6 of Swords

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The Six of Swords presents us with a scene of transformation, change and forward movement. Three characters are leaving the past behind. They are travelling by water, their boat steering towards a distant beckoning shore where lush trees hint at the potential for a fruitful future.

The Six of Swords card often comes up in Tarot readings when you are experiencing powerful shifts in your life. New knowledge or insights may have opened your eyes to things you need to change in order to move your life forward. The Six of Swords always indicates a powerful drive towards change and movement. There is a sense of letting go of something or someone in the past, even if it painful and difficult to do so, in order to set yourself free and find a better way forward. Because of this, the Six of Swords suggests that you have guts and momentum as you seek transformation and shed the things or the people that are no longer serving you or helping you grow.

When the Six of Swords appears in its reversed position, it can indicate that you are stuck and clinging on to an untenable or negative situation, even if deep down you know that you should leave and move on. The reversed Six of Swords can also be a sign of unfinished business, something you need to get off your chest or get out in the open before you become able to let go.

What the Swords mean in Tarot

The Minor Arcana consists of four suits, one representing each of the four elements. The suit of Wands stands for fire, the suit of Cups for water, the suit of Pentacles for earth and the suit of Swords for air.

The element of the air is associated with the mind, the intellect, communication and self-expression, so whenever a card from the Minor Arcana suit of Swords comes up in Tarot readings, it addresses the areas of life that are linked to the Swords.

Just like the sword, the mind and our words are extremely powerful. A Major Arcana example of the sword in perfect balance is the Judgement card. Here we see a wise judge holding a large sword aloft. Its tip is pointing straight upwards, indicating the unbiased and impartial view held by the judge. Because the judge’s judgement isn’t clouded but is clear and balanced, she is ideally suited for her role.

When we are in control of our mind and it is well-balanced, clear and not overburdened, we can accomplish incredible feats. When, on the other hand, our minds are overburdened, or we use our words to wound those around us, we quickly become paralysed or entrapped. A perfect Minor Arcana card example of this is the Eight of Swords, in which a blindfolded woman is unable to leave a circle of swords. The fear created in her mind is keeping her trapped much more surely than any external circumstances.

Numerological number 6 in Tarot

Let us have a look at the numerological number 6 as it relates to the Six of Swords.

According to numerology, the number 6 stands for nurturing, caring, healing and compassion. The numerological significance of the number 6 makes perfect sense when we look at the Six of Swords Minor Arcana card. The characters in the card are moving away from a bad situation – this could be a toxic relationship, a disappointing career, a place you don’t like to live in – and towards a brighter future. The Six of Swords Tarot card is all about self-love, self-compassion and seeking healing.

Six of Swords Tarot card description

Depictions of the Six of Swords Tarot card differ between different decks, but most include variations of the same essential symbols and detail. Let us take a closer look at these symbols and what they mean.

The characters

The primary figures in the Six of Swords Tarot card are three figures in a boat, their backs turned to the viewer. There are three of them; a woman huddled together with a small child in the front of them and a ferryman behind them, steering and navigating.

It is clear that the characters – the woman and the child specifically – are undertaking some kind of journey. Their turn backs indicates that they are leaving the past behind. Their faces, which we cannot see, are turned towards the distant shore. Their hunched over body language indicates that they may have been through quite an ordeal, a divorce perhaps, or a difficult financial situation, which has left them feeling weary and anxious. Their focus and hopes are all tied to the alluring promise of the shore appearing in the mist in front of them.

The six swords

The woman and the child are not travelling without baggage – six large swords are stuck into the floor of the boat in front of them, somewhat obscuring their view.

The swords represent thoughts, memories, patterns of thinking and mental conditioning. These are things that can be difficult to let go of, just like that. The presence of the swords indicates that although the characters are moving forward and are leaving the past behind, they have not mentally recovered or been able to shed their trauma or negative experiences. Re-wiring their minds may become their greatest task, once arrive on the new shore.

The sea

The boat with the three people in it is crossing a vast body of water. On one side of them, the water is wavy and turbulent, indicating tumultuous emotions and the difficult past that the characters are moving away from. On the other side of the boat and in front of it are calmer waters, hinting at the emotional healing and stability being gained by moving forward.

The distant shore

Appearing from the mist a ways in front of them is a new shore, beckoning with rolling hills and growing trees. It represents the goal and indicates that the characters have made the right decision and are headed in the right direction. Once the characters are able to close the final distance between themselves and the shore, they will be able to rest and recover fully.

Six of Swords Tarot card meanings

When the Six of Swords Tarot card appears in Tarot readings, it is usually a good omen. Here are the main upright Six of Swords Tarot card meanings.

Transition

A key upright Six of Swords Tarot card meaning is transformation and transition. Imagine a larvae becoming a pupae, then becoming a butterfly – this is exactly the energy of the Six of Swords card. However, when you read Tarot cards and the Six of Swords comes up, it tells you that you are in the pupae stage of transformation. In other words, you have let go of your larvae stage, but you are not yet a butterfly. You are in the midst of transforming yourself, and while rearranging yourself or your life may not be easy, the outcome is going to be extremely rewarding.

Changing perspectives and directions

The upright Six of Swords can be a sign of changing your perspective, view or opinion on something. As the saying goes, we have an opinion until we make a new one. The Six of Swords often comes up in Tarot readings as an indicating that you are growing as a person and are expanding your mind and your horizons in the light of new knowledge or insights.

Rite of passage

Sometimes, the Six of Swords indicates a rite of passage. This could mean anything from undergoing puberty, to having a spiritual awakening, to building a new business. A rite of passage is simply a process that propels you to a higher state of knowing, being and experiencing.

Letting go of what no longer serves you

The Six of Swords often means that you are letting go of something that no longer inspires, serves or honours you. Sensing that you cannot build a new life or a new relationship on top of old wounds and negative past experiences, you are letting the sadness and anger go in order to embrace the potential that the future holds.

Personal transformation

Another important Six of Swords Tarot card meaning is becoming a better person. You are not only changing your perspectives and circumstances, you are actively reaching for a better, kinder, more successful and generous version of yourself.

Reversed Six of Swords Tarot card meanings

When the Six of Swords reversed appears in a Tarot reading, its generally positive meanings become stunted or inverted. Here are the primary reversed Six of Swords Tarot card meanings.

Unfinished business

The Six of Swords reversed can be a sign of unfinished business. In this case, the swords you are carrying with you are weighing you down and slowing or even hindering your progress. You may have to stop for a moment and throw some of these swords overboard to lighten your load. Journalling, confronting the person you have unfinished stuff with, or talking it all out with a therapist are all ways of throwing swords overboard.

Resistance to change

The Six of Swords reversed can indicate that you are resisting change, regardless of how good it would be for you or how much you need it. You may be fearful of letting go of what you have, even if it is no longer of any use to you, in favour of a reality you cannot yet envision.

Six of Swords card interpretation

The Six of Swords is a prism of meaning – which one of its facets stands out in a Tarot reading depends on the surrounding cards and the wider context of the reading. Here are a few examples of how the Six of Swords could be interpreted.

What the Six of Swords means in a love Tarot reading

Upright

You are moving on, possibly in the wake of a bad breakup. You are experiencing a slow healing and are feeling optimistic about future romance.

Reversed

You may be overstaying in a dead relationship or dwelling on wounds caused by past betrayals or other negative experiences.

What the Six of Swords means in a career Tarot reading

Upright

You are putting a lot of hard work to better yourself and expand your horizons.

Reversed

Insecurities around money issues or a lack of self-belief are holding you back from pursuing a fulfilling career path. You are unfulfilled, but stuck where you are.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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