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The Seven of Swords in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

The Seven of Swords indicates a betrayal. This isn't something lighthearted. It will have a far-reaching impact.

The Seven of Swords indicates a betrayal. This isn't something lighthearted. It will have a far-reaching impact.

The Seven of Swords Is About Betrayal

As soon as you see this card, you should instinctively know it's about betrayal. I sometimes call this card the Judas card or the Benedict Arnold card.

Imagine a knight fighting for a particular kingdom who then suddenly switches sides. He starts attacking his comrades and does so intentionally. The Seven of Swords is about making hasty decisions, greed, and thoughtlessness. The card represents spies, secret plans, affairs, frustrations, and failure. It's not a happy card!

If there is any card that foretells deceit, this is the one. The card is rife with conflict and tense relationships.

Card Alignments

Upright

Betrayal, deceit, cunning, strategically acting out, defying orders, getting away with something, secrecy, deception, trickery, intentionally confusing or beguiling others, mistrust.

Reversed

Imposter syndrome, doubt, mystery, self-sabotage, self-deceit, keeping secrets, mind attacking self, division, noticeable discrepancies, tension quakes, scarlet letter.

The Seven of Swords indicates a person who thinks they're going to get away with something that's deceptive. They're proud of their sneaky activity.

The Seven of Swords indicates a person who thinks they're going to get away with something that's deceptive. They're proud of their sneaky activity.

Card Description

In the Rider-Waite-smith deck, the Seven of Swords shows a man who is taking stealthy steps forward. He looks back to see if anyone is watching him. He is doing something that he knows is wrong, and he is attempting to get away with it.

The man is carrying five swords and leaves behind two. The man has ransacked the barracks and is going AWOL. The card is meant to be jarring and sticks out compared to the other cards in the deck. The sky is an unusual yellow color, implying a concentration of thoughts and impulses.

The man wears a red hat and red shoes, indicating he is led by his passions. He doesn't have control over his free will. He wears blue pants, indicating he is letting his emotions run ahead of him. He doesn't wear anything green, meaning he neglects practicality.

The man smiles as he escapes. He is proud of what he is doing, but there will be consequences because of his actions. He likely caused his camp to lose the next battle.

The Second Estate

The Suit of Swords represents the Second Estate. The Second Estate is one of the hierarchy tiers of Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe. The hierarchy system differed by region, but it went something like this:

The First Estate: Monarchy, kings and queens, high clergy

The Second Estate: Knights and nobles

The Third Estate: Peasants and bourgeoise

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In tarot, the Suit of Swords is slightly above the other numbered suit cards. The swords represent the upper-middle class, people who had more sway and power. Some people are born in this class, but many get there through initiation. The court cards have more power than the numbered cards, and the Major Arcana has more power than all of the Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana functions as a divine suit; it is ether.

With the this card, we get the idea that the events taking place on the card have to do with upper-level people who have money and resources. What the person is doing on the card puts the knights and nobles at a disadvantage. Because of his actions, his friends will be too weak to take on their enemies.

The man on the card is important. He is likely a spy or someone else who secretly works for the enemy. He is being used as a pawn to gain information or to corrupt things from the inside. This person made people believe things that weren't true.

Swords Relate to Intelligence

People with advanced degrees or a robust education also fit the Second Estate. These are people who have worked hard to gain their education, or have a natural inclination toward studying, research, and piecing together their thoughts.

These people are initiated. They have graduated and collected a diploma. Their diploma helps them to open doors that others cannot.

Tarot Suits

CategoryWandsPentaclesSwordsCups

Element

Fire

Earth

Air

Water

Elementals

Salamanders

Gnomes

Sylphs

Undines

Represents

Free will

The Body (Physical Manifestation)

Thoughts

Emotions

Numbers

1, 5, 9

2, 6, 10

3, 7, 11

4, 8, 12

Animals

Land Mammals

Reptiles

Birds

Fish

Music

Percussion

Brass

Woodwinds

Strings

Colors

Red

Green

Yellow

Blue

Body Representations

Head, Heart, Thighs

Throat/Neck, Chest, Legs/Shins

Arms & Shoulders, Belly, Ankles

Hands, Root Chakra (Spine Base), Feet

Four Humors

Yellow Bile

Black Bile

Blood

Phlegm

Season

Summer

Spring

Winter

Fall

Ruling Planets

Mars, Sun, Jupiter

Mercury, Venus, Saturn

Mercury, Venus, Uranus

Moon, Pluto, Neptune

Western Astrology

Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Chinese Zodiac

Dragon, Monkey, Rat

Snake, Rooster, Ox

Horse, Dog, Tiger

Sheep, Pig, Rabbit

Yin and Yang

Yang

Yin

Yang

Yin

Court Cards

Knights

Pages

Kings

Queens

Poker Equivalents

Clubs

Diamonds

Spades

Hearts

Absolon Stumme: Virgin of Seven Sorrows, 1499. Medium: tempera on gold leaf and panel.

Absolon Stumme: Virgin of Seven Sorrows, 1499. Medium: tempera on gold leaf and panel.

Upright Card

In the upright position, the Seven of Swords card encourages you to use your wit. It is an invitation to be diplomatic rather than autocratic. Do not favor aggression as it will untangle your efforts and goals.

If you are found to favor secrecy, your acts and work could be seen as illegitimate. You want to favor a good reputation, not a soured one.

