Fools Go Rushing In: The Knight of Swords Tarot Card

How to work with the Knight of Swords and interpret it in any reading

Image courtesy of A Little Spark of Joy.

The Knight of Swords is in a big damn hurry, and you’d best get out of his way. Seeing as how he is brandishing his sword and charging full speed ahead, he’s given you plenty of warning to do so. But if you don't move quickly enough, his recklessness may just catch you.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • The meaning and message of the Knight of Swords
  • Working with the Knight of Swords
  • Interpreting a reading with the Knight of Swords

So when the Knight of Swords comes up in a reading, hit the pause button and take a good look below.

The Knight of Swords could represent a person, a role that a person plays in your life, or an action that you must take. Image courtesy of Dark Days Tarot.

Meaning and message of the Knight of Swords

In some ways, the Knight of Swords is a lot like what might happen if The Fool and The Chariot had a Swords baby together. There’s the headstrong forward-movement, the potential for learning and failure, but a sincere lack of control and care. The Knight of Swords is absolutely convinced that they are correct, and they will generally not care to listen to arguments-- however well-constructed or researched or even right-- with a sort of pigheadedness or perhaps even zealotry that resembles the out-of-control aspects of The Chariot. Think of them as a well-armed know-it-all bulldozing full speed ahead before checking the weather and printing directions.

The good intentions of this Knight are that they want to take the most direct route to what they believe is the correct answer-- and their unwavering devotion to the right answer. The Swords Suit is all about the mind and the element of Air-- their swords cut through the crap, so to speak-- and the Knight of Swords will be very blunt about doing so. They act with certainty and authority, debate well, and generally are educated and logical about everything. In the Upright position, the Knight of Swords is:

  • Logical, blunt, outspoken, to the point, honest, an intellectual force to be reckoned with, an expert, analytical, and is in a position of influence
  • This card may speak to a person or their role, or may represent the journey that a person is currently taking (metaphorically) or actions that are needed/not needed

These are all great qualities and actions, but they are also qualities and actions that if left unchecked, do not have good results. The Reversed Knight of Wands warps the devotion to correctness and knowledge into zealotry and a derision towards non-academics. They do not care how they arrive at a solution, or if the solution is proved wrong-- to them it is correct and they will not listen to arguments or evidence, and any means justify the ends. They lack tact and become condescending, often using their whit to hurt others. In the Reversed position, the Knight of Swords is:

  • Rude, cold, aloof, domineering (especially in an argument), nasty type of sarcastic, mean/critical, lacks tolerance, unable to hear “the other side,” ignores intuition, dogmatic
  • This reversed card may speak to how a person is failing at their role, or internal blockages/self-sabotage that are preventing them from moving forward, or behaviors that must be corrected

So now that we’ve covered the “guidebook” type of information, let’s move on to a deeper dive into the Knight of Swords.

Whether you read upright only or take reversals into account, there’s more to reading tarot than the guidebook. Image courtesy of 78 Nights of Tarot.

Working with the Knight of Swords

When you start to dive deeper than the guidebook type of information about a tarot card, one of the most obvious places to start is with the artwork. This is often an overlooked way of understanding tarot in our modern world, as school systems have to budget cut art classes and “teach to the test” rather than teach myths and symbolism, and religions lose their importance in society, the thought process and meaning behind the artwork in tarot cards is lost. But the creators of tarot decks put a lot of thought, effort, and meaning into them and its worth examining.

The Rider Waite Smith artwork for the Knight of Swords shows a knight and white horse charging full speed ahead, sword drawn, expression and concentration fierce. They wear a red cloak, and their armor and cloak are embroidered with birds and butterflies. The wind whips the trees in the landscape and clouds in the sky into a frenzy.

When we break this down, let’s start with the knight and horse’s actions-- their obvious forward momentum represents their headstrong mind and impatience. The sword brandished high is logic, ready to be wielded as a weapon. The color of the cloak and helmet plume-- red-- is associated with passion, anger, and war. The white of the horse symbolizes purity and clarity of purpose. The butterflies and birds are symbols of Air, the element that Swords represent.

Take the time to reflect on how your tarot artwork is different-- what symbols are the same, which ones are different. How are the different aspects of the card visually represented in the artwork? It’s important to understand this, as art and mystic practices are closely intertwined.

It’s also important to explore the inner landscape of yourself that this card connects to, as well. Journal questions to explore:

  • What are your attitudes about education? How do you feel about people who aren’t “school” people or “intellectual?” What is your attitude towards people who don’t go to college?
  • What kind of expertise do you have? How do you use it? Have you ever used your knowledge as a weapon?
  • To whom do you listen when you need knowledge? How do you build your arguments? Are you careful to check your sources? Are you able to recognize logical fallacies?
  • Where could you be more open to listening to others’ expertise? How can you practice debate?
  • Do you have to be right all of the time? Why? What does being wrong look and feel like to you? How can you work with that?

It’s also worth looking at sacred literature, myths, folklore and faerie tales for examples of Knight of Wands characters. Exploring these creates the feeling of the archetype, which gives you a richer sense of how the card works with others in a reading and how it connects to the larger issue the cards are answering. Gawain and the Green Knight may be a good example, as is the original Chicken Little (also known as Henny Penny). Stories where ego is mistaken for knowledge, or the need to be correct outweighs actual expertise.

What symbolism is repeated in this tarot art? What is new or different? How does that change the meaning? Image courtesy of Woody.

Interpreting the Knight of Swords in a reading

Okay so now it’s time to put all of this together in a reading. Now that you are familiar with the card, think about how it interacts with the question and with other cards around it. When you are a beginner, it may help to keep a tarot journal and draw your reading out so that you can work out the connections on paper first.

Let’s say that Ben is having a hard time connecting to his new coworkers. They don’t want to hang out with him at lunch, and he gets frustrated at how they always seem to mock or challenge his views. If Ben were to do a tarot card reading, it might look something like this:

  • Why do my coworkers not like me?
  • What can I do about it immediately (2 cards, as they fly out of the deck)?
  • Why is it important that I do this?

Perhaps the cards he draws look like this (in order of the question answered):

  • Knight of Swords Rx: wit as as weapon, insistent upon being right all of the time, full speed ahead
  • The Chariot: a controlled and mastered approach, action with a plan
  • 3 of Pentacles: teamwork, collaboration, compromise
  • 3 of Cups: celebrations, good times with friends

The Knight of Swords Rx probably gave Ben a bit of a shock-- his coworkers think he’s rude and a know-it-all? That’s definitely a hard thing to grapple with, and one in which his ego may take a bruising. But if he’s determined to make it work, then he needs to master this need to “be right all of time” and to be that person who hurries up and does all of the work because he’s the one who knows how to do it right (The Chariot). He needs to be part of the team and part of the plan (The Chariot + the 3 of Pentacles), not part of the problem.

The results look promising-- the 3 of Cups is always a good thing-- and he really does want that. He wants to be part of the laughter, not the mood killer. He wants to be part of the team, so he is determined to make the effort, and might engage his supervisor for advice. After all, if he’s the first person to approach his boss about how to make his position on the team better and more fulfilling for everyone, it reflects favorably on his work ethic.

What might this card combination mean? Image courtesy of WordPress.com.

Now for some homework! We want you to try this too, so we’ll keep the scenario and switch up the cards. Use the guidebook for your tarot deck, your intuition, and post your answer in the comments!

  • Why do my coworkers not like me? Rx 2 of Pentacles
  • What can I do about it immediately? Knight of Swords
  • Why is it important that I do this? 7 of Pentacles

Be sure to check out our other “Interpreting the Tarot” series articles, too!

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Jean Linder

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