Big Sword Energy: The Ace of Swords

How to understand and interpret the Ace of Swords in any tarot reading

ace of swords tarot card on an altar

Image courtesy of Liminal 11.

The Ace of Swords is the first card in the Swords suit of cards in the minor arcana.  Swords are symbols of the element “Air” and the virtue of “logic”-- the idea is that they cut through all of the lies, illusions, preconceptions, etc. to the Truth of the situation.  

In this latest addition to our “How to Interpret…” tarot series, we’ll discuss:

  • The message and meaning of the Ace of Swords
  • How to develop Big Sword Energy for reading the Ace of Swords
  • A worked example of the Ace of Swords in a tarot reading, plus at-home practice

Sheath your weapons, and let’s take a stab at this information.  

In each suit, the number of the card will determine how any of that suit’s symbol shows up in the card’s artwork-- in the case of aces, it is one.  Image courtesy of Pretty Useful Co.

Basic meaning and message of the Ace of Swords

The sharp blade of the Ace of Swords tarot card is meant to cut through to the Truth-- or rather, it is more accurate to say truth(s)-- of the situation or question using intellect, logic, and words or diplomacy.  As with all Aces, the Ace of Swords is the purest manifestation of the suit’s virtues-- and, if reversed, downfalls or blockages.  

When this ace appears upright, brandishing its blade, you or the querent are about to experience a breakthrough-- perhaps it is in terms of justice or problem-solving, or perhaps it is through opportunity.  Either way, it is a big lightbulb moment for you, and a huge green light for any plans you may have started to develop.  

From an emotional standpoint, the swords suit is a bit on the controlled and stoic side.  The sword is a universally-recognized phallic symbol, so sensuality is not ruled out-- but to be sensual you must be fully aware and awake, which a sword card is known for doing.  So while you cannot expect the Ace of Swords to be emotional or openly affectionate, you cannot expect them to be aware of their feelings, their origin, and to have them under control.  If the Ace of Swords appears upright in a reading about an emotional situation, it is best to follow the head and not the heart-- or to at least make sure that both are on the same page.  

Keywords to remember when interpreting the Ace of Swords are:

  • Clarity
  • Communication
  • Justice
  • Breakthrough or New Idea
  • Cutting through the Bullcrap
  • Focus
  • Truth
  • Logic or Use Your Head

But what if the Ace of Swords is reversed?  Reversals, indicated by the shorthand “Rx,” simply mean that the card has appeared upside-down.  Reading reversals is a purely personal decision.  Many practitioners do not read reversals, and many do.  Some tarot deck guidebooks only give one general description of the cards that does not explicitly refer to reversals, and others do.  You will have to decide for yourself what feels right for your practice and your client.  

Keywords to keep in mind for the Ace of Swords Rx:

  • Lack of clarity or focus
  • Confusion
  • Miscommunication or lack of communication
  • Getting “stuck in your head”
  • Caution against too much logic and not enough heart/emotions
  • Destruction/brutality
  • Illusion or misdirected thinking; conspiracy-theories

The next section will provide you with guidance that will help you flesh out this meaning into an ability to recognize which keyword or concept associated with the Ace of Swords to zero in on during the reading.  

Do you read reversals?  Image courtesy of 78 Nights of Tarot.  

Developing your Big Sword Energy

In this section, we will discuss how to develop your knowledge base related to the Ace of Swords, which will also develop your intuition when reading the Ace of Swords in relation to the question and situation.  

First, let’s look at the traditional artwork for this card.  In the original Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Ace of Swords is depicted as a double-edged sword held by a hand reaching out of a cloud, and topped with a golden crown and a wreath.  These are the major symbols of this artwork, and each is loaded with meaning.  

The sword is double-edged, speaking to the ability for logic and words to both cut through illusion and hurt both the wielder and the attacked.  Swords are also symbols of air, which is the element that rules thinking and communication-- the element of air is also ruled by the planet Mercury.  

The crown sits on the tip of the sword, indicating the triumph of logic and careful reflection.  It’s also a symbol of royalty-- to the suit of swords, logic is King.  The wreath is another symbol of triumph, but this time competitive triumph.  The mistletoe and palm branch symbolize infinity and eternity, and the five flowers in red and blue symbolize the harmony between thought and action in an ideal Swords world.  

