Tarot Suit of Swords

by Douglas Gibb on June 28, 2009

The suit of Swords is associated with problems. Perhaps there is some kind of action that can be taken to resolve these problems?

Ace of Swords, Two of Swords, Three of Swords, Four of Swords, Five of Swords

Ace of Swords
Think of the Ace of Swords like a music player. When this card is upright the sound is amplified, and when this card is reversed the sound is barely audible. Think of it this way: upright the Ace of Swords gives every card in the reading extra significance; the other cards are very loud, perhaps even distractingly so for the client. When reversed, the influence of this card is barley felt by the client.
The Ace of Swords in general, indicates a sense of power or strength. In events it can indicate right timing, and in matters of health it can indicate surgery; ‘going under the knife’.
Two of Swords
Tension! I once read an excellent description of this card which indicated the kind of tension that is usually felt after an argument. Things have seemingly moved forward but still a tension remains. This card also indicates a dilemma, settlement or agreement.
Three of Swords
Stress, sadness, separation and loss.
Four of Swords
Taking time off work and recharging the batteries (usually associated with illness). However, this card can apply to other situations such as the client taking time off work as a result of enduring months of bullying.
Five of Swords
Defeat; or an empty victory. I usually see this card in relationship readings. It normally indicates one of two things: the person has been betrayed and this card indicates both the betrayal and feelings of anger or, this person ‘wins’ the affections of the desired person but ends up asking themselves, “was it worth it”?
Six of Swords, Seven of Swords, Eight of Swords, Nine of Swords, Ten of Swords
Six of Swords
Going on a trip, literally. Also indicates that things are going to get better, usually because there is a movement away from a difficult or emotionally challenging situation; can also indicate solving problems.
Seven of Swords
Theft, deception and lies. In relationships this card indicates evasive behaviour.
Eight of Swords
Limited options within the client’s life. Also indicates communication difficulties and misunderstandings. As with most Sword cards there is a feeling of helplessness.
Nine of Swords
I have found this card to indicate a renewed connection to divinity. Also, there is usually a strong sense of the client worrying about other people when this card appears, along with sleepless nights, stress and despair.
Ten of Swords
The key concept behind this card is endings. If it’s a relationship reading then a relationship is ending. In fact, for any area of life this card indicates an end, usually an undesired ending of what they want most.
Court Cards
Page of Swords, Knight of Swords, Queen of Swords, King of Swords
Page of Swords
Not a likeable person under most circumstances. When we view this card as being something other than an individual person, gossip being spread about the client, feelings of being unfairly criticised, and finally, communication which is usually upsetting.
Knight of Swords
This card often indicates swift changes happening within the client’s life; new people, new opportunities. It can also indicate a person that is assertive and a good problem solver. Occasionally (very occasionally) this character provides excellent professional advice to the client.
Queen of Swords
A strong willed woman who is independent and very intelligent. Traditionally this card has been seen to indicate a widow.
King of Swords
A cold yet rational person that would probably have a position of authority or responsibility.

(Theoretically) Related Posts:

22 comments… Let's discuss

Catherine June 28, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Nine of Swords I have found this card to indicate a renewed connection to divinity.

What an interesting concept! I would love to see you expand on this perhaps in a separate post?


Douglas June 28, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Thank you for giving me some suggestions. I had not planned on writing posts on the individual cards but it’s certainly something I shall consider. I might just pick random cards, such as the 9 of Swords and write a more in depth account of them.

Admittedly, I have not gone into a whole lot of detail with these definitions. However, my reasons for this are to assist people in learning the Tarot. I feel it might unnecessarily complicate matters to have vast descriptions of the cards.

When I think about this further though, I’m only doing this in relation to people learning how to read Tarot cards for other people. It might be good fun to write some posts that get ‘into’ the cards on a deeper, more philosophical, occult and mythical level. Thanks again for your suggestions.


Catherine June 28, 2009 at 4:30 pm

In relation to tarot card definitions, when you consider how much depth of description is available across many formats, it would indeed be fun, and more interesting to see explorations of the cards that are more philosophical and mythical – a different slant or angle that we haven’t considered or learned about before.

I hope you do this on Tarot Eon – it would be something I would like to see, and would love to contribute to.


Douglas June 28, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Watch this space! :)


AJ October 12, 2009 at 8:58 am

Hi… I just saw this post and it’s a good quick reference. Thanks!

