The Eight of Swords – A One Page Guide

What do Danny DeVito, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pamela Colman Smith, Arthur Edward Waite, Castor and Pollux have in common with that silly Internet meme about “brothers by different mothers?” How about “twins by different fathers?” Colman Smith’s illustration for the Eight of Swords is an incredibly clever play upon Waite’s divinatory meaning; or quite possibly, it was the source for it. In either case, though Waite sees the Eight of Swords as a glass half empty, there is reason to think it’s half full. It all hinges on the origin story of Gemini, the differences between Waite and the Golden Dawn group’s view of the Eight of Swords, and the dual meanings of an obscure word: “trammel!” It is the positive side of Pollux’s sacrifice which showed extraordinary generosity that makes the glass half full: the ability to free oneself from one’s bindings, the power to survive sickness and calumny, the ability to weather bad news.

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The Six of Swords – A One Page Guide

It is no doubt a startlingly long leap from Charon, the ferryman of Hades who’ll leave your spirit wandering on the shore of the river Styx for one hundred years if you don’t have the penny for his fare, to a positive affirmation of life and continuity that foresees safe journey through the person of your child. It is odder still, in my opinion, to see A.E. Waite, in the Six of Swords, not only make that leap but also get away with it! We shall see that an unusual word—commissionary, a Christian qabalistic take on Tiphareth, and perhaps a bit of “soloing” by Colman Smith while Waite wasn’t looking are the clues by which we arrive at this serrendipity for what otherwise might be a dreary card.

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The Two of Swords – A One Page Guide

The blindfolded swordswoman of the Two of Swords can only be a metaphor, but for what? Why is she blindfolded? Why two swords? Why is the composition symmetrical except for the Moon? I believe that Waite wishes us to perceive the message of the RWS Two of Swords as that the balance of two types of justice, divine and human, manifests itself in peace and harmony, even though both types of justice can countenance cruelty. But if inside oneself and one’s circle of friends we maintain balance and harmony, such a balance can be a “beneficent force.”

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The Five of Swords – A One Page Guide

The desolation and despair of the Five of Swords contains the seeds of recovery. Note, first, the difference between Waite’s and the Golden Dawn’s divinatory meanings. They’re both about loss, but the GD’s meanings are about personal losses, while Waite’s are communal. Waite has changed the focus and intensified the divinatory meanings. The astrological and planetary influences in particular suggest, through Ganymede, Saturn and Venus, the Trojan War. And the qabalistic influence brings us the fiery left hand of the Almighty. Waite’s state-oriented divinatory meanings of infamy and dishonor recall, possibly, the “traitors” of Homer’s Iliad: one who had a section of Hell named after him by Dante, and another who reputedly invented the game of dice! But the alternative, the hero, may be in plain sight, the “master in possession of the field.” Because for every Ganymede, swept up and buggered by the gods, or for every traitor slinking away by sea, there is an Odysseus, the most famous adventurer literature has ever known, or an Aeneas or a Brutus of Troy, the latter two having founded great empires. This article considers whether Waite and Colman Smith had Troy in mind when they designed the Five of Swords card.

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The Four of Swords – A One Page Guide

The Four of Swords’ depiction of the tomb of a Knight outwardly conveys soldiering and death. Yet if we look at the upper left, we see a scene that is likely to be an Annunciation scene: a scene of birth. The astrological influences include strong life-giving entities in Venus and The Empress. The female deities, then, are key to understanding the Four of Swords. The Transit of Venus is a celestial event at which time Venus changes identity from evening star to morning star, from preceding the Sun to following the Sun. Venus’ movement is the metaphor for the Divine Feminine rising–Aphrodite rising from the sea at Cypress. Waite’s divinatory meanings communicate a fork in the road, a bi-directional path for his soldier. He moves forward by falling behind; by putting down his weapon so that he can pray. In Chesed, the qabalistic influence, we see the “mechanics” of the process. Chesed can be said to represent another “bi-directional” arrangement: a contract between God and the people. This is the “piety of people towards God, as well as grace, favor or mercy of God towards people.” The card is a “snapshot” of two vectors in the “lives” of the dead Knight. And the transit of Venus is a metaphor by which we can depict two opposing vectors in the same snapshot; or two opposing divinatory meanings.

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The Seven of Swords – A One Page Guide

The Seven of Swords draws us in deeply. It makes us wonder what the story behind it is: is it simple theft or a military operation? It holds drama: will he be caught? Colman Smith illustrates Waite’s divinatory meanings, centered around a cunning but risky plan, taking the story of Zeus and Ganymede as her cue. That Colman Smith depicts the thief at a moment when it looks like he’s going to pull the job off adds a positive spin to the divinatory meanings of the Seven of Swords. This is like a modern heist film in which the gang of thieves are the heroes. Previously I had looked on this as a card only of sneakiness and theft. But now I look at it as something that speaks of planning and intelligence, possibly bravery; definitely high risk, high gain. It’s been fun forcing myself to look at each of the minor arcana as if I’d never really looked at it before. The Seven of Swords was a particularly fun one.

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The Nine of Swords – A One Page Guide

The underlying story of the Nine of Swords is life-and-death health issues, specifically those affecting women. Yesod and the Magician chiefly influence the “nightmare” setting of the design. Mercury/quicksilver and Air, not just as a classical element, but because it represents blood as a classical humor leads us to quickening and pregnancy. From there Waite’s words lead inexorably to Adam and Eve and what he calls her “imputed lapse.” Far from just a woman awoken from a nightmare with nine swords of Damocles above her head, the Nine of Swords represents Eve’s “lapse,” man’s ultimate rise afterwards, and those swords? They just may be there to protect her.

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