10 Lessons from the Minor Arcana: The Suit of Swords

 10 Lessons from the Minor Arcana: the Suit of Swords and Swords Tarot Cheatsheet!

This post is part of a blog post series exploring the tarot card meanings through storytelling. 

For the major arcana, the story is told from the point of view of the Fool who is undertaking his journey through the arcana. The rest of the posts are from the point of view of another character who has heard about the Fool's Journey and goes on a journey of her own.

If you've already read the previous posts in this series you'll know that we've already completed our fictional Fool's Journey through the major arcana and we're continuing our journey through the land of tarot with a new protagonist, the Traveller. 

By now, we've already journeyed through the kingdoms of wands, and cups!

Today, Traveller will explore the Kingdom of Swords! 

Posts in the series include:

If this is your first time here, start at the beginning. The major arcana, minor arcana, and court cards can also be read as stand-alone sections as well but for maximum benefit I recommend going in order.

Otherwise, welcome back and let's continue with our journey!

Keep reading to get your FREE Tarot Cheatsheets!


The swords kingdom a militaristic and intellectual society full of strategists, conquerors, inventors, masterminds, and scholars. Swords people think, fight, and act with cool logic. They are very mentally sharp and can sometimes come across as very direct.

Swords and the Element of Air

Right, so let's take a moment to talk about the elemental energy of the suit of swords.

The four suits and major arcana in tarot correspond to five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. The major arcana represents the element of spirit, and larger, universal life forces. Last time we talked about how wands is related to the element of fire and how cups is related to water. 

What about swords? Well, swords represents the element of air. When you think the the energy of the air element what comes to mind? Well, mind is exactly the right word here because air represents the mind! 

Namely, air encompasses the following qualities:

  • Intellect
  • Ideas
  • Mental clarity
  • Communication
  • Movement

 

The swords kingdom is full of people that embody these qualities. Swords people are very analytical people who spend a lot of time in their own minds. 

It's not just that, though. The thing is that when you consider the suit of swords you should not only consider the elemental qualities but the actual sword itself. What does a sword represent to you? 

To me a sword represents:

  • Conflict
  • Aggression
  • War
  • Power
  • Leadership

Okay, so now combine those elemental qualities with this list of qualities associated with the symbolism of the sword. If you were to imagine a culture that represented all those things what would you get? 

You would get a militaristic and intellectual society full of strategists, conquerors, inventors, masterminds, and scholars. Swords people think, fight, and act with cool logic. They are very mentally sharp and can sometimes come across as very direct. They are a kingdom full of people that tend to 'cut the crap' and 'cut to the chase' so to speak.

By the way, a little tiny side note: if any of you like Fantasy novels and like Brandon Sanderson, I just have to say that this culture of militaristic people and scholars I just described makes me think of the Kingdom of Alethkar from his Stormlight Archive series. 

Now that we've set the scene a little bit, let's dive back in to the story!

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Ace of Swords


Lesson of the Ace of Swords

Seek clarity in your situation. A clear vision is your roadmap to success.

 Ace of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

You found yourself standing in a rocky mountainous landscape. Am I still in Cups? You looked around not recognising anything you saw. There was nothing here but rocks, mountain peaks, and the clear blue sky. 

You shivered. The air here was cold, sharp, and crisp. Not at all like the mild and warm lowland climate of Cups. You were definitely not in Cups any more. 

You had been feeling restless these past few days. As if it were time to move on. This has got to be another one of those weird dreams.

Suddenly, as if in response to your thoughts, the wind picked up. Within moments you saw it appear in the sky. A hand burst forth out of nowhere, holding a sword up high. The sword easily cut through the clouds and glinted in the sunlight. It looked so majestic. Especially with that laurel resting upon its tip.

The sword zoomed towards you and hovered a short distance in front of you. "I am the Guardian of the Kingdom of Swords!" said a loud, rather brusque sounding, make voice.

You opened you mouth to respond. "Save me your foolish questions human! I don't have a lot of time" said the sword.