I have a question, I made a 5-card reading for someone and four of them are swords… plus one devil card. I was thinking that there’s a lot of mental chaos/instability going on. Is there any other interpretation to that?


Douglas October 12, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Hi AJ,

I would agree with your initial assessment.

Alternatives might be:

1. Someone’s ambition is under attack – most likely people don’t want this person’s ambition to succeed.
2. Trying to inspire change into something that’s stubborn and won’t change.
3. Breaking out of the trap – anger remains.
4. Violent arguments that seek to gain control – perhaps enslave.
5. Antagonistic joker – laughing at those who take themselves or their ideas far to seriously.

Hope that helps :D


AJ October 12, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Thanks for the tips. It makes sense. I think I’m correct that he’s under some restriction or limitation right now. Hmm… I have to wait for his reply if the reading affects him. Thanks again.


Douglas October 13, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Hi AJ,

No problem – let me know how it goes :)


Seawillow January 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I have a question regarding the 5 of swords, if you don’t mind. How do you deal with this card when it shows up surrounded by more positive cards? For instance, I sometimes do an unpositioned five-card spread. It’s laid out in a square with the last card in the center. Sometimes the cards seem unrelated to each other and I interpret them individually. Sometimes two or three will just feel connected and I’ll interpret them in combination.

Recently, I laid out the spread for a general reading and got the following: Lovers (upper left), Empress (upper right), 9 of Cups (lower left), Knight of Cups (lower right), with the 5 of Swords in the center. The other cards are so positive, but the center card seems to be casting a pall over the whole reading. The person in question has trust issues related to love and relationships due to a bad history; the individual also tends to have difficulty reading people correctly and relating to them. I interpreted the 5 of Swords as a warning or comment on the querant’s inner state rather than as part of the sequence of outer cards, which do feel connected to each other as a specific situation, but I wonder if there wasn’t a better way to deal with it. Any comments?


Douglas Gibb January 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Hi Seawillow,

Thanks for dropping by :D

I have a question regarding the 5 of swords, if you don’t mind. How do you deal with this card when it shows up surrounded by more positive cards … I laid out the spread for a general reading and got the following: Lovers (upper left), Empress (upper right), 9 of Cups (lower left), Knight of Cups (lower right), with the 5 of Swords in the center. The other cards are so positive, but the center card seems to be casting a pall over the whole reading.

Interesting question.

As a general rule of thumb, the 5 of Swords can often indicate a “Victory”, but, and this is the key, at what cost? Whenever you get the 5 of Swords, and it’s surrounded by positive cards, ask yourself, if this succeeds, what is the price being paid?

In the particular context of the reading, you have two basic ways to approach things. The first way is psychological, and the second is literal. Perhaps, for a more rounded approach, we could combine the two methods.

Using method one, I would have said exactly the same as you.

Using method two, I would have been inclined to discuss the outward success – the appearance of things going their way. I would then switch to a more psychological dimension, and ponder what price is being paid.

With the Lovers card present, I would be asking myself if the client has ever really taken responsibility for their actions? The Lovers often indicates people going with the flow, so as not to rock the boat with those around them – in this context, “those” could be friends, family, or anyone who has influence.

With that in mind, the price being paid, is the destablising of the status-quo; which brings us back to responsibility. In this context, the responsibility is in reference to this persons own feelings and emotions. If they ignore them (5 of Swords) then the client will never be free – will always feel like it was an “empty victory”.

As you can see, the two methods are really combination of psychological and literal.

In reality, the cards speak of success – regardless of anything else. However, when we factor in psychology, then we have to look at key concepts, such as responsibility.

Finally, the 5 of Swords is a card that hurts other people.

In the context of the reading, either the client will hurt other through not taking responsibility – and the client will also hurt people by taking responsibility.

Remember, the Empress card is not a spiritual card. It’s a very practical card, based on financial and practical security; feeling safe, and being able to enjoy the physical dimension of life.

I haven’t tried to do the Tarot reading; rather, I’ve tried to offer ideas and concepts that will help you reinterpret the cards in a different way.

With that in mind, I hope those ideas have helped you in some small way. :)


Seawillow January 28, 2010 at 4:06 am

Thanks, Douglas:

I appreciate the input.

I should say, I’ve been enjoying reading your articles very much.


Sheri March 21, 2010 at 3:11 am

Hi Douglas,

Would you say that the 2 of Swords is a temporary compromise/agreement, also? I have a few books that say that and also I saw it online. What is your opinion? What have you seen it to be?




