Continuing our look at the aces of the minor arcana:
The swords, more than the other suites needs more cultural perspective and a greater blend of past and present.
Look at the origens of the Tarot. Tarot was first seen as a game in the late 1300s and early 1400s. At that time, swords were a weapon of war. It would be another century or more before civilians owned and used swords for personal defense, sport and duals of honor. Even if we take the later date for Tarot, cannons and guns were rare and primitive.
If the card was developed today, what image would we use? An automatic rifle?Put in those terms, it is easy to see why swords have the most ominous images, and negitive connotations of the minor arcana suites. But there is another element to bringing the suite into modern usefulness.
If we just substituted modern combat weapons for the swords we would miss an important cultural element: chivalry. Though not commonly known in Medieval Europe, the Japanese tradition of Bushido would apply here too.
Swords weren’t used as much by criminals. The Constitution and Second Amendment hadn’t been inveted yet. Swords were for elite fighters only – people governed by a sense of honor and ethics that, appearantly, doesn’t exist in the consciousness of modern gun avocates, much less in criminals who use guns.
This old association of Chivalry/Bushido with swords is where the rubber meets the road in understanding the Tarot suite of Swords. It is the card of warriors, not criminals, not even soldiers. This suite resonates with honor and discipline…and the freer thought of leaders, not the blind following of orders.
As I see it, all the Tarot cards are about lessons and relationships. In this case, lessons of self-discipline and the relationship with society, culture and authority. Have problems with authority? You might have problems with being in the army…and with the suite of swords.
I think of the Ace of Swords very much as the Kung Fu card. Think of the orietal martial arts…or at least watch the Karate Kid. Martial arts are not about violence, but rather dealing with violence: it is about defence, discipline and compassionate courage. If you’ve read “Divergence”, it is about the old Dauntless faction – bravery as protection of others, not mindless violence. Diane Morgan, who blends both Taoism (a philosphy integral to many Chinese Martial Arts like Taijiquan, Bagua, and Xinyi) and Tarot, reads the Ace of Swords as “spiritual
Books have been written about the meaning and role of a true warrior. If you really want to dive deep into the essence of the Swords suite, I suggest reading some of them. “The Scholar Warrior” by Deng Ming-Dao springs to mind.
“Perceive the way of nature and no force of man can harm you. Do not meet a wave head on: avoid it. You do not have to stop force: it is easier to redirect it. Learn more ways to preserve rather than destroy. Avoid rather than check. Check rather than hurt. Hurt rather than maim. Maim rather than kill. For all life is precious nor can any be replaced.” – Kung Fu TV series.