You closed your mouth, surprised. Pretty sassy for a talking sword. "I am here to offer you the gifts of communication, mental, clarity, and vision! I offer you passage to the Kingdom of Swords! Do you accept?" said the sword in a booming voice.

"That's all? This usually takes a little longer" you said. "Don't I get a further explanation?"

"Expecting me to be as wishy washy as the Cups Guardian? Hah!" scoffed the sword. "Doesn't need any more words. Got the point across didn't I, traveller?" The sword didn't have a face but you got the distinct impression that if it had eyes, it would be rolling them at you right now.

"This is not going to be easy. My kingdom is full of challenges. If you're expecting a walk in the garden then turn back right now. Do you accept?" it asked again.

A trip to the Kingdom of Swords, home of the airkeepers. You didn't know why but somehow the idea thrilled you and scared you at the same time. 

"Well? I haven't got all day!"

"Yes! Yes, I accept!" you said. Within an instant the sword appeared in your hand. As soon as you hand gripped the hilt you felt a surge of energy course through your veins.

In that instant it felt like your mind was working faster than the speed of light. Thousands of thoughts and ideas passed through your brain and you felt...strong! You felt like a warrior, ready to take on anything. You raised the sword up high and gave a shout in triumph!

The next instant, you found yourself in bed. You were still in your friend's home in Cups. You tried desperately to remember all those wonderful ideas you had but they were gone now. 

You looked down and saw the sword beside you. Gods above! That sword was something else! You picked it up, feeling crystal clear about where you were headed next: the Kingdom of Swords.

Two of Swords


Lesson of the Two of Swords

Take the time to properly weigh your options before making a decision.

 Two of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

It had taken you a couple of weeks to make it to the highlands from the coastal Cups kingdom, but here you were. You had trekked up the mountain and the sword you held granted you free passage, as always. 

You were now approaching a large body of water: the Lake of Swords. Supposedly, there was a city nearby. You looked up. It was twilight and the moon was already starting to rise. Better find that city before dark!

You kept walking along the lakeside until you saw a woman sitting atop a stone seat. I wonder what she's doing? You got a closer.

The dark haired woman was blindfolded and holding two crossed swords pointing up. She seemed to be be wearing blue ceremonial robes of some kind. 

You approached her carefully and tapped her on the shoulder. "Excuse me, madam. I'm so sorry to interrupt your..ah..vigil...but I was wondering what you are doing?"

"What concern is it of yours?" said the woman, rather directly. "Can't you see I'm facing a dilemma and must not be disturbed! Don't you recognise the pose? This is the ritual for the Blessing of Decisions"

"I'm sorry, I don't understand. You see I'm a traveller and I'm new to these parts. I just wanted to ask you direction to the city" you said. 

The woman sighed and lowered her swords. She took off her blindfold with a sigh. "Bother. Well, it wasn't helping anyway. I can't seem to decide and I'd like to help you but I promised myself not to leave here until I've made a decision"

"Alright" you said. "Let me help you then. Perhaps you would benefit from a third person's perspective"

She looked at you and widened her eyes. "Yes! Maybe that's just the thing I need" 

"So tell me, what's the issue here?" you asked.

Her shoulders sagged. "I don't know where to begin or how to explain this to an outsider" she said.

"Try me" you said, gently.

"Okay. Well, I don't know if the news has travelled outside of Swords yet but we're on the brink of civil war here. The old king has just died and has chosen his younger son as heir" she began. 

"Wait. The younger son is heir?" you asked, confused. That's not how it usually goes.

"Yes. You see, here in Swords, crown is not passed to the first born. Not necessarily. The king chooses the child that he feels is most capable. The new king has a reputation for being level-headed, just, and a strategic thinker. The older son has little support. He's fit for war but not for leadership, they say" she explained.

"Alright" you said. "But why is the civil war bothering you so much?" 

The woman chewed her lip nervously. She kept silent for a moment and took a deep breath, as if trying to keep calm. "Because I love him" she said in a shaky voice. "Oh Gods! I thought I would have better control over myself than this!" she said as her eyes misted over.

