The Meaning of the Suit of Swords

Interpreting cards from the Suit of Swords (or any suit in tarot) isn’t about memorising the meanings or keywords. Instead, it is about using our own intuition to guide our readings depending on the query and circumstances we bring to the cards. Remember, the cards are dynamic objects, so they will shift and change according to the questions we bring to our readings.


The Suit of Swords represents the mind and the intellect, and the imagery in the cards gives us clues about the deeper lessons of the suit. When reading our cards, these symbols help guide our readings to tell the story of what’s happening in our internal world, and how that’s affecting our external world.


I want to share with you 5 symbols present in the cards, and how their meanings help us understand the lessons of the Suit of Swords.


  1. The Sword


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The sword is a physical representation of the mind, because the mind is literally a double-edged sword, as it brings both joy and suffering. We can gain a deep understanding of who we are and acquire a lot of knowledge, but the mind can create falsehoods that lock us in painful beliefs. The mind also reveals truths which can set us free, but this can hurt in the process.


We also discover the biggest lesson through the sword: we must learn to wield our swords wisely. We still need our minds in our spiritual or life pursuits, but we must learn to cultivate our knife skills and use our mind to our advantage. This means when challenging moments present themselves, we maintain flexibility instead of giving into our old ways of fear.


2. Blindfolds



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Blindfolds show us how the mind casts illusions and shadows, and these can block us off from what’s really happening. We see this illustrated in the 8 of Swords, where the character can ease her suffering if she were to remove her blindfold, but prefers to stay within her bindings.


The imagery of blindfolds also gives us a window into how the mind works, especially how it is wired for survival and seeks to protect us from pain. Whilst this aspect of the mind has its uses, we must be aware of when we’re making ourselves small because we are scared of the unknown. This is not to blame or shame, because these thought patterns may have served us at one point in our life. Instead, it is a reminder to be aware of when we have the power to remove the blindfolds and see the truth of our circumstances.


3. Birds


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Birds are present throughout the Suit of Swords and are associated with the element of air. Their airborne nature represents their connection to thought, wisdom, intuition and knowledge. They also remind us of the mind’s capacity to soar to great heights in order to reach higher levels of wisdom. Although, we must be wary not to become too isolated in the process of acquiring deep knowledge. The birds’ ability to fly can also be a reminder of our search for freedom, especially if we are looking to make a new way for ourselves.


Birds also symbolise messengers from spirit, and they are seen as the link between an earthbound life and the mystery beyond. When we see bird imagery throughout our tarot spread, this can mean that our guides are trying to communicate with us. We can use our mind to receive these messages and understand them, but we must also work to quieten the mind in order to receive this wisdom clearly.


4. Clouds



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Clouds are one of those great metaphors for the mind. If you’ve even dipped your toe into meditation, I’m sure you’ve heard thoughts being described as clouds. That they come and go, and it’s up to us to sit with them and weather the storm.


We learn here how easy it is for the mind to cloud our judgement (excuse the pun), but that these are temporary. Again, it’s all about developing our skills and abilities to sit with these uncomfortable thoughts and let them pass.


The court cards in the Rider Waite deck give us wonderful variations on the cloud imagery. For example, the Queen sits with her head in clear skies whilst her body is surrounded by clouds. The imagery shows us how she’s able to sit with her tumultuous inner world and see it with a clear mind, showing her agility in the face of her turbulent emotions.


5. Water



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Water appears in a few of the cards on the Rider-Waite deck, and represents the deep wells of our subconscious. The presence of water shows us that our subconscious is always in the background influencing our thoughts and our beliefs. We can’t always access them with our conscious mind (exemplified by the stage on the 2 and 5 of swords) but we can use our awareness to sit with what’s happening, and look objectively at what’s happening beneath the surface.


This is important when we find ourselves repeating patterns or behaviours that no longer serve us, as there’s often something deeper running the show. When this happens, we can again use our carefully refined sword skills to speak compassionately to ourselves, instead of giving in to our old patterns of fear and loathing.



I hope these have been helpful in understanding the deeper lessons of the Suit of Swords! If you have any questions or want to share your findings on tarot, connect with me on Instagram or drop me an email.


Until next time,


Jess x













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