Court Cards: Rational Swords

This Might Hurt Tarot

The Suit of Swords contains some of the most painful cards in the tarot. The sword can be used to cut through illusion, and it is used by heroes. But it also can cause pain and suffering. In tarot, the swords represent thoughts, communication, and the mind. Many of us harm ourselves with sharp and painful thoughts, and sometimes we hurt others with angry or hurtful words. 

How will you use the Suit of Swords? Each of these characters uses the swords’ potential in different ways. If you are careful and have good intentions, you can use this suit to appreciate your intellectual side, rationality, and an ability to see through illusion. Being able to recognise fake news is a good quality of this suit. But if you have bad intentions, this suit can lead you down a dangerous path.

Page of Swords: This Page is a little detached from the real world, and loves to learn new information. Always asking ‘but why?’ they are endlessly curious. They are known for being smart, but are still very inexperienced, as all pages are. The Page of Swords is a student, and wants to know the truth. The Suit of Swords is associated with the card Justice, so this page may have a very black-and-white view of what is right and wrong. Their inexperience can prevent them from seeing nuance. They love reading books and learning facts, and have great potential in academia.

Knight of Swords: Like the page, the Knight of Swords may be dogmatic and think they know it all. They hate being wrong, or perhaps just can’t accept it. Like all knights, they are impulsive, so they might learn something and run with it, rather than looking for nuance. They might be a bit of a fanatic. On a positive note, swordsy people can make excellent activists due to their love for justice. They are well-intentioned and idealistic. 

Queen of Swords: The Queen of Swords has been through a lot of pain in their life. They may have done a lot of difficult work related to personal growth to get to where they are. The Rider-Waite-Smith depiction of this card includes butterflies, which shows that the queen has gone through a metamorphosis. This queen is very wise and intelligent, and always knows how to give excellent advice. Deep down, they may feel a lot of sorrow, but they use that to inform how they deal with the world around them. Though they may not always be the most sympathetic person, they certainly have a lot of compassion. They wish for a fair world.

King of Swords: The King of Swords is a rational authority. They may be a little closed-minded, having had a lot of experience and studied for such a long time that they have lost their beginner’s mind. They may be arrogant and overly logical, denouncing the use of emotion in any decision-making process. They are perceptive and can see through you if you try to lie to them. They are honest and say things how they are even if it’s hurtful. They have excellent life skills, but maybe not so many people skills. 

11. Justice: Holding Yourself Accountable

In my last post, which was about the Wheel of Fortune, we started thinking about the idea of cause and effect, and that what you put out into the world matters. We begin to see the result of this concept play out with Justice. We’re finally halfway through the Major Arcana, and The Fool is really starting to come across challenging obstacles. What do you think they will encounter in the second half of the journey?

Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom left: Modern Witch

Justice is personified as this badass woman holding a sword and a set of scales. We have all seen the scales used as a symbol for justice in places like courthouses. It represents the importance of making a balanced decision. Tarot comes back to this idea of balance again and again.

Often when we see the figure of Justice, she is blindfolded, but in the Tarot imagery she stares at us unyieldingly. As much as we might hope that justice is blind, in reality, it is sadly not. When humans enact justice, they are imperfect, have bias, and sometimes want retribution rather than rehabilitation.

Justitia, Maarten van Heemskerk, 1556

The sword is representative of the element of air, which rules intelligence and rationality. These are essential qualities for true justice, and it is often thought you should use no emotion when it comes to justice. What do you think? The sword also hints at the idea that sometimes justice can be violent. Whether that is moral or right, when you think about how ‘justice’ has been enacted across the world, the sword is often used. What is called justice, often is not just.


Thinking about your own life, where have you seen justice, and where has it been missing? Think about the difference between the concept of justice, which is fair and balanced, and the ways that humans use the word ‘justice’, which is sometimes anything but.

What can you do to fight injustice?

It is important to be accountable for your actions and decisions. If you wrong someone, own up to it and do the work to improve yourself. Sometimes when we make a mistake, we try to hide away and pretend it did not happen. This is because of pride, and pride abused leads to shame. What can you improve in your life to live responsibly and ethically?