Douglas Gibb March 22, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Hi Sheri,

Yes, that’s how I see the 2 of Swords. I also see it as peace restored (the Golden Dawn name for the 2 of Swords) – especially with relationships!


Sheri March 29, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Hi Douglas,

I bought the Thoth deck and Peace is what the 2 of swords is called for that deck as well. In a way the Thoth deck is easy to read with the names on the cards. It helps trigger your memory for that card. But, in another way it’s confusing. Should I use the meanings I’ve learned with the Rider-Waite deck and apply them to the Thoth deck?

I know that sounds like a common sense answer, but you never know. The pictures are completely different as well as the Lust/Strength and Adjustment/Justice cards numbering.

Where I thought I could use the eight cards in the deck with the Strength card I find I can’t in the Thoth deck because they now belong to the Adjustment/Justice card. And the Lust/Strength card now belongs to the High Priestess card if you break down the number 11 (1+1=2). The Lust /Strength card makes more sense belonging with the High Priestess, however it’s a relearning of something that throws me off.

Thanks for helping me.



Douglas Gibb March 31, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Hi Sheri,

In a way the Thoth deck is easy to read with the names on the cards. It helps trigger your memory for that card. But, in another way it’s confusing. Should I use the meanings I’ve learned with the Rider-Waite deck and apply them to the Thoth deck?

Good question!

Why not experiment with applying both sets of meaning to the Thoth cards. For instance, lets say you deal the 6 of Wands. On the Thoth it’s called Victory. Why not also add in, or overlay the meaning from the Rider-Waite deck? That way you allow your intuition to flow.

Yes, the numbering differences between the Thoth and the Rider-Waite can be a little confusing and the reasons it’s renumbered in the Thoth can seem a little abstract.

I would suggest you see this as adding a new layer or depth of understanding to the Tarot. What if you reframed the whole thing? Rather than seeing this as deck specific (which of course it is :) ), try and see this as something greater than an individual deck. If you could reframe this so that you see these confusing differences as adding to your overall understanding of Tarot, rather than needing to relearn the Tarot, I think you’ll enjoy the process better. I also think you’ll most certainly grow as a Tarot reader.

If you’re interested in understanding why the Thoth is the way it is, then I would highly recommend Lon Milo DuQuettes book, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot: An Authoritative Examination of the World’s Most Fascinating and Magical Tarot Cards. It answers many of the questions you will have on the Thoth Tarot, while still being engaging and easy to read. In fact, one of Lon Milo Duquettes strengths as a writer is his ability to make many of the more complex areas of the Thoth easy to understand.


Sheri April 3, 2010 at 2:25 am

Hi Douglas,

Thanks so much. I’m going to have to get that book. I’ve been trying to use all of the meanings I’ve learned about both cards. It’s a little confusing when some of the meanings contradict another, but I’m still figuring this out..lol.For the most part they are the same meanings. I was actually able to get more info about some of the more difficult cards to understand, like the High Priestess, from the book I have called, “The Tarot Handbook – Practical Applications of the Ancient Visual Symbols” by Angeles Arrien.

Thanks again 8)



Douglas Gibb April 4, 2010 at 12:49 am

Hi Sheri,

It’s good to hear that you’re wrestling successfully with these two decks – and that you’ve found a book that is resonating well with you. In no time at all you’ll be looking for the next challenge :)


Sheri June 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Hi Douglas,
I asked the question: Will ______ get fired from their job?

Since I have so much trouble interpreting cards this was actually, I believe, the 10th time I drew cards on this question (I know I shouldn’t do this, but I just couldn’t figure things out from some of the other draws. One draw was 5 Disks/Ace Cups/9 Disks. I couldn’t see an answer in that draw at all. How would I interpret the Ace of Cups in this reading? Does it mean this person is very well “loved” in their job?).

I drew again and I got: the World/2 Swords/4 Swords. This was the closest I could come to a clear answer that I could understand…The elemental dignities say the center card is moderately strong. The flanking cards support this card. Also, there is an ethical/legal aspect to this question. The person broke the law and revealed personal info about the client to the client’s friend causing conflict in their friendship. Naturally, the client wants to see this person is strongly reprimanded for their unethical/illegal behavior, so they called the corporate headquarters.

World card: A desire to influence change within an institution. Endings and beginnings…
2 Swords: A decision that needs to be made or is being made about a woman (woman on the World card).
4 Swords: Conflict resolution is being made and a “retirement” or “break from work” is being called for.