For the first step into research behind the Ace of Swords, look into the “why” behind the symbolism.  For example, look up the god Mercury and read his mythology.  Why does mistletoe symbolize infinity and palm branches eternity?  What is the symbolism behind the number 5 and the colors red and blue?  

We’d also recommend learning a bit more about swords.  Watch some documentaries about how they were made, and do some research on famous swords-- Excalibur is a great place to start!  

Keep notes in your tarot journal as you proceed with your research.  After spending some time with it and the Ace of Swords card, take some time to contemplate the questions below and work with them in your journal.  These questions are aimed at helping you to explore different aspects of the Ace of Swords meaning and message by connecting them to your life.  They, along with your research, will flesh out your comprehension of this ace card and develop your intuition:

  • Are you a logical person?  What does “logical” mean to you?  
  • Are you a good communicator?  When are you good at communicating and when do you struggle?  Why do you think you are better/worse with certain types of communication?  How could you be a better communicator?  
  • What is your relationship to your emotions like?  Where could it be healthier?
  • How do you learn?  What type of learner are you?  What is your relationship with education like?  
  • What does “Truth” mean to you?  What about “truths?”  How does one discover it?  How do you communicate the truth/truths of your life?  Where and how could you honor it more in your life?  
  • How do you know you’ve gotten “stuck in your head” and what do you do to get out of it?  

If any other questions or thoughts occur to you, write them down.  That’s your intuition blooming and you should pay attention to it.  

If you use a different system than the Rider-Wait-Smith or if your tarot artwork is different from the traditional, it’s worth taking the time to explore those differences in your tarot journal and thinking about how that changes your understanding of the card’s application.  Image courtesy of Ingrid Folland via Dribbble.  

A worked reading example and homework

We’re going to do this last section a bit differently from how we’ve done it in the past.  If you’re not sure what we’re referring to, check out some of the articles we’ve done on the Major Arcana in our “How to Interpret” tarot series.  

This time, we’re going to work a bit more simply.  We’ll introduce the idea of “building” a reading.  We’re going to start with pairing our featured Ace of Swords card with one other tarot card, and take you through how we’d decipher the pairing.  Then we’ll ask you a series of questions designed to lead you to your own conclusions about the reading.  

If you need a refresher on what the Ace of Swords means, check out the links and our description above.  

What happens when we pair the Ace of Swords with a major arcana card?  Let’s say that we pair it with The Tower, which is probably the second most misunderstood card in the tarot deck.  The Tower is that moment where everything is falling apart, but for the sole purpose of getting rid of a situation that no longer serves you so that you can rebuild stronger.  

Our thought process goes like this:

Ace of Swords= breakthroughs, logic, communication

The Tower= upheaval, massive change, big chaotic changes

Ace of Swords + The Tower = Use your head to get through the chaos, as your heart may have too hard of a time letting go of what no longer serves you

Let’s add another card to this reading.  (We’ll get to scenarios in a second.)  Perhaps the third and final card in the reading is the 10 of Cups.  The 10 of Cups is the ultimate happy ending-- cups are water and emotion and 10 is completion-- all loose ends have been tied up in blissful harmony.  Since it’s the last card in the reading, it’s reasonable (another word usually associated with the Swords suit) to conclude that if you use your head to navigate this massive life change, the results will be rewarding in an emotional way.  

So now let’s talk scenarios.  Because you see, while the question should influence how the advice of the cards is carried out and understood, you should be able to work from the cards backwards.  We want you to be able to think about how cards that seemingly have nothing to do with the topic of the question still answer it, given the positions they hold in the reading (ex: past, present, future).  

So here is your homework: How would these cards answer a question about Romance, Career, or Life Path, respectively?  Leave your answers for each scenario in the comments below.  

This is the traditional artwork for the Ace of Swords from the Rider-Wait-Smith deck.  Image courtesy of Liminal 11.

Remember to check out the other articles in this series, and be sure to let us know how this method of walking you through a reading works for you versus what we’ve done before.  

And the next time the Ace of Swords pops up in a reading, remember… use your head!  

Jean Linder

Jean Linder is a writer and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA.
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