Lean on your mind and intellect rather than on blunt force or impulses. Sometimes the obvious or convenient path is the less steady path.

Involved in Deceitful Actions

Your sneaky behavior can only run its course for so long. This card is associated with tricks, lies, and theft. You're going around people's backs to get what you want. The longer you keep up the charade, the more likely you will get caught. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to cover something up, and the energy spent might feel wasted.

Your credibility, honor, and actions do matter. You need to put yourself to good use. Don't be a pawn for destruction or terror.

Victim of Betrayal

This card could indicate that you're on the short end of the stick when it comes to a deal. You might be around someone who is plotting something against you. Keep your ears and eyes open for trickery.

You might be working for someone who is plotting against you, so perhaps they're acting passive-aggressive in hopes that it will pacify your concerns. In actuality, they could be creating a log of every misdeed you've ever done, no matter how minor. They're making sure you're getting the ax.

Or perhaps your romantic partner might be acting a little strange. They might come home later than usual or be disinterested in the things you used to love doing together. If something is off, the Seven of Swords suggests that you shouldn't simply ignore it. (They could be cheating, but make sure you have your facts straight and don't jump to conclusions.)

Commit to a Strategy

If the card turns up in a positive reading, it could be a hint that you need to strategize better or get your priorities straightened. Create lists for yourself that monitor your daily, weekly and yearly goals.

Not all of your efforts will be critical for your results. You need to really consider what matters and what brings you to the positive end game you desire.

Keep an Eye Out for Shortcuts

This card also suggests you should look for shortcuts that can help you achieve your end results faster. This is a smart tactic if you're in a competitive situation and need to get an advantage. Make sure you pick shortcuts that are wise, however—not ones that simply cut corners.

You might need to think in a way that helps you to get on track. If you missed a particular course, you could write a letter to your dean or administrator to try and get on track. Sometimes you need to bring your issue to the table and negotiate. Begging is a tactic that can be useful. Make people proud of their power. Beg them for their help. Don't be so proud of yourself that you can't beg.

Put Yourself First

The Seven of Swords isn't about making friendships or caring for and loving others. It's about putting yourself first, which could mean letting others down or pushing them to the side. You may have to disregard some opportunities because they conflict with other important events, like your child's birthday.

You can't make everyone happy, so you need to be selective about which people you do try to make happy. There are people who don't like you, but ultimately people who don't like you are the ones who simply just don't want to give you a chance. They're not willing to put in the effort to like you. It's too much work for them to like you. You exhaust them in some way, likely because you're not on the same wavelength.

Notice Avoidance Issues

Sometimes we avoid what we don't want to face. When we keep avoiding a problem, it inevitably gets bigger. Sometimes we realize that something just isn't working out, and we're trying to figure out an exit strategy.

You can either quietly leave the room or face the problem head-on. Different situations will call for different strategies.

This card is a serious act of treachery. It relates to lies, theft, and other mischiefs.

This card is a serious act of treachery. It relates to lies, theft, and other mischiefs.

Seven of Swords Reversed

In the reversed position, this card suggests that you've used an excessive amount of intelligence with little to no payoff. You will likely have to surrender and move away from ingrained habits to approach your problems in new ways.

Imposter Syndrome

The Seven of Swords reversed can mean that you're struggling to have faith in yourself. Perhaps you don't believe in what you're doing or that you have the right to do it.

Who am I to run my own business? Does that sound familiar? If so, you're second-guessing yourself and are potentially betraying yourself. Watch out for this trap—you don't want to self-sabotage what could be a good thing.

If you find yourself experiencing imposter syndrome, you likely need to work on trusting yourself. Know that you have the right tools and resources to succeed, put in your best effort, and do what you can. If the house of cards eventually falls, know that you will land on your feet.

If you're young, expect that you will fall short a couple of times before you make real headway. It is important to occasionally ask yourself if you're standing in your own way.

Believing in Fabrications

This card can also signify that, for whatever reason, you're intentionally making yourself believe in fabrications. It's like you're brainwashed. You might come off like someone in an interview for The Daily Show. You think it's fun to believe in your wacky idea or the wacky idea of someone else. You know deep down, it isn't sound. You're essentially shouting from a rooftop that 2+2=17. Or that 2+2=rainbow.

This is a very poor and stupid strategy. I don't recommend it.

Keeping a Dark Secret

Another possibility with a reversed Seven of Swords is that you're hiding something really big, and you're struggling to manage the stress you're getting from hiding the secret.

If so, you need to find a way to lighten your burden. Talk with someone you trust who can help you navigate the situation. When you come clean, things will likely get better and more sensible. Holding onto a dark secret can wreck your mental health.

For instance, I hid for a long time that I was suffering from sleep paralysis. I didn't know what it was; I just would have really bad nightmares where I thought I was awake in bed and that demons were visiting me. I didn't want to go to sleep because it was so scary. I thought Satan was going to appear and steal my soul at any moment. Very frightening when you're a teenager. It took me a while to start opening up about this.

It wasn't some supernatural thing. It was just sleep paralysis, which is unpleasant, but it goes away with proper sleep hygiene. (At least for me, following a sleep schedule made it go away.)

Reluctance to Hide

Perhaps you've been keeping a charade going for a long time, and you don't have much stamina left to hide your secret. The card indicates you're about to spill your secret, so you can finally get some relief.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence

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