She took several deep breaths and seemed to regain some control over herself. That was...impressive. Not at all healthy, but impressive nevertheless. 

"I see" you said, finally. "I think I understand now. Your head and your heart are at war with each other are they not?"

She nodded. "I've been sitting here for hours. He's asked me for my support. He wants me to marry him! He's waiting for my answer tonight!" she looked away. "I dearly want to but I...I'm not sure I should. By all accounts his rebellion is doomed to fail and I can't throw the lives of my men away nor risk my house losing favour with the current king!" 

"That's rough" you said. "And it's a tough decision, I can see that. But you have to make a decision at some point. From what you've told me it looks like you've already weighed the pros and the cons and made up your mind"

She looked at you for a moment and then nodded slowly. "I guess you're right. I know what I have to do, I have to convince him to lay down his arms" she said. She stood up. "Come with me, traveller, we can go back to the city together"

Three of Swords


Lesson of the Three of Swords

Time heals all wounds. Don’t let your sorrows define you.

 Three of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

The dark-haired woman collapsed in a heap of tears right outside the front of her family's mausoleum. Apparently, this was their meeting spot. People didn't come very often to this part of the grounds.

The woman insisted on stopping by here first to meet her lover and deliver her response. He was expecting her tonight, she had said.

Her confrontation with the rebel prince went spectacularly badly. You held her as she wept, patting her back.

"I can't believe he said those things to me! I thought he would understand! He doesn't love me!" Her shoulders shook as her body was wracked with sobs. "He thinks I'm a power hungry harpy and that just wants to please the new king! Why can't he see that I feel no joy in this?"

"There, there" you said. "He's just hurt, that's all. We all say things in anger sometimes that we don't mean"

"He threw the engagement ring away and said he never wanted to see me again! I tried to stop him from starting this war but..." she didn't finish the sentence and instead simply wept. 

You looked up at the stained glass window on the wall of the mausoleum. It depicted three crossed swords piercing through a bleeding heart. It was an almost scary depiction of the situation your friend was now in. She was heartbroken and wounded. 

There was nothing else you could do but lend her a shoulder to cry on. "Let it all out, my friend" you said, gently. You held her as she wept. 

She would feel a little less wretched in the morning, and even less wretched as time went on. She was suffering now but from what you saw at the lake, she was a hardy woman, and she would find a way to pick herself back up and she would find another way. You knew it.

Four of Swords


Lesson of the Four of Swords

Now is the time to rest, relax, and heal. Take care of and be at peace with yourself.

 Four of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

An hour had passed. Your friend had cried her heart out until there were no more tears left. It was fully dark now and there wasn't enough time to travel to the city or even across the grounds into your friend's home.

You glanced at your friend. Her nose was red and her eyes were bloodshot. She probably wouldn't be up for a journey anywhere. She needed to rest. Besides, it wasn't safe out here at night.

You looked at the tall stone façade of the mausoleum. You didn't relish spending the night in a mausoleum but it looked like you had no other choice. It would have to be here.

You helped your friend up and pointed at the mausoleum. "Looks like we'll have to spend the night here" you said.

She looked at you with a blank expression and simply nodded. Poor girl. She looked exhausted. She slowly walked up to the large iron door, pulled the key out of her bag, and unlocked the door. The rusty hinge of the old door creaked loudly as she swung it open.

It wasn't as dark inside as you thought it would be. The moonlight shone through the stained glass bathing the room in a dim light. A place that would have otherwise felt dark and oppressive instead came across as peaceful. The silence and cool atmosphere felt comforting instead of eerie.

Your friend walked into the centre of the tomb and rested her hand on the carved stone sarcophagus lying in the centre of the room. You couldn't make out all the details but it looked like a knight.

"This is my ancestor" said your friend. "He's the founder of our house. He fought in many wars and was rewarded for his loyal service with these lands and a lordship" She walked around the sarcophagus. "He spent his whole life fighting" she said. "That's what I wanted to avoid" she said, sadly.

