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The Six 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 Six of Swords foretells of a journey into the unknown. You may have been forced into this journey because of a sorrowful experience. There are calmer waters on the other side; the initial sting of change is the hardest part.

The Six of Swords foretells of a journey into the unknown. You may have been forced into this journey because of a sorrowful experience. There are calmer waters on the other side; the initial sting of change is the hardest part.

The Six of Swords

On the Six of Swords card, a youth is steering a raft into a waterscape. A cloaked woman sits on the raft with her child huddled next to her.

My interpretation of the Six of Swords is related to the Four of Swords. The mother and child look like the people who are pictured in the stained glass window of the Four of Swords, a scene about a knight's funeral. The youth driving the raft is the navigator, an angel directing the course. The woman is the knight's widow, and the child is his son.

The mother and child are leaving the past behind; they're taking their chances on a new life somewhere else. The card is similar to a pivotal scene in the TV series Vikings. After Ragnar Lothbrok betrayed Lagertha by indulging in Aslaug's advances, Lagertha decides to leave Kattegat to start a new life. She takes Ragnar's son, Bjorn, with her.

Card Alignments

Upright

Gradual change, transition, movement, rite of passage, traveling away from difficulty, eschewing danger, long journeys, passage from pain, obstacles that can be overcome, letting go of baggage.

Reversed

Unfinished business, personal transition, resistance to change, holding on for a time, observing before making a change, floundering, hiding in the shadows, holding onto baggage.

The Six of Swords is about transitions. You're letting go of your past to move forward with your journey. You won't be allowed to take much with you. You must rely on your mind and heart.

The Six of Swords is about transitions. You're letting go of your past to move forward with your journey. You won't be allowed to take much with you. You must rely on your mind and heart.

Card Description

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, a young man steers a raft. A woman sits on the raft with her child next to her. They're far from land. The woman's head is covered by her cloak, which suggests mourning or loss.

In the boat stand six swords. This indicates the woman and child are carrying baggage from their past, and their future is uncertain and unknown. These swords might represent all they have left; it is their inheritance from the knight.

The water on the right of the raft is turbulent, while the sea ahead is calm and stable. This symbolizes that the pair are leaving behind an awful situation for a more tranquil environment.

It should be noted that there are three people on the card. Since this card is the Six of Swords, this implies that half of the picture is missing. We don't know what's on the other side of the water. We don't know what people this family will meet. This is likely a halfway point for the family, and they should expect more to come.

The Characters and Their Clothes

The woman is covered in a dark yellow cloak. This means she is absorbed in her thoughts. She is using her logic to get out of a bad situation. She is mindful of her situation and refuses to neglect or avoid them.

The child is wearing a blue tunic, which implies he is in his emotions. He doesn't have the experience to navigate through the tough situation, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He is young and afraid and draws close to his mom for comfort and warmth.

The young man steering the raft wears three colors: blue, orange, and green. He wears a blue undershirt. He is using Pisces to help direct himself and the family. Pisces is a water sign, the one most closely associated with martyrs and spiritual breakthroughs. The man steering the raft has spiritual insight.

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His tunic is orange with a brown belt. The tunic represents a balance between fire and air or free will and thoughts. He acts on his thoughts, but he doesn't sit and think. He helps move the situation forward. His actions are governed by Leo and Libra, which represent confidence and fairness.

His pants are green, indicating earth and practicality. He calls upon Capricorn to ascertain survival.

Slough of Despond

The card in some decks depicts the Slough of Despond from The Pilgrim's Progress. The Slough of Despond is a swamp of despair. The protagonist of the tale, Christian, sinks as his sins and sense of guilt engulf him.

It's a place of torment. You're conscientious of your faults, and you can't rise above your fears, doubts, and tribulations. All of the anxious things settle in the Slough of Despond.

The Second Estate

The Suit of Swords deals with the Second Estate, one of the hierarchical tiers of the Middle Ages and of early modern Europe. The hierarchy dictated who had more power and sway.

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

The Second Estate: knights and nobles, the upper class

The Third Estate: peasants and bourgeoise

When evaluating sword cards, it's important to keep in mind that they deal with situations pertaining to knights and nobles. These circumstances are about people who have been initiated. The cards deal with people who are known in society and have a lot of sway. The suit puts itself above the other three suits because of its preference for logic; this can be seen as arrogance as logic is somewhat dispersed by luck. The Major Arcana and court cards rule above the numbered cards in the Suit of Swords.

Knights and Nobles in the Six of Swords

The card deals with a knight's family. A child and woman must find a new place to live and grow as they cannot stay where they previously did. They're no longer welcome in their old town.

The boy and woman have a strong chance of creating new lives that are stable. They'll likely get picked up again into a noble or knight family. They know how nobles and knights work. They speak their language and know their customs. Once initiated, it is hard to fall out of line.

The butterfly is a symbol of metamorphosis. The Six of Swords is about inevitable change and transitions. It is time for you to allow your chrysalis.

The butterfly is a symbol of metamorphosis. The Six of Swords is about inevitable change and transitions. It is time for you to allow your chrysalis.

Tarot Suits

CategoryWandsPentaclesSwordsCups

Element

Fire

Earth

Air

Water

Elementals

Salamanders

Gnomes

Sylphs

Undines

Represents

Free will

The Body (Physical Manifestation)

Thoughts

Emotions

Colors

Red

Green

Yellow

Blue

Numbers

1, 5, 9

2, 6, 10

3, 7, 11

4, 8, 12

Animals

Land Mammals

Reptiles

Birds

Fish

Music

Percussion

Brass

Woodwinds

Strings

Seasons

Summer

Spring

Winter

Fall

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

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

Upright Six of Swords

The Six of Swords indicates a time of transition. It is often a sign that you must leave your current path for something new. Your future depends on you accepting this transition.

The change you're about to embark on isn't certain. You may have to move for a new job or to go to college. You're leaving behind what you know and trusting that you have what it takes to succeed in a foreign place. You're having to rely on your intuition and inner self. The Six of Swords is the sojourner card; it's a reminder that humans don't just stay in place. Indeed, we often travel for our betterment.

Transitioning to a different relationship, town, or job can feel unstable. It's not written in stone what will happen. You're throwing yourself into the unknown and hoping that you'll find your place. Think of it this way: there are codes all around you, and you're a certain number of variables. When you throw yourself into the code, you hope that you will blend and not be rejected by it.

The Card of Evolution

The card indicates you are shedding your skin. It's time to let go of your snake ways and to evolve. If you're a Scorpio, expect evolution at this point. We evolve to reach our highest self and highest good. For the most part, people don't come into the world fully knowing how to harness their highest good or how to be in a position to hold onto it for lengthy periods.

It takes time to learn about the world and gain enough experience to eventually arrive at your highest good. Transition is key for progress: you must let go of the past, unburden yourself, and be open to the future.

The future is frightening. The past is safe. The future is frightening because we know at the end of it is death. The past is safe because it's already been written. We know how it works.

Extra Baggage

The six swords on the raft are your belongings—both good and bad. If pointed the wrong way, the swords could cause a leak and cause your ship to go under.

It's important for you to consider what you're holding onto, could your baggage be holding you back? Could it be slowing you down?

The swords relate to memories, thought patterns, and old relationships. Do these things still serve you, or have they turned into dull blades? Keep that which keeps you sharp; discard that which dulls you.

Select from your swords carefully. You may have baggage that dulls you, but there may also be baggage that sharpens you.

Select from your swords carefully. You may have baggage that dulls you, but there may also be baggage that sharpens you.

Reversed Six of Swords

In the reversed position, this card suggests that you are being called to take a rite of passage. You are on the brink of a discovery. Something in the air is letting you know that you need to face a personal or spiritual transition.

This card is encouraging you to awaken and see things from a new vantage point. You're growing and progressing toward something. If you are open-minded to this, you will find enlightenment on the other side. Don't be afraid. If you're feeling a connection to something, and there is a flow to it, then it is the right path for you.

Life has a way of teaching us things and then asking us to put those things aside to be amazed by something new. We're not meant to think the exact same way as a baby, child, teenager, adult, or elder. As we take part in the world and watch the goings-on, we become aware and recognize our role in it all. You become aware of how much agency you really have.

Divine Logic

The Six of Swords is a logic card. It encourages you to think, prepare, and listen. You need to address what's not working and what steps you need to take to go forward. This is paramount to your survival. If you spend your whole life in one spot, you'll have wasted your life. Variety is the essence.

We can be reluctant to move forward because it doesn't feel quite right. Going against what we know brings discomfort. It goes against our medulla oblongata, which likes to play with recognizable patterns and one's self-bias. Push yourself outside of the box to widen your horizons. Look for better sources and look past the fairy tales and lore of your hometown or political party. It's time to go toward truth, not run from it. This can all be difficult work, and it can be shocking. Try to open your eyes slowly and not all at once.

Expect Growth

Growth is happening, and growth isn't comfortable. It's weird when you hit puberty and your body starts doing new things. That same kind of experience continues in your mind as it is constantly stretching itself and doing unusual things. You have to prepare yourself in the right way in order to give your mind the nourishment it requires. Feed your body well to feed your mind well. Sometimes what your body needs is to go to different places, places that are far from home, with people you've never met or known.

The Six of Swords, in any position, is a nudge toward challenging yourself to help foster a better you.

Don't Fight Change

Focus more on the benefits than the drawbacks if you have to face a transition. Sometimes we have to move and not because we want to do so. Your house may have caught on fire, your wife may have got a job in a different city, you may have to return to your hometown to take care of an ailing parent, or there was a natural disaster and you're forced to relocate. Try to make the most of the situation. Millions, if not billions, of people have had to go through these kinds of predicaments. You're not alone. There are people and resources out there that can guide you with your particulars.

Unresolved Issues

The card also suggests you have unfinished business that needs to be addressed. Perhaps you have a broken connection with someone that needs to be healed; otherwise, your old friend will continue to carry a grudge against you.

Maybe you took all your graduate classes but didn't complete your thesis. If you complete the thesis, you'll finally earn your graduate degree. Sometimes it's the last two cents of a journey that are the hardest. You have to bulk up just a little more to get to the finish line.

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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