A symbol of mystery, secrecy, and quite often of deceit, the Seven of Swords is not always the easiest Tarot card to come across in a reading – but when it appears, it turns out to be exactly the one we needed as it points us to the unlit corners of our lives and inspires us to shine the light of consciousness into them. After all, secrets and deceit can only really thrive in the dark.
The Seven of Swords asks us to open our eyes and get completely honest – about our own actions and intentions, and about those of others.
When the Seven of Swords appears, there is a sense of a curtain being pulled aside, and of metaphorical woodlouse scurrying away from the sudden illumination.
What the Swords mean in Tarot
The four suits and the elements
The Tarot’s Minor Arcana consists of four suits, each linked to one of the four elements that make up the natural world. Each suit is given a symbol and deals with the energies of its designated element. There is the suit of Wands, linked to the element of fire, the suit of Cups, linked to the element of water, the suit of Pentacles, linked to the element of earth, and finally the suit of Swords, linked to the element of air.
The element of air deals with the intangible realm, specifically with our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and communication.
The element of air is invisible but its significance in our lives is indisputable. What we think and believe in shapes our reality as surely as anything built of brick and mortar. How we communicate determines the quality of our relationships and more.
The energies embodied in the suit of Swords are not always easy to deal with, not only due to their intangible nature, but because it is in our minds and in the way we express ourselves that we encounter of some of our greatest obstacles.
The Magician’s Sword
The sword is a familiar symbol throughout the Tarot. Not only does it appear in each of the Minor Arcana’s fourteen sword cards, it also shows up in the Major Arcana.
An interesting card to look at in this context is the Magician. The Magician is the second trump card in the Major Arcana, and in it we see the young Magician practicing his magic. He holds a wand in his hand and on his altar are a cup, a pentacle and a sword. He is developing his mastery over each of these four major areas of life, learning how to bend them to his will.
Like the Magician, we all have to develop our mastery over the different areas of our lives – the swords no exception.
Numerological meaning of the 7s in the Tarot
The numerological meanings of the number 7 are intuition, intrigue, mystery and secrecy. We see this reflected in the Tarot.
The seventh card in each of the four Minor Arcana suits deals with both the positive and negative sides of these energies.
Seven of Swords Tarot card description and symbology
Depictions of the Seven of Swords Tarot card vary between Tarot decks. Here, we will be looking at the symbols found in the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot deck and most others.
Central to the Seven of Swords card is a person sneaking away from a camp – he is taking advantage of the cover of night and is leaving the group behind in favour of his own solitary plans.
In his arms he carries five swords. Everything about his posture suggests secrecy. As he makes his exit the person looks back over his shoulder at the two remaining swords he left in the camp – presumably only because he already has his arms full.
It is immediately clear the he is in the process of stealing the swords, not merely borrowing them or moving them around.
Connotations of secrecy, risk, fraud, betrayal and theft immediately come to mind. If we were to label the man in one word, we may immediately leap to the word ‘thief’ or possibly ‘dissenter.’
The man in the Seven of Swords card is clearly in the process of carrying swords – precious resources, important weapons – away from the camp.
Swords are symbols of truth, of expressiveness. The energy of the swords is what allows us to express our opinions and speak our mind. Stolen swords suggests being robbed of the ability to defend or express.
In the background, we see a camp site. We have to presume that the lone wolf character has left his fellow soldiers fast asleep in the tents.
It is important to note that the lone wolf is only getting away with his sneaky behaviour because no-one is awake to stop him. In other words, he is only able to act out his trickery because those in the camp are oblivious to the lone wolf sneaking away.
Viewed from this angle, the theft of the swords reflects badly, not only on the thief, but on the ineffectual group.
Seven of Swords Tarot card meanings
The upright Seven of Swords Tarot card has many layers of meaning. Some are immediately clear when looking at the card while others come to the fore in relation to the other Tarot cards appearing in the same reading.
Betrayal, deception, secrets
The primary meaning of the upright Seven of Swords Tarot card is betrayal, deception, and murky secrets.
Whether you are the lone wolf sneaking away from the camp or one of the other soldiers still asleep is the only question.
Betrayal comes in many forms. Common manifestations of it include infidelity, financial fraud and all sorts of lies.
Getting away with something
The upright Seven of Swords card sometimes means that deception is taking place, and you (or someone else) are getting away with it.
On the surface, this can seem like a positive thing. But is there a toll on your feelings, on your mind or on your relationship? Even when things are not out in the open, it doesn’t mean that they are not there. On the other hand, successfully executed deception can be rewarding – money, the fulfilment of a desire. Hard work and truthfulness are not always thankful.
It could also be that someone else, someone in your life, is getting away with their sneaky behaviour. Is someone currently siphoning off your resources, for example your money, time, or inner force, leaving you depleted? Is this perhaps going on with your knowledge, but you are still allowing it? If so, decide to begin exploring what the root cause for this largess could be. There is nothing wrong with investing time, energy and other resources in our relationships – but there is a line between generosity and being taken advantage of.
A positive Seven of Swords card meaning is to plan and act strategically. Here, the lone wolf style may come to good use as you navigate a difficult situation with a clear head and the ability to think and move outside the lines.
Sometimes the upright Seven of Swords represents original, unusual, free thinking and acting.
Looking for shortcuts
Another meaning of the Seven of Swords Tarot card is looking for shortcuts – looking to leap over the fence at its lowest point. This can be positive or negative, depending on the circumstances. However, it is most often negative and suggests fumbling efforts or half-hearted attempts.
Meanings of the Seven of Swords reversed
When the Seven of Swords Tarot card is reversed, so are its meanings. It’s energies turn inwards, instead of outwards, and the one we owned up betraying is often ourselves.
A significant meaning of the Seven of Swords reversed is imposter syndrome. We may in fact be putting in our best efforts, doing honest work, and treating others with respect. And yet, somehow, we still feel like the sneaky lone wolf in the card.
Imposter syndrome often stems from low self esteem. Perhaps you have internalised certain negative beliefs about yourself, and every time you achieve something to be proud of, an inner demon whispers in your ear that you are not good enough, that you do not deserve your success, or your relationship, or the support of anyone.
The Seven of Swords reversed can also be a sign of delusion. It may be that you have grossly underestimated the skill and effort needed to obtain your heart’s desires – conversely, you may have grossly overestimated your own abilities.
What the Seven of Swords means in a Tarot reading about love
If you’re the betrayer, perhaps now is the for coming clean, first of all to yourself. Living with hidden dishonor is no way to live. Potential partners, colleagues, whoever you are playing games with could discover and expose your secret at any moment. Perhaps it is time to turn a new leaf, return the stolen swords to the camp, and move on towards a more honest future.
If you are the betrayed, consider firstly who might be betraying or misleading you, covering the truth up with deception, and secondly, why are they getting away with it? Are you letting problems slip, sleeping on the watch while your swords are being stolen?
What the Seven of Swords means in a Tarot reading about career
The career meaning of the Seven of Swords reversed is not promising.
You may be tricked or deceived or lured into rotten business deals – conversely, you may be the one siphoning off resources or taking advantage.
If the Seven of Swords is reversed, you may be under-or overestimating your potential to such a degree that it cripples your growth.