You sat down, resting your back against the sarcophagus and motioned for her to do the same. She sat down next to you. "Now is not the time for that. Tomorrow is a new day and we can find another way to stop him and avoid bloodshed. For now just rest, let your mind be at peace" you said.

She sighed. "I suppose you're right. I'm no good to anyone in this state"

"Just rest and put it out of your mind for now. Sometimes you need to stop to heal before you can take on the world anew" you said. She nodded and lay down on the stone floor to rest. 

Five of Swords


Lesson of the Five of Swords

Words can be as sharp as any blade. Carefully examine how you treat others and allow them to treat you.

 Five of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

It had been two days since your friend's confrontation with the rebel prince. You had stayed at her family home and used the time to plan your next move. She told you that he was planning an attack on the city.

It wasn't the capital, not by far, but a lot of people would die and it would be a blow to his brother. She was adamant that the both of you should find a way to stop this before it got out of hand. 

You now approached his camp site outside the city alone. Your friend thought that he might listen to reason if it came from a neutral party like you. He would most certainly still be hurt and wouldn't want to see her.

"You there! Go no further and state your business!" said the guard stationed at the perimeter. Him and his fellow men pointed their spears at you.

You raised your hands to indicate you were no threat. "I come in peace!" you called out. "I am here to speak with your leader"

The guard scoffed. "You? Speak with His Majesty? And why should he speak to a ragged looking traveller like you?"

"Because I am here on behalf of his lover" you said. Swords people seemed to respond best to directness so you thought it best not to mince your words here. 

The guard lowered his spear instantly. "His Majesty was in a foul mood last night. There are rumours that he quarrelled with her" he said. He paused for a moment as if judging whether to let you through or not.

"Would you stand in the way of their reconciliation?" you said. 

"No" he said with a frown. "Alright, come with me" he said and led you through the camp.

It was a busy camp site. Some men were training together for the upcoming battle. some fought with loyalty and dedication in their faces while others only hald heartedly participated. Others huddled together by the fire, quietly having a meal. There was no joking, no camaraderie, just resigned expressions.

It was obvious that these men had mixed feelings about the rebellion. You could use this to make your case.

You reached the prince's tent and waited while the guard went inside. After a moment, you were called in.

The prince leaned over his desk, studying some maps. He was a well-built battle-hardened veteran with a scar across his face. Certainly not like any prince you would expect to see. This one was renowned for his battle prowess. You hoped this meeting would go well. You'd hate to be on this man's bad side.

The prince looked up and scowled at you as you walked in. "So she sends an errand girl to send her message? Can't face me herself can she?" he spat.

"Look, she sent me because she knew you wouldn't receive her, wouldn't hear her out" you said.

"Damn right, I wouldn't! I loved her and she abandoned me when I most needed it! I can't believe she'd prefer my brother over me" He slammed his fists on the desk. 

You approached him slowly. "It's not about that and you know it. If you go through with this you will lose many of your men. I mean just look at them. Half of them don't look like they have the will to fight! Your men will die, your people in the city will die, and you know your brother has more support and superior forced. You cannot win! If you lay down your arms now you'll live and she can't bear to see you hurt" you said.

"You think I don't know the stakes here?" he said, all but shouting at you. "I deserve the crown not my brother! I fought all of father's wars and I won all that land for him while my brother sat behind a desk plotting politics"

"That may be the case but your father chose him and if you go through with this you may lose your life. If you stop now you can still live a happy life with her. You can continue to fight for your kingdom at your brother's side" you said.

"I would rather die than stand by that man! No. I will see this through no matter the cost" His expression hardened. "Now get out of my tent before I run you through!"

You quickly left the tent and started making your way back, your shoulders slumped in defeat. You wondered how you were going to break the news to your friend.

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Six of Swords


Lesson of the Six of Swords

Life is about the journey not the destination. Chart your course and trust that better times lie ahead.

 Six of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

You looked back at the burning city as your boat sailed across the lake, heading towards the royal forces camp site. 