Can you please help me out with understanding other triad as well? How would the Ace of Cups play into this reading?

I also asked if the client’s friend was going to lie and say he were never told anything about the client to protect the person that told him, but I can’t get a clear answer on that either. The only card that really clearly defines lying is the 7 of Swords. I’m not pulling that when I ask if he will lie about being told this info. I pulled 3 Wands/5 Swords/3 Cups – since the elementally the flanking cards cancel each other out in which way do I interpret the 5 Swords? Is he betraying his friend by denying he was told or is he betraying the person who told him this info? Asking again: 4 Disks/Art/Emperor…oh so lost. I can’t see the answers I’m looking for because the question is a hard one.

Thanks for your help,



Douglas Gibb July 3, 2010 at 12:52 am

Hi Sheri,

I believe, the 10th time I drew cards on this question

LOL! Reminds me of me when I was learning. But you’re right, you shouldn’t do that. I learned that the hard way. Try and keep down to one spread per question. It actually helps in improving your technique, over the long term.

5 Disks/Ace Cups/9 Disks.

Tough combination of cards. The 5 of Disks is telling though. This combination doesn’t necessarily imply that this person will get fired (although it doesn’t look good), but it does suggest enormous strain (at their current job), with a new opportunity approaching (Ace of Cups). The 9 of Wands implies the atmosphere at work being one of defense.

I pulled 3 Wands/5 Swords/3 Cups

The 5 of Swords in this reading doesn’t look good. It implies some level of underhand behavior. The 3 of Wands is the work environment and the 3 of Cups was how it used to feel there – it is that (and the Three of Wands) which the 5 of Swords defeats! Alternatively, is mutual deception going on?

4 Disks/Art/Emperor

LOL, this is a tough one! The Art card represents the two people involved, the Emperor (the folks in charge of making the decision) and the 4 of Disks is everyone trying to go back to how things used to be. Either way, the Emperor makes the final call so any deception on whomsoevers part is most likely to be exposed.

Well, that was lot of readings LOL! Try your best to keep it to one question per reading and things, with time, get much clearer.

Hope that helps!


Deef September 26, 2010 at 6:21 am

I did a tarot reading off tarot.com asking the question if my daughter and I would be able to move away to another specifically named town (reason: my husband is an abusive alchoholic – we have no money so probably need a miracle or lotto win to move)… I got the 5 swords in the long term potential position – looking at that card (Rider-Waite) made me feel I would overcome all problems and problem people and be victorious – i.e. that we would find a way to move and afford to do so and it would be good for me.
But reading online other peoples interpretations of the 5 swords confuses me and saddens me… other people’s take on the 5swords is not positive. can you advise your thoughts? Here is what the other cards were and the position they were in in the reading:

Self – 6 of swords
Situation – The High Priestess
Recent Past – 8 of swords
Higher Power – Judgement
Foundation – Ace of Swords
Challenges/Opportunities: Knight of Swords
Near Future – The Magician
Blocks – 9 of Wands
Allies – Knight of Cups
Advice – 7 of Wands
Long term potential – 5 Swords

This online do-it-yourself reading didn’t really give an interpretation that made sense to me given my question… I don’t know the significance of the Magician or The High Priestess either :(

Anyhow, would appreciate your thoughts on this – am I just applying my wishful thinking to the 5 swords in this reading or am I right – that it indicates victory over my horrible situation that others have put me in. (Don’t know if it makes any difference but it isn’t just my husband who is the problem – I don’t have family support so am pretty much on my own and have to be self sufficient. My mother isn’t helpful – is a told you so person – and is not a person I can turn to.) I see those 2 walking away figures representing my drunken useless husband/marriage and anyone else who has tried to keep me down or put me down because I married a drunk etc.
Anyhow, look forward to your reply!


Wendy January 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I like your comments on the swords suit. Some of your meanings are the same as mine however, you have given me a new outlook on some of them. Thank you.


Essie April 12, 2011 at 2:06 am

Hi Doug,
How would you describe “Queen of Swords ” as crossing card in Celtic Spread?
may i take it as a person or approach ?
it was a relationship question as whats is next etc.

along with queen of swords..main card was Sun…6th card The moon..
outcome Page of cups.
i am not sure if 1st card has to do anything with the rest but other 3 cards i interprete as : change (the moon) with the arrival of new love or msg of love and clear understanding (queen of swords) changing (moon) to a new love (page of cups)…
what do think? does it make any sense?


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