I return! With weaponry! And six-dollar cherry-flavored Manischevitz, which is really good, y’all. I don’t know why this stuff has a bad reputation. Also, it’s a really pretty color. Like, I think Merry Gentry’s hair is like that in the books where she gets to bang all the cute fae guys.
Okay okay okay swords.
Swords are air, unless they’re fire. There’s a *whole* bunch of occult arguments going on about that one, and Michael the Archangel gets involved. But the way I was taught, they were air, so they’re air.
Air is the abstractest of the elements. It’s all about the intellect, as well as power and freedom, which both require you to separate yourself from everything else. Power is viewing everything from above and having the knowledge to pull the requisite strings; freedom is saying fuck that noise, whatever the noise is, and having enough power that the noise in question can get fucked.
Positive aspects of swords: intelligence, assertiveness, freedom. Negative: black-and-white thinking, a tendency to be autocratic, and, I suppose, emotional repression and an avoidance of commitment, if you’re the sort of weirdo who thinks those are bad things.
When we get into specific card meanings, swords have a tendency to be, traditionally, The Worst. There are like two non-face cards in the suit where the standard meaning doesn’t include some element of clusterfuckery and woe, and the Ten of Swords is basically It Sucks To Be You, with the one positive aspect But It Might Not Always, Maybe. I went into the likely reasons for that in the Cups suit–Victorian counterculture being all “yay emotions emotions are amazing” as a counter to a world of stiff upper lips, the problems with applying the intellect of this world to the supernatural, and the fact that it’s a lot easier to kill someone with a sword than with any other suit symbol, though admittedly I’ve never tested this in a rigorous laboratory setting.
There’s another possibility I’ve thought of, too. Air is communication and language, traditionally. And these are great, but they can also be limiting: there’s a lot of mystic tradition that putting a numinous experience into words detracts from its numinosity, because we really don’t have the vocabulary for that sort of thing. Language, and intellectual constructs, shape thought, and sometimes limit that thought. Likewise, to really be free in some ways actually requires imposing a lot of limitations, whether on you or others: being a footloose wanderer, unless you’re a dick, pretty much requires you not to start a family. Being free of other people’s expectations involves telling those people to go piss up a rope, more often than not. Not getting the flu, or worrying about getting the flu, means sticking a needle into your arm and sometimes your arm swells up and turns purple for a couple days but it’s worth it; get your damn shots, people.
And power just about always hurts to get, even if you’re getting it for the right reasons.
So swords are, like, okay, you can do these things, and sometimes you even should do these things, but let’s not fucking kid ourselves that it’s going to be sunshine and rainbows in the process, all right?
They’re also phallic as hell, if you’re into that kind of thing.