I’m not drunk, because I’m working, but I have had a scone with jam and clotted cream and a hot chocolate with crushed Cadbury eggs in it, so I wouldn’t call my state of mind normal, as such, albeit for me a semi-constant sugar high is pretty standard.
And if any cards go with sobriety, the Swords royalty are them. (You really want to be drunk for the Nine and Ten, likewise for the Devil and Tower, each in their own ways, and Temperance isn’t about being sober, despite the name–it’s about being just the right amount of drunk, the right amount of the time.) The King and Queen, at their best, are both about clear thinking, the wise use of power, and the ability to step back and see what the fuck is actually going on. Much as I enjoy a drink or three, none of that goes with booze.
The Queen of Swords is a (generally) dark-haired woman in fancy, flowy robes, often some variety of blue and white. She’s holding a sword, point up, and classically enthroned, though some cards have her standing dramatically on the edge of a cliff. There are nearly always clouds in the background, and usually a river and a tree and some mountains as well. This is really the Most Nineties Fantasy Cover of Tarot cards, except for the ones that are blatantly Elizabeth I.
This one was also a TV series title, of course, and has at least a few namesake novels.
The Swords royalty are really the most classically royal, as is unsurprising in a suit dealing with power. This is a person who’s got good judgment, as a general rule–not so much insight, but a lot of knowledge and the smarts to apply it well–and they make it without bias and with an awareness of the Spider Man-style responsibility they’ve got. The Queen is careful, but they’re also decisive: they’ll weigh all the information available, but then make a decision rather than dithering.
In the way of Swords, this can come off as harsh, and, indeed, the Queen of Swords doesn’t have a lot of time or energy for the softer considerations of life. Ideally she’s not unsympathetic, but the sob story only goes so far–“well, that’s too bad, but….” is a phrase that she might apply a lot. The negative potential gets at all the Scheming Woman archetypes in fiction, from Lady MacBeth to Miranda Priestly to Lloth: goals matter, the situation matters, and nobody who stands in their way does.
Many interpretations say that the figure is someone who’s known sorrow, which makes sense: when you make a decision and stick to it, especially when you have the power to do that, you often piss people off, or sacrifice some part of your life. That’s sad, but that’s not the end of the world–indeed, “sadness is not the end of the world” is a pretty good Swords summary.
The King of Swords:
In appearance and posture, he resembles the Queen a lot: throned or sometimes standing, holding a sword, dressed in blue and white. There are generally more mountains and fewer clouds in the background.
Speaking of biased interpretations, this card has never been my favorite: there were a lot of readings for me where it was associated with my at-the-time boyfriend and Surly Friend Guy and other Men Who Knew What was Best For People. The failing of king-type people in general is that of extending responsibility too far, and the intellect of Swords can combine with that to produce a really obnoxious form of moral certainty slash authoritarianism: the sort who got deeply annoyed when other people didn’t run their lives by his principles, and would constantly try to argue them into doing so.
(The King of Pentacles, gone wrong, is classic Overprotective Dad: nobody is taking care of themselves well enough, and nobody has good enough health insurance, and why haven’t you gotten someone to check out that noise in your car OMG YOU’RE GONNA DIE. King of Cups can be either The World Must Understand My Art guy, Dark Messiah, or Super-Incel Stage 5 Whiner/Clinger. King of Wands, we’ll get to.)
That said, this card has as much potential for good as any other, and a good King of Swords is great to have around as a manager, a commander, a head of state, or even a friend. As you might guess, if you’ve been following this blog, this is a person who’s good with knowledge, power, and freedom–and at his best, they use the first to balance the second two. They’re strong and commanding, but they’re also honest and fair, and they have the self-knowledge to know the limits of their authority.
“When all philosophies shall fail,
This word alone shall fit;
That a sage feels too small for life,
And a fool too large for it.”
–King Alfred, by way of G.K. Chesterton, and I think apt.
And that’s Swords! Next time: Wands, but before that, Resonance, or Why Originality Is Bullshit