I’ve learned that when there is a churchy scene in the Minor Arcana, it’s typically a representation of the suit in its most divine form. This definitely seems to be the case in the Four of Swords. As we know, the suit of Swords is all about logic, thought, critical thinking, higher minded ideas, words and communication. In the representation of the Four of Swords, however, this is a person at rest. This is the most sacred representation of the suit – someone in meditation. Someone sorting through the bullshit of the crazy ideas that flood our mind and getting closer to some kind of inner clarity. This is arguably the most beautiful of the sword cards and a reminder to find some mental peace.
The figure in the card is protected by armor – a very different sort of protection that we see in the Knight cards and in the Chariot. In this case, the protection is that of a tomb. This is all about putting ideas to rest that no longer serve us. The card is a call on us to come out of the tomb where our old ideas have left us stagnant. What about that stained glass window? Again, that churchy vibe, but more importantly, when we look at something through colored glass, how does it change our perception? Are we looking at situations clearly or are we viewing situations through the lens of our own rose-colored glasses?
Upright: When the Four of Swords appears upright in a reading, this is a call to rest, recuperate, and meditate on where we’re headed. It’s a reminder to take a break from the day-to-day routine, step back from the everyday noise and go deeper. While the other sword cards have presented more in your face challenges, in this case, the card is challenging us to be quiet. Through physical rest you regain the focus and clarity needed to move forward. When the card comes up, it is also an indication that now is not the best time to make decisions. Wait until you’ve had time to think things through. You’re vulnerable now and need more mental clarity.
Reversed: While some argue a reversal is an indication that you’ve had a period of rest and now can return to the battle/world/challenge, etc, I’m not sure that interpretation is correct. Instead, a reversal is generally an indication that you’re going too hard. You’re afraid of missing out and are doing too much. This is a loud and clear message to stop and rest or you risk burning yourself out. Alternatively this can be about a reluctance to think about a particular issue. While you’re afraid to face the issue, rather than moving forward, you’re stuck in this tomb-like state. In order to move on, pause, and think about the situation you’re facing. Rest will give you the strength you need to move forward.
The idea that the Four of Swords is a call to go within and find some mental clarity is so beautiful for me. However in my experience the Four of Swords comes up most often when I’m burnt out and in desperate need of a good night’s sleep. It’s almost like the tarot is making fun of me – like, the obvious solution is to go to bed, honey. Does anyone else have this experience?