Sword are, well, swords. They are these strong, metal, substantial things…yet the suite is associated with the element of air. When I first started doing Kung Fu and Tai Chi, I was fascinated with fans…but that’s a dichotomy too, come to think of it. The initial interest was how something so associated with air, delicacy, finery, & social refinement could be used for self-defense. Turns out the pretty silk of the fan hid sharpened metal splines that could do some damage. Swords are a bit of the same in reverse.
You wouldn’t expect swords to have a spiritual side, but, as with Marital Arts, they do. Remember “Enter The Dragon” with Bruce Lee? “It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory”. Higher level martial arts is very much like that…or can be if you let it. The esoteric and spiritual is there if you want it, and it can be purely finger-staring physical if you let it too. It takes a bit to learn the weapon, but once you do, you can see the air association. Broad, curved blades like the Chinese Da Dao, are used for swirling slicing, chopping movement. It can move some air . Light strait swords use a precise, almost floating technique. There is an air association there too. Air and swords…it works. I get it.
Tarot’s swords are similar. At first blush, on the surface swords are indeed violent weapons of war and defense. I get that too. It is easy to see why the swords would have a doom and gloom reputation.
How do you reconcile the two? Every card, every suite has both positive and negative…just like the yin and yang symbol associated with Chinese, Japanese and other eastern martial arts. In this case, the bridge seems to be authority and culture. I read swords as being our relationship with society at large, and our relationship with authority. We can be awakened and enlightened because of those who guide us…or in spite of them. We can be comforted by boundaries…or chafe at them. Either way, a degree of self-discipline, effort and work are involved – just like the effort of learning marital arts and attaining the skill and transcendence of hard-won experience (Kung Fu or Gong Fu)
The ace of swords captures the essence of the suite…awakening through effort. Spiritual attainment through experience and living. Sometime it is dark experience, heavy difficulty. As sword is heavy and daunting when you begin to use it. On the other side of life experience we become awakened and stronger. In the hand of a master, a sword can seem to float as if was as light and fast as the air itself. Swords are part of dark things, but they also point the way back to the light.