four swords

The Four of Swords; Meaning & Interpretation

The Four of Swords

When I look at The Four Swords, in the Rider Waite Deck (RWD), I put myself immediately in the situation of the prone man lying on the tomb. I feel it’s almost too painful to even think outside of my current needs and situation, all I can do is stay alive, barely. If I do attempt anything further those swords might just fall and pierce my brain… so right now it’s better to be still and have a time out. In the RWD the time out seems peaceful and there’s a nobility about it and the sense of honourable service somehow implied. Definitely a feeling of vigilance and retreat here.

However there is also a darker side to this card. We must remember that the swords are the suit of Air. Those four swords are actually ‘thoughts’, they are not events or circumstances and their power to hurt or affect us is based upon our mental strength. We should be able to shake away those thoughts… but in times of depression that is impossible. To me this card signifies depressive moods and isolating oneself due to prolonged and overwhelming sadness. Still hope remains, despite being locked alone in this dark room with your thoughts, the window view is enough to confirm that vibrant life is going on outside, almost within reach. The universe never gives up on us and a second chance at happiness is always offered. However, at this point our cannot see the window, for he keeps his eyelids firmly closed, and just in case they did flutter open, he has chosen a position where new view is possible, he is displaying his desolation. Like the two swords and the of eight swords, the four swords needs you to remove the self imposed ‘blindness’. Take back control of your life and open your eyes; see what is right in front of you. Your burdens are self created, put them down and go forward… see beyond your fears, for in your case perceptoin is not reality.

I feel also the 4 swords is a guarder of secrets, what is lying inside that tomb upon which he is prostrated? What has he buried in his psyche? What secrets are hidden? Is it the secret that has caused him to withdraw? is there an illness, is this Pandora’s box upon which he lies? Or is he lying, ironically, atop the container that holds his secrets, and is unaware of this, not having looked inside?

One thing we can be sure of is that the figure in the four swords is not imprisoned, he is choosing to be there…. his role may be the result of coercion or resignation to the will of another, but physical force does not keep him here.  When reading, this is something to remember for the entire sword suit, swords do not imply physical harm, they are your thoughts… they can only harm you in so much as you allow them too.

Another thought I have is to question whether this is where the hermits journey started, there is an obvious link between the two, however I do sometimes specifically wonder what the four swords means to the hermit, was it this period that changed the fool to the hermit?

At times, I also see him as waiting… not unwell and not asleep. He is waiting for an event which I believe he has no control over – the coming of a person, the ending of a service, and there is a sense of honour and service that comes thru…. When reading the card this way it is most unlike the 2 swords or 8 swords, this is a duty that is being willfully carried out, it is a measure of strength of mind and duty.

Amber |