The Suit of Swords Card Meanings

 Ghosts and the undead rule in the most depressing of the suits.


Ghosts and the undead rule in the most depressing of the suits.

Ace of Swords

Element: Air; Ghosts, possession, and the undead

+ A death; something wicked on the horizon

– Negotiating a relationship

Ghosts are a symbol of lasting trauma or the  troubles we struggle to carry. Tales of poltergeist or possession explore themes of oppression and rage. The Swords address these burdens and also explores different reactions to grief, struggle, and loss.

The sky  holds a message: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

The Ace of Swords is the most direct within the deck. Live by the sword and you are likely to get your eye poked out—or worse. The air element associated with this suit dovetails with this theme, adding a layer of anxiety and fear to each card going forward. The graveyard in this card is a promise. We all die, it’s just how we get there that differs.


Two of Swords

Pronouns: None

+ Tepid truce

– A grudge

The Ghost of the Two of Swords is divided between the urge to fight or flee. The Two cards are always about options and in this case none of them are particularly fantastic which leaves the ghost in a state of suspension between two blades. Where the vampires of the Two of Cups were all about rapport, the Ghost is navigating tension and strain. One eye is focused on an answer while the other is blind, leaving the Ghost with no depth perception. This card is usually bad news so if it shows up, let the other cards around it determine how negative the mindset is. It could be a wake up call that while you might not think it, you are way more pissed than you are letting on.


Three of Swords

+ Literal heartbreak

– Pressure from the crowd

This is an iconic card and is always a blast to draw. This anatomical heart is not only being ripped apart by the swords but squeezed by swollen, yellow, rotted hands. The muscly heart has bit of sinew being pulled apart. It’s an omen of some gnarly shit. The upside: at least this card is balancing on that center sword! A fight has broken out and regardless of the outcome it will be intense on both sides. In a reading this card could reference an imbalance of power in a relationship—romantic or otherwise. 


Four of Swords

Pronouns: None

+ Tired of hurting

– Depression as a ghost 

While fours are stable cards symbolically, in the case of the Four of Swords it means the trains are still running on time but the mood is a heavy one. Removing genitalia and any gendered features shifts centers the focus of the card on the pose—one of anguish, isolation, and discomfort. Nothing lasts forever and neither will this current state. What does the next card in the story have to say? Hopefully this is just a dump in the road. Without the bad, we can never have the good to compare it to. Things will eventually change.


Five of Swords

Pronouns: She, her (Regan) He, him (Pazuzu)

+ Clash of wills; someone who enjoys other people’s misery

– Cold and bitter standoff; meaningless sacrifice 

This illustrator could not in good conscious make a guide with horror references and not feature her favorite possession film. Pazuzu here has made a home in young Regan in the film The Exorcist (1973). Possession stories stem from the horror of corrupted youth or innocence; the loss . When this film was created in the 1970s, America was going through it at the time both abroad in Vietnam and at home. This anxiety played out in horror at the time 

It doesn’t get more conflict heavy than the five of swords. It makes sense that a battle for the soul should illustrate such a card. This card is the road rage fueled car crash of the tarot. It is selfish, unkind, and generally super duper bad news. When rage becomes contagious, like a demon that we can be possessed by, it creates something more dangerous than just one bad attitude—a horde.


Six of Swords

Pronouns: He, him

+ Attempting a geographic cure or transition in order to distance oneself from the problem; turning away from the fight; leaving a frustrating situation

– Division; fracturing; PTSD

Our knight looks over his shoulder at his pursuer. Even though he is in rough shape, his spirit continues forward in an attempt to flee. His dark red hair flows into the profuse amount of blood and organs falling out of his body­. His own sword has been lost but the six swords responsible for his wounds are still wreaking havoc on his eviscerated body. This ghost has been through it and is attempting to flee. He confidence and strength are gone—now it’s about protecting what is left. This card signals a turn for the worse and a desire to distance oneself from the situation. When we can’t trust someone or be authentically ourselves it’s time to get out.


Seven of Swords

+ Transition from bad to worse; immediate danger; fleeing

– A new and unimaginable hell awaits!

While touched upon in other parts of this deck, The Seven of Swords is the card that directly addresses body image issues. The appendages of several different bodies have been removed and pinned together with swords to create a sliced up flesh beast with no head. The hands are grasping while the feet begin to dissolve into the spreading puddle of blood and viscera. Unwanted and negative thoughts about our bodies are imposed on us by outside forces. Impossible standards are called that for a reason but there is some kind of sick idea that maybe somehow we are different and can achieve the very impossible dream. These awful thoughts are tricksters and thieves that run away with our dignity and sanity.


Eight of Swords

Pronouns: They, them, we, us

+ Wrapped up in something dark and confusing

– Unable to see an escape

The forms were once independent bodies but have been pressed together into a new combined being. Without the energy or ability to attempt a decoupling they have become an unhappy “we”. They are forever and regrettably dependent on each other, in a fleshy trap.  

The face that we can see is not focused on any particular object. Where as the Devil card is about being in a rut and making a choice to walk a different path, the Eight of Swords looks out on nothing. They have lost the willingness to focus on a new goal or next step.  


Nine of Swords

Pronouns: She, her

+ Anxiety and grief

– Fear hanging over (or through) your head

Grief, fear, and anxiety rule this Nine of Swords. Instead of letting these Swords hang over her head, they go straight through, removing her ability to think and act. From the outside though, she’s keeping it cute and carrying on. 

This is the burden of anxiety. It flourishes on the inside, feeding on the tiniest morsel of odd thought. When the pot boils over, it can’t be stopped. 

Anxiety, grief, and depression have very unpleasant symptoms that tend to worsen the relationships needed for a healthy social life. It’s a wicked and vicious cycle that can require a combination of medication and therapy to work through. Don’t use this deck or any deck to solve a mental health issue. This illustrator is not a doctor. Seek out the experts and get the help you deserve.  


Ten of Swords

Pronouns: Unknown

+ Death

– Morning a loss; the underworld; far gone

The Ten of Swords signals a death or a persistent grief. Many cards cover this aspect of life but it felt important to acknowledge the loss of love for our own bodies. 

In a world where we are trained to fear a scale and are forced to believe that only one body shape is the standard for us all we learn to hate the skin we are in and lack appreciation for the functional and beautiful being we are.  Whether it is fatphobia or fat shaming, it all becomes blatant character assassination wrapped in psychological abuse. 

I wonder if we can be too far gone to recover a sense of self love. Can our brains get too twisted or is there such thing as relief from the toxic standard?


Page of Swords 

Pronouns: She, her

+ Crippling, anxious fear; fear of being new or change

– Working yourself up; over-hyped

Starting something can be terrifying. In the suit of Wands a symbolic fire is lit under our asses and we burn with excitement and enthusiasm. The more pensive air sign of Swords is a changing wind invoking storm clouds. Fear has pulled this Page apart—similar to the face peeling scene in Poltergeist or Evil Dead. Her anxiety about this life change is playing out literally on her face. The truth is, we are all terrified of change. Everyone around you is far more worried about their own bullshit to be concerned with yours. The worst part of a new thing can be taking the first step. You might fail but you will learn. The caveat is when this life change could put you at greater risk. As this is being written, violence against transgender and non-gender conforming people is on the rise. This is a real fear faced by many in the community. It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect and advocate for our siblings and their safety, attempting to alleviate their burden. 

August 30, 2022 — Genevieve Barbee-Turner