2019! The year that…something. Despite the Tarot-ness of this blog, I actually make very few long-term predictions. With any luck, it’s the year that I finish Drunk Tarot, or, in this case, Idle Bus-Riding Tarot: not that I don’t enjoy it, but given that there’s one and three-quarters Minor Arcana suits left, the timetable seems obvious unless I get abducted by aliens or my life gets ridiculous, and I’d prefer neither happened. Probably. Except for values of “ridiculous” that involve glamorous parties and interesting men and/or values of “aliens” likewise.
Insert segue here.
Three of Swords
Not much variation on this one, and not much subtlety either: a three-way heart-ka-bab. Some decks show it raining in the background, and others show a whole person getting stabbed, in case you didn’t get the message from the plain old excessively stabbed vital organ. Once in a while there’s an eyeball on the heart, which honestly makes me feel better about the swords. A heart with an eyeball on it should be stabbed at least half the time, probably more, and you want to be thorough about it.
With or without the variations, this card is fucking emo.
As per usual, swords often get the negative take when maybe they shouldn’t, and systemically, this one represents real growth in knowledge, power, and freedom. This can be painful, because blah blah innocence is bliss, power corrupts, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, but it’s not like growth in emotions or willpower or material well-being isn’t.
Swords qualities can increase much more suddenly than qualities associated with the other suits, generally: significant changes in emotion or willpower tend to take a while to sink in, and dramatic and completely unexpected changes in material well-being are negative nine out of ten times. (Meeting a really amazing sexual partner, gaining money by unexpected inheritance or winning the lottery, or miraculous recoveries could all qualify, but on the other hand, most people expect those at least in the sense of hoping or daydreaming about them.) Many situations that involve significant increases in knowledge and freedom hit completely out of the blue, and many people are either thrust into positions of power or find themselves having to take control to prevent others from misusing authority. If the shanking portrayed is intrinsic to the card, it could still represent shock rather than pain as such.
Naturally, the traditional complex meaning is pain, heartbreak (thank you, Extremely Nuanced Tarot Designers), betrayal, and disappointment. But, and this is important, and also why I used the term “fucking emo,” above, this is not the total disaster shitshow that the Ten of Swords mostly means in these interpretations. All the stuff I just named happens to everyone (although “betrayal” is really subjective a lot of the time for most of us), everyone lives through it, and everyone learns from it—if only because the next time, and there will be a next time, we know we’ll survive. This card is the rejection letter, the nasty rumor, the breakup where you mix ice cream and rum and sing along to songs with a lot of plaintive guitar wailing.
The non-mnemonic meaning of this card, in fact, can be boiled down to Drunk Evanescence Songs: OMGTRAGIC in the moment, but not, in fact, an actual tragedy of any sort.
Four of Swords
If Three of Swords is Drunk Evanescence Songs, Four is Taking a Fucking Nap Already.
The picture is a figure, mostly but not always armored, lying down, mostly but not always in or on a tomb, with three swords above them and one at their side.
Despite the tomb, this card doesn’t really have anything to do with death most of the time. (General statement: most of the cards that appear to show dead bodies, or Death, don’t mean death. The Ten of Swords could be an exception, but even disaster isn’t that much disaster for most of us. I actually can’t think of any cards that regularly do mean someone has or will die; the obvious material explanation for this is that people paying for Tarot readings don’t want to hear that sort of news, but on the other hand, there are plenty of cards in the deck that can be read as extremely unpleasant, so…I don’t know.)
The systemic reading doesn’t contradict the specific ones at all for this card. Four is stasis, swords are power, knowledge, and freedom, and most card-specific interpretations say that the Four of Swords is rest, stillness, exile, and solitude. You’ve done stuff. Maybe it was great, maybe not. Now it’s time to take a break, let what you’ve learned sink in, give yourself time to get used to a new role, or just get some damn sleep already.
Depending on your belief system, that could be death. But it’s usually not.