A few weeks ago a friend asked me what my opinion was of the 7 of swords Tarot card. Because I tend to frame things optimistically, I responded, "I see it as a taking back (stealing back if necessary) our own knowledge and wisdom. We leave behind what doesn't serve us (from the city - consensual reality or status quo) and sneak away with our own treasures."
Traditionally, the 7 of Swords is considered somewhat of a bad or negative omen, signifying getting away with something and avoiding capture, or deception and trickery, among others.
7 of Swords
The fellow in the image (referring to Rider Waite Smith) looks a bit shifty, a trickster of sorts. He seems to be sneaking away from a tent or encampment with 5 swords, leaving two swords behind, standing prominently in front of the tents. He is looking back, possibly to see if he is being tracked as he tiptoes away with his haul. Is he stealing? Is it that he could only carry 5 swords? Will he be coming back for the other two or are they inconsequential to him?
Could it be that things aren't always as they seem in this card? Certainly there is something to this man's demeanor that seems questionable. But by what standards? Is he a Robin Hood of sorts, stealing from the rich to give to the poor? Is he taking back what is rightfully his? Is this a subversion toward some greater good?
These two different interpretations might seem diametrically opposed, and perhaps they are. Opposition is a tool of balance. Opposites attract for just that reason, because without it, there is no learning, and no growth.
Let me illuminate by sharing a Tarot reading I did for myself just a few days ago.(11/5/2023) I did a three card destiny spread. In designing this spread, I asked 1. Where am I now? 2. Where do I want to go? and 3. How do I get there?
The first card I drew (using the Universal Guardians deck) was the 6 of diamonds - which I see as the equivalent to the 7 of Swords in Rider Waite Smith, and it was reversed. (You'll see the 7 of diamonds later in the post. It feels like the 6 of Swords to me. Hershey, the UG deck author says this deck is Tarot-inspired, and like the Witches' Wisdom deck - another of my favorites - it isn't dogmatically true to traditional Tarot. I like to mix them up because it broadens my understanding. And honestly, I originally thought my first card was a 7 of Swords equivalent based on the energy.)
While most Tarot decks don't have text on the cards other than title, the Universal Guardian cards do. The text is often far more profound than the artwork in this deck, although Emy Ledbetter's art is quite stunning. (Todd Hershey is the author of this deck. It seems to be out of print but you can check out the card images on his site.)
My first card read "Impostor: You are creating a life based on other people's expectations." In an excruciatingly real sense, this has been true. As a people pleaser, with a fear of criticism and conflict, I have given other people far too much sway over what I do in life. The reading felt as if it truly pegged my situation and also gave me direction and hope for the future.
How does this reading relate to the 7 of Swords - my optimistic interpretation in the first paragraph, and the traditional interpretation? I would say that this reverse reading of the first card - impostor - is akin to the negative traditional interpretation, but the flip side, which says Successful - you create a life doing what you love to do, is the more optimistic interpretation.
So neither one is wrong, but are actually two variations on the same theme. To be successful, one must take back what is rightly his, or continue to live as an impostor - leaving his own tools in someone else's tent. Seeing this Universal Guardian card upside down really drove home the earlier meaning I had given to the 7 of Swords. While I am living according to others' expectations, like an impostor to myself, I am practicing deception, to myself and others. Interestingly, the answer - to take back what is rightfully mine - is in the card.
By the way, I refer to reversals as the Hanged Man's Tarot, because it offers us a different perspective. While I initially felt pierced by the word Impostor, I realized that what was revealed was for my healing.
The rest of the reading:
The other 2 cards I drew were 7 of Diamonds - Opportunity (Where I want to go) and 13 of Spades - Heroic (How to get there), both upright. Opportunity says "you will overcome uncertainty to become victorious. Heroic says "The empowered side of caring energy that seeks justice and equality."
Quickly, I will say that the Opportunity card (7 of Diamonds) feels more like 6 of Swords to me, as I mentioned before. In RWS, the 6 of Swords shows a woman in a boat being ferried off in a new direction. That feels like a new beginning, an opportunity, to me. It fits one of the traditional meanings of moving away from turmoil and conflict. What do you think? Can you feel the difference in the energies?
Finally, the 13 of Spades shows me that by caring for myself and others, (incidentally by being my authentic self, and not an impostor) is the way to success. It is here that my opportunities will be shown to me. Here's a curious side note - the 6 and 7 of diamonds (swords in the UG) turn into 13 of spades (a shovel, earth, pentacles). It reminds me of 'turning swords in plowshares', so I mustn't be at battle with my authentic Self.
I encourage you to read the energy of your cards in the context of the intention of the spread, the context of your life, and the variations in different decks. Allow them to inform and expand your readings as opposed to using dogmatic or "cookbook" interpretations.
A little note from Abby
I can't claim to have extensive tarot knowledge, but isn't it interesting that the 7's in tarot all represent movement and choice? Sometimes that choice is the consequence of our own actions, but it's just something neat to think about. The 7 of wands is fighting energy - a battle. The cups is picking a path, a choice, or a decision, but also seeing how our emotions blind us in that regard. The seven of pentacles is the opportunity to grow something, and waiting patiently while it does. And the seven of swords is... well, that's up to you.
All of tarot is a story. What's yours?
How do you view the 7 of Swords? How has it come up in your own readings? Are you open to reading it with variations depending on a situation? I would love to know what you think.
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