I don’t want to sound like I’m giving you a lecture, because I have a very long way to go with these ideas just like anyone else. Admitting, rather than denying that, is the first step.

If you have been wronged and are waiting for justice, I truly hope it comes to you. If you pull this card, look for ways to fight for what is right, and look for ways to have integrity and responsibility.

I hope that when I inevitably mess up, I am held accountable and able to acknowledge my errors. What do you think?

8. Strength: Compassionate Action

Answers to yesterday’s riddles:

I walk on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet in the evening, what am I?

A human- crawls as a baby (morning), walks independently as an adult (afternoon), and walks with a stick in old age (evening).

I have a mouth but do not speak, I have a bed but do not sleep, I run everywhere but go nowhere, what am I?

A river- mouth of a river, riverbed, a river runs but can’t relocate.

In some Tarot decks, the 8th card is Justice, and Strength is 11, but all of the decks I work with have Strength as 8, so that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

When you hear the word ‘strength’, you might think of raw power or physical strength, and that might well resonate with a lot of people. But there’s an interpretation I think might be applicable to a wider range of people regardless of physical ability.

Have you ever seen the TV show What Would You Do? It’s a series where actors sit in public areas like restaurants and shops and pretend to have a disagreement that involves an injustice. An example is this episode which involves a cis woman telling a trans woman that she can’t use the women’s bathroom. The people around are not actors, and you can see their reactions to overhearing this conversation. Most of them begin by looking very uncomfortable, sometimes looking to whoever is with them like they’re thinking ‘are you seeing this?!’ and then in nearly every case, they step in and stand up for the trans woman.

Those situations are really scary, and I’m sure many of us have seen something similar and wanted to step in but felt too intimidated. But sometimes you can’t take it anymore, because the anger and the sense of injustice is stronger than the fear. For me, that’s a major part of the Strength card. When you’re so sure of your convictions that your fear of getting involved in a potential fight isn’t as powerful as that inner strength.

This kind of strength is compassionate and loving. It requires being sure of yourself. That’s really not easy. I think the beautiful symbolism of the Strength card helps us to find that within ourselves. Let’s take a look:

Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

The image is of a woman taming a lion. But she isn’t doing so brutally or forcefully. You can tell that she loves the lion. She’s firm, yet gentle. The lion represents parts of us that are often in our unconscious mind. In her book Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack describes Strength as ‘the whole force of personality, usually smoothed over by the demands of civilised life.’ Sometimes we have been taught by society to not speak up, or not express certain things. But rather than force those things away, the woman in the Strength card tames those aspects so that she can express them in a way that is useful.

It’s normal and understandable to be angry about something and want to lash out sometimes, but Strength helps us to channel this into something more productive like through activism or Nonviolent Communication, depending on the issue. Accept and love those fiery parts of yourself. Don’t ever force that lion back if you are passionate about something, but rather than letting those feeling explode, use them as fuel. If we let those feelings injure us, we can sometimes feel like the people who have wronged us have won.

It takes courage to release emotion. Sometimes people will call you names. For example, when black women express their feelings, they are often labelled as an ‘Angry Black Woman’, and this is used to dismiss them. Most women are socialised to tip-toe around others, and that’s not okay. Strength is that wild part of all of us that should not be pushed away.

There’s another part of Strength that I love. It’s the idea that you don’t need others’ approval to enjoy something. I like this quote by C.S. Lewis:

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

You might have experienced shame for enjoying something that your demographic typically doesn’t engage in. Maybe you’re an adult who enjoys cartoons, or a man who enjoys knitting, or a teenage girl who likes fishing. Anyone who makes you feel bad about those things is truly immature themselves.

Knowing who you are, and what you like is a powerful thing, and that’s what the Strength card asks you to manifest in your life. It helps you to speak up, to endure when things are difficult, and to be proud and confident in who you are. I hope you can use Strength to live your best life.

Today I mentioned Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack. If you’re serious about learning Tarot, I really recommend this book. She dives deep into the symbolism of the cards, and I learned a lot from her interpretations.