The battle raged on for weeks and many lives were lost on both sides, just as you predicted. However, the rebel prince won. He managed to take the city. 

On either side of you there were many other boats filled with refugees fleeing the city. When it was clear that the battle would be lost the royal forces sent these boats over to help as many people escape as they could. 

Many people wept as they left their homes behind. Your friend wept too, initially, but now she stared forward resolutely as she gripped a box filled with her most precious belongings. She hadn't looked back once since boarding the vessel.

"What are you thinking?" you asked. She hadn't spoken a word since you left.

"That I've decided to try and put what happened behind me as best I can and move forward. The city is lost now, there is nothing we can do about that" she said.

You nodded. "You're right. It's better to move forward and trust that things will get better. We're heading to the royal camp, we'll be safe there and not to mention we can speak to the king and plead for the prince's life" you said.

"That's what I'm holding on to" she said. "A new plan for new shores" 

Seven of Swords


Lesson of the Seven of Swords

Now is the time for stealth and discretion in your actions.

 Seven of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

You had been in the camp for several days now and expressed your intention to support the cause. Your friend had officially pledged herself to the king and was given a tent.

You weren't allowed in but after that exchange, your friend said that she thought the king was not aware of her relationship with his brother. After that, you rarely got to see the king at all.

Your friend paced back and forth in the tent. "It's been days and we still haven't been able to get an audience with His Majesty!" she said. 

"Why don't you just say that you have vital information and directly ask to be allowed to see the king?" Swords people were usually rather direct were they not? You didn't see the point of this.

"No! If the king finds out how I feel about his brother then he may doubt my loyalty. He won't listen to me then" she said.

"How are you going to plead for the prince's life if you don't want to say why or how you know him?" you said. 

She looked uncertain. "Look, there just has to be another way alright?" 

Suddenly there was a commotion coming from outside the tent. There were shouts and it sounded like the alarm had been rung. "What's all that about?" you said. You went outside to see what was going on.

"Traitor!" called out one soldier.

"Thief!" exclaimed another.

An officer was quickly heading towards the king's tent. "Excuse me! Can you tell us what's happened?" you said, standing in his path. 

"There's been a theft! An agent of the enemy has raided our weapons cache! Most of out swords are gone!" he exclaimed and continued on.

You looked at your friend. She had gone as white as a ghost. "You think its..?"

She nodded. "He's resorting to deception and thievery now? What was he thinking?"

"You know what you have to do now don't you?" I said. "You've got to speak with the king before this gets out of hand!" 

Your friend slowly nodded. "I guess we have no choice now" she said. 

Eight of Swords


Lesson of the Eight of Swords

The only limits to self empowerment are those that you place upon yourself.

 Eight of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

It had been several hours since you last saw your friend and you started to get worried. Her discussion with the king can't have taken that long. you searched everywhere in the camp and she was nowhere to be found.

Finally, you had asked the guards stationed outside the king's tent. All they said was that the king was angry and she was taken out of the camp site. They told you how to find her.

You followed their direction and found her within walking distance of the camp site, situated half way in between the king's camp and the rebel camp.

She was dressed only in her shift and was surrounded by eight swords driven into the ground, four on either side. Her hands were securely bound and she had a blindfold on. 

"Gods! Are you alright? What's going on?" you asked, running towards her.

"Can't you see? I'm being punished!" she said.

"For what? Your relationship with the king's brother? I can't believe he would punish you for something like that! Did you explain that he terminated your engagement you because you refused to support his cause?"

"It's not that. I'm being punished for not being honest with him from the outset. He distrusts me and now I'm trapped here!" she exclaimed. She was trembling with fear. 

Wait, trapped? The swords were not blocking her passage, she could walk out any time she wanted. "You're not trapped. Just try to walk towards my voice. There aren't any swords blocking your path"

"Yes there are! I can't do this! I'm afraid! I'm weak! I couldn't do a single thing to help! I deserve this punishment. Leave me alone!" she said, her voice quaking with fear.

