and strives to move toward a reward, but it does not yet present completion. Rather than closing the accounting books and putting them away, the 6 of Swords carries those books along on the journey to a new beginning. In order to steer the boat, our ferryman needs to look beyond those six Swords, to process the information they represent and to plan his journey forward through them. And we really don’t know exactly where the boat and its passengers are heading, which makes completing a journey even more difficult.
The Judgement card corresponds with Shin, the fang or tooth, the twenty-first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Its shape reflects three raised flames in the shape of three Vaus (the Hebrew letter Vau, the nail which joins or holds in place), representing the extreme opposites of right and left, and the balance achieved by the middle. The fang or tooth represents taking in or receiving, and chewing in order to digest, representing the process of transformation through breaking down then healing and restoring, which is the meaning of Judgement. The 6 of Swords, with its three figures facing away from the viewer, tells of a choice to journey away from a damaging situation. If we are the viewer, the figures in the boat are distancing themselves from us and withholding those Swords, taking the Swords with them and remaining silent about their meanings.
So, what have we discovered? The 6 of Swords represents starting anew in order to move away from a situation that is not serving us. This is a card of recovery, of getting over a tough time and beginning the process of picking up the pieces by moving on. It is also about learning the science behind things that work, because understanding why they work makes them more effective. The 6 of Swords shows us nothing about where we have come from or where we are going. Instead, it asks us to focus on what is happening right now in our journey.
Judgement is about redemption and rebirth that doesn’t happen through discarding things, but rather through integrating them. Judgement allows us to move forward, but it reminds us that in order to release the past we should learn from it. It reminds us of the importance of hindsight, and it encourages us to reap what has been sown. Judgement is about making amends, and it is about forgiving; it tells of reaching conclusions, getting off the fence, ad seeing everything in a new light. Judgement is also about forgiveness, and in the end forgiveness is never about another. Forgiveness happens within us.
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.