Queering the Tarot | Queen of Swords

In Queering the Tarot, Cassandra Snow takes the most common interpretations and manifestations of the cards and discusses ways you might read them for a LGBTQQIA+ client – or for yourself. Read the whole series here!

Great news, everyone! This series is getting a nice, shiny refinish and heading to book format through RedWheel/Wieser publishing! It’s slated to be out in early 2019; I’ll keep this section updated as I receive more info.

The Queen of Swords is most often depicted sitting on a throne looking regal and proud.

This archetypal figure is often seen or understood to be an older, independent woman; often a widow who has done just fine on her own. She wields the sword calmly and confidently with a look on her face that lets you know she will use this tool when needed. This Queen tells it like it is, values honesty, and is a quick thinker with almost supernatural perception.

This means she’s not only concerned with what is fair and just, but she can suss out what’s really going on like none other. She is intelligent and strong, and able to make absolute judgments devoid of emotion. She does not lack compassion or personality, though, and usually errs on the side of what is truly just.

Traditionally, this card is read either as a person in the querent’s life that fits that description or as an energy that the querent is being called to take on. If you’re asking about basic life decisions, this card is telling you to make the most logical decision or perhaps the one that honors yourself the most. If you’re dealing with problematic or troubling people in an area of your life, the Queen of Swords is telling you to be compassionate but to perhaps wield the sword and sever those ties. This Queen always wants you to be honest with yourself and others when making your decisions – and wants you to do so independently.

The Queen of Swords, to me, brings two images to mind. One of is of my queerplatonic partner’s grandmother, and that is perhaps why I see so much compassion and love in this card despite its seemingly cold appearance. The Queen of Swords isn’t cruel and is actually a bit of a marshmallow. She’s not going to mince words though, and she’s going to expect you to pull yourself together when it’s time to get things done. What this brings to mind from a queer perspective is the question “What do we owe our community?” Self-care is important, but so is the work we’re doing. No one is telling you not to live in or express your neuro-atypicality or to just ‘get over’ any trauma you’ve experienced.

When you’ve committed to a social justice movement or a project that will help your community though, there is – unfortunately – a time where you DO just have to pull yourself together and get stuff done. Whether you haven’t been behaving like your best self or just haven’t been putting your promised energy in, this card shows up to remind you that now is the time to pull it together and get back out there and fight.

Alternatively, this card also shows up when you’ve been doing no self-care whatsoever.

If you’ve been fighting and working and putting in a ton of emotional labor for other people, the Queen of Swords shows up to remind you that you can pull back and cool off for a bit. However, self-care isn’t always rest and coloring. How clean is your home? How clean are YOU? Have you eaten and drank enough water lately? Have you been sleeping? As the Swords so often do, this card delivers the advice we don’t always want but do need. It might seem contradictory to include both messages, but really this Queen shows up to dish out the advice you need the most when you need it the most. Surrounding cards are important, but so is having a conversation with the seeker, especially if that’s yourself.

The Queen of Swords is often the marker of a queer woman in general for me. I often try to stay away from the gendered assignations in the tarot unless it’s to subvert them, but the other image this card calls to mind for me is the ‘Virgin’ archetype of yesteryear; that is, a woman who is independent, unmarried, a happy ‘old maid’. After years of scholarly research, we know a great number of these women to be LGBTQ+ without the language or public acceptance to be out as such. Despite being in the closet, the ones we know about regularly spoke out against the society they lived in, using their wits or their pens to create scathing critiques of their times. This is incredibly representative of the Queen of Swords; her own identity sits close to her chest, but she will be damned if she won’t speak out on the injustice others are facing.

The Queen of Swords speaks deeply to the part of our wounded radical souls still thinking that in the end justice will win out.

We want to be this person who so firmly but lovingly commands this sword, using our words for good and allowing that good to win out. It isn’t always a realistic message, but it’s an important one. What is truly just and truly fair can win. We can speak out against oppression in our society and become Queen. We can create the world we want to see through fighting or creation or whatever else we have at our disposal. In my heart, I still believe those things are true even as we lose battle after battle in present day. Yet we keep fighting, and when we want to stop, the Queen of Swords shows up to say “No, keep going.”

This card is that energy that drives us towards fairness and equality no matter what. This card knows the only way to win is with strength and confidence, and it shows up when the message that those things matter is precisely what we need.

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  1. mimi says:

    I’ve finally started learning tarot and your blog is the first one I’m following. Haven’t found any others. You’re bright as a penny. thanks!

  2. Jaguar says:

    we do NOT owe the community anything. we are NOT slaves to any culture, government or body of people. the ONLY person whom we “owe” anything to is our SELF. Our Soul. To follow our OWN path and NOT become entangled and emeshed and caught in the “slavery of society”. because that IS what all societies are: they create slaves and robots as children, to then live in a world that unreal, ignorant and serves ONLY those in “power”. there is NO law that says I “owe” anything to anyone. I live MY life according to the guidance of MY soul and NONE other. this “owing” mentality is abusive, destructive and devoid of ANY foundation in truth.

  3. ifé says:

    hey cassandra,
    a quick question, i’m confused by your post because my understanding was that in the slow holler the queens were the visionnary and the architect the kings…

    thanks for this post 🙂

    • sisu says:

      And Cassandra…
      I have read a few of your column, and it seems to me you are someone oriented toward justice, and I respect that. So in the spirit of moving toward justice together, I would like to tell you that I’m surprised by this line:
      “No one is telling you not to live in or express your neuro-atypicality or to just ‘get over’ any trauma you’ve experienced.”…..
      because in my experience, people say variations of that quite often.. That’s what ableism is, and it does happen a lot, in activist community….and it does sound to me like your are saying that in the following paragraph when you say ‘sometimes you need to pull it together and do the work.’

      • Too queer to the queer community says:

        As a queer person with multiple disabilities, I have been told so many times to get over my gender dysphoria or depression or tiredness from a tumour, not to look so autