Despite what are now many years of experience and generally positive feedback, I always feel some anxiety about doing readings for other people. Perhaps indeed because the tarot is one of the things in life about which I feel most passionate, there’s a strong sense of responsibility about what comes to me as I “read” the cards. It usually takes a leap of faith and/or courage to begin because I believe that it’s better to be cautious than to be breezily confident. I felt somewhat vindicated recently when I read a blog about the 6 of Swords by Mary K Greer. In it she states that as the reader she sometimes considers herself
the ferryman who steers the way through the cards in a spread from one’s familiar anxieties to a different shore. … (I)n a reading I am attempting to steer the course when I don’t always know what is lying in wait for my passenger on the other side or how prepared my passenger might be to meet that. It is a grave responsibility. (https://marykgreer.com/2010/07/21/ferryman-in-the-six-of-swords/)
A while ago I did a rather impromptu reading for a friend who wanted to sell her house. Her decision to move had been made some months before, so she was in the uncomfortable limbo phase that exists after that decision to sell but before the sale.
As those of you familiar with my reading style know, I have no interest in fortune telling or prediction in any definitive way. However, as a way of helping the querent to find an energy with which to move forward, I usually end tarot sessions with the querent choosing a card to summarise the reading. This is a good card to use after the reading to contemplate the ideas we’ve discussed.
The reading I mention above was relatively brief. It almost seemed like the tarot knew we only had about half an hour and so gave us a compressed picture. Out of 5 cards altogether, we found ourselves looking at the 3 of Swords, the 5 of Swords and last, but not least, as the summary, the 7 of Swords.
Quite obviously it’s about heartache. Selling the house one has lived in for more than two decades is pretty challenging. Deconstructing everything that’s been built up around the concept of home can be a very painful and stressful time. Indeed moving has been ranked one of the top five most stressful life events. Our house tends to be symbolic of ourselves, our safe haven from the outside world – a place that for many is hard to leave in order to start all over again.https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/relationships/article/2018/01/09/why-moving-house-was-more-difficult-and-stressful-i-ever-imagined
The reality of this is very familiar to me, so I had no trouble at all empathising with my friend’s level of stress. During our 44 years together Jon and I have moved many times. We were inclined to have a house built to what I’ve named the “bare shell” stage, then do the finishing off ourselves, thereby making the bare shell into a home. Once we’d been in a home for a few years, we would sell it and move on to another project. In early 2009 we left what had been our family home (surprisingly, for about 2 decades): a large property in a rural environment in northern New South Wales. We moved to a small apartment in inner city Brisbane. Even though we had moved so I could access my counselling qualifications as an ‘internal’ rather than ‘external’ student, I cried just about every day for the rest of that year.
Back to the card. Usually the best frame of reference I can find for the 3 of Swords is taken from its resonance with the major arcana 3, The Empress. (All cards with the same number have various things in common.)
(T)he Empress can refer to any aspect of Motherhood. She can be an individual mother, but as a major arcana card, she also goes beyond the specifics of mothering to its essence – the creation of life and its sustenance through loving care and attention. (http://www.learntarot.com/maj03.htm)
Therefore, from my perspective, even the Swords-suit 3 is about some form of creative growth. I tend to see the sword going through the centre of the heart as the ‘middle path’, chosen after – and perhaps as a result of – the heartache.
I remember a friend once interpreting this card as the one in which nobody wins and so, inevitably, everyone loses. My inclination is to view the card through a different lens.
Regarding this particular reading, my friend has already confronted tough choices of various kinds in life: she is experienced in life matters, has ‘survived’ and therefore, I would argue, earned a degree of personal power.
Inevitably there will have been losses of some kind involved in her choices. What decision doesn’t carry a loss factor within it? There is always a cost-benefit ratio involved. Perhaps power comes from being able to determine the right balance – what to take with you and what to leave behind.
My general sense of the tarot fives is that they represent change that comes as a result of conflict. The tarot fours represent a more stable time – often when a foundation of some kind has been laid (cf IV The Emperor). This is the aspect of our world that is challenged by the fives – sometimes it’s not easy to give up stability and destroy one aspect of our world in favour of a different one.
Sandra A Thomson seems to very clearly describe my friend’s challenge at the time of the reading:
Although we tend to think of crises as negative and undesirable, they do carry the impetus for change or transition from a solid, fixed, rigid past – or from the stagnation/inactivity of the fours – into new possibilities. … Fives can also reflect a situation of ambivalence, or of the anxiety of having to live with the unknown. To end that anxiety, we may be forced to make a choice.” (pp.169,170 Pictures from the Heart, Sandra A Thomson).
The fives resonate with V The Hierophant. From my experience, this can be a very complex card indeed. It can represent all of the nuances mentioned above and indeed many more – so many that I will set aside an entire blog for it sometime soon.
I must admit that when I saw the 7 of Swords as the “summary card”, I dropped my head into my hands, saying “This is also such a complex card. I’ll have to think carefully about what it may mean in this position.”
Despite its rather bad press, my gut feeling was that in this context the card was not meant to indicate skulduggery, which is one of the ways it is most commonly interpreted.
Instead, my response was to immediately focus on my friend’s ability to achieve her goals by thinking (and therefore working) “smarter, not harder”.
Because all the sevens resonate with The Chariot in the major arcana, I pictured her needing to drive her life’s “vehicle” very carefully in order to stay balanced. (A chariot, after all, is a tricky thing to control). The sphinxes on either side of the chariot represent those things we’re simultaneously drawn towards and repulsed by, looking in this context rather like my friend’s needs and wants, which seemed slightly at odds.
I interpreted the card as indicating that her best course of action would be to carefully consider the values and realities implied in both her needs and her wants. That process would help her to make a strategic decision and allow her to find a balanced path through the challenges involved.
Later that day I did a bit of googling and found this quote:
In the context of a finance-related question, the 7 of Swords advises that ample research must be undertaken before committing to a major purchase or investment. For the time being, finances can be in a state of flux and will continue to remain so until an opportunity arrives. (https://shadesofmidnight.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/the-7-of-swords-the-lone-wolf-complex/)
Looking at the card again I recalled an awareness of my friend’s desire to “keep a foot in both camps”. The image of the two swords left in the campsite struck me as her ability to do just that – by visiting her many friends whom she was quite sad about ‘leaving behind’.
When I went to bed that night – as often happens after I’ve worked with the cards – a rather anxious thought wormed its way into my head. Did I warn my friend sufficiently about the negative interpretations of the 7 of Swords? The usual long period of deliberation followed – but I just could not conclude that it is always correct to view the 7 of Swords as a warning against thievery and deception.
It seems to me it’s a trap to interpret cards on a “one size fits all” basis. How many times have I had cards with very negative reputations come up in readings for myself – and eventually realised that there was a silver lining of insight or hope or experiential learning?I decided it was best that I’d stuck with my instinctive interpretation. Naturally, when something as big as selling one’s home and buying a new one is in process, it always pays to be cautious. It would be unwise to give money to people one doesn’t trust – and foolish, at best, to buy into a deal that looks better than it should.