Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Ace of Swords

Last night's #pmtarot on Twitter was the Ace of Swords.  Sometimes I tweet something that just springs to mind, but for some reason I felt drawn to actually look at a card version of this.  I pulled out the Tarot of Vampyres, one of my current favourites, and found the card - called the Ace of Knives in this deck.  What I tweeted based on this image was: it's time to talk, can you do it from the heart?  However, I felt this card deserved a deeper look, perhaps just because it really drew me.

Here we have a knife, dark blade pointed straight up, and with a golden heart directly under it.  Behind the knife are yellow roses, still attached to their very thorny and tangled branches.

The first thing I saw was a call to communicate from a loving place - knives/swords representing the element of air which is often associated with both the intellect and communication, and the golden heart representing purity of intention and kindness.  However, there is also something about being careful what you say, because of it's potential to hurt and break someone's heart, or at least draw a little blood.

Looking to the language of flowers, we are told that yellow roses represent jealousy, infidelity, betrayal, a broken heart, but also intense emotion, dying love and an apology.  Several of these seem to fit well with some ideas, both positive and negative, around the Ace of Knives: infidelity implies having made an insincere promise, and can certainly cause a feeling of betrayal and a broken heart.  An apology would be a communication from a place of love or kindness, and might well be expected from someone dying to someone they loved.

Returning to the specific image, another thing that sprang to mind is the need to be aware that seemingly sweet words can still have a sting in their tail - along the lines of a back-handed compliment: "You look very nice for a change!"

Writing this suddenly reminded me on an incident a couple of days ago, and this may be why this card chimed with me today.  A friend called me a guru in front of some other people whom we know, but who I don't feel that comfortable with.  Although a seeming compliment, it made me feel very defensive and ill at ease.  While I know it was said with good intentions, how I interpret it is somewhat different.  I have always balked at the idea of someone else knowing what is best for me, and likewise of my knowing what is best for someone else. 

This may be to do with issues around authority, and why I have long had a problem with the Hierophant.  However, this month the Gaian Tarot Circle is discussing the equivalent card from this beautiful deck, the Teacher.  This card gives a very different sense to me.  Instead of a churchy authority figure telling people what to do, we find a kind, wise person willing to share what they have learned from nature.  In some ways, it feels as though the teachers are the plants and animals themselves, rather than the person.

These ideas of learning from nature, and of sharing wisdom, are closer to what I would like to think a guru is.  Originally the term did just mean teacher in Sanskrit, too, but it has also come to be associated with religious authority.  It has been tainted for me, too, by some gurus whose intentions were far from pure, who were self-aggrandizing, or abused their position of trust. 

So, I reacted negatively to words meant in kindness, because of the multiple meanings a word can have.  I think this is another important aspect to the Ace of Swords - the way that anything we say can be double-edged.  This darker aspect of the card is brought out well by the Tarot of Vampyres version with it's dark blade and the tangled and thorn-covered branches of the rose, enticing you in with the flower's beauty only to stab you when you're unawares.

Do you generally associate the Ace of Swords with more positive things - new ideas, new ways of communicating?  What do you make of this darker Ace of Knives?

Images: Ace of Knives from Ian Daniels' Tarot of Vampyres, the Teacher from Joanna Powell-Colbert's Gaian Tarot.


  1. That's a beautiful Ace of Swords!

    I love the idea that this card operates from a desire to communicate from a loving place - swords get such bad press lol! We don't really talk much about Swords and hearts in a positive way, so this is a really nice way of looking at this card (which, for me, has teneded to remain in the realms of the intellectual)

    The Heirophant is a card that tends to make me uncomfortable too - not because anyone has called me a guru though *grin* - so it's an area I obviously need to examine more myself.

    Lovely post

    Ali x

  2. Thanks, Ali! Yes, Swords do get a lot of bad press. I'm thinking about writing something on the Swords Courts who, as people, get especially picked on I feel :-)

    As for the Hierophant, as archetypal representation of authority it's no wonder lots of us don't much like him *grin*.


  3. When pulling the Ace of Swords, I think of new ideas and thoughts. This is the process before beginning that next step. I love your take on this version.

    As for the Hierophant, I've always saw it represent a belief system in which the client may be following or breaking away from. Of course this varies with decks because of how much this card can change between individual decks.

    If someone was to call me a guru, I think I'd be excited. To me a guru is someone who knows there skills to a level that is above most.

    Funny, how words and images are different for each of us.

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Hi Cher,

    Yes, I really agree that the Hierophant is probably one of the cards in the deck that varies most from author to author! Belief systems can just be another form of authority, whether external or internalised, which is where I bump my head against a bit of a wall. But realising that it can also be about breaking away from that system or authority is a good step - and would certainly be helped by that Ace of Swords new thought or idea!

    Thanks for your take on this!