You walked up to her and cut her bonds. "I'm here. There were no swords blocking me, you can do this, and honestly you're one of the strongest women I know! You do not deserve this" you said. "I believe in you. Please believe in yourself" 

She seemed to calm down a little. Finally, she took off her blindfold. "You really think I'm the strongest woman you know?"

You nodded. "Almost certainly! Remember this, my friend, the only thing stopping you is your own fear and doubt. Now, let's stop and assess the situation shall we? You can make sense of it I'm sure of it"

"Alright" she said and looked around. "Well, I was taken in the direction of the prince's camp but left here half way, bound, and with swords driven into the ground"

"Bound but free to go" you said.

"The king is a master strategist. There was a purpose behind this" she said, thoughtfully. After a long pause, she figured it out. "This was a test. He wanted to see if I was strong enough to overcome my own limitations, and once I did, he wanted to see which way I would go"

"See! I knew you could figure this out!" you said with a wide smile. "So? Which way do we go?"

"Back to see the king" she said, and strode forward. "To make our final plea" All of her fear and doubt had vanished. Instead, her eyes shone with a fierce determination.

Nine of Swords


Lesson of the Nine of Swords

Your thoughts do not have power over you. Control them, let them go, and make peace with your own mind.

 Nine of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

You lay awake in your tent, staring up at the ceiling. You couldn't sleep. Tomorrow, the king and the rebel prince would finally face off. You kept thinking about the battle.

It seemed like your friend couldn't sleep either. She'd been tossing and turning the entire time. You couldn't blame her. She'd gone back and spoken to the king. He was impressed that she passed that little test of his and had chosen to come back. 

He heard her case and said that once defeated, he will give his brother one final chance to pledge his fealty to him. If he did, he would be allowed to live. If he refused, there would be no mercy.

You friend sat upright. "Oh! It's no use!" she exclaimed and buried her face in her hands. "He's gonna die! My prince is gonna die tomorrow!" she said, weeping softly.

You placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Hey! You don't know that! He might surrender and live to see you, to be with you again" you said. 

"But he might not! What if he doesn't?" 

"We won't know until tomorrow. I know you feel scared and anxious but don't let yourself be consumed by these negative thoughts. Tomorrow isn't here yet and he may yet live. Try to let it go for now and get some rest okay?" you said, gently.

"I can't! I can't!" she wailed and started to cry again. You held her as she wept. This was going to be a long night. You hoped things would work out tomorrow.

Ten of Swords


Lesson of the Ten of Swords

Endings make way for new beginnings and when you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s no where else to go but up.

 Ten of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

Ever since your friend heard the news, she was like a walking corpse. She didn't react, she didn't say anything, she just started walking towards the battlefield. 

"Stop!" you said, running after her. She kept walking. You grabbed her arm. "Look, are you sure you want to go there? To see this?" She yanked her arm away and just kept walking. 

There was nothing to be done but follow her. You couldn't leave her alone in such a state. The battlefield was filled with bloody corpses. Your heart sank at the sight. 

You covered your nose and mouth as you walked by them. Your friend didn't say thing. Just kept checking the corpses one by one. And then you saw it.There he was. The rebel prince. His death was brutal. He had ten swords buried in his back. 

Your friend let out a gut wrenching scream and ran towards his corpse. "No!" She collapsed into a fit of tears, cradling his head in her arms.

Your own eyes misted over at the sight. After all you had been through, it ended like this. She rocked back and forwards, clutching him to her breast, unwilling to get him go. 

You held her as she wept. "Shh, it's over now. It's all over"

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Wow, that was rough wasn't it?

The swords suit represents life's challenges, conflicts, and difficulties. It contains more challenging cards than any other suit in the minor arcana. By learning from the suit of swords, we can learn to overcome those challenges in our own lives.

What did you learn from our journey through the Kingdom of Swords?

After our rough journey through the land of swords, our protagonist gets a bit of respite. In the next part, she will journey through the verdant and abundant green lands of the suit of pentacles!

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Tarot Card Images: Robin Wood Tarot by Robin Wood © 2002 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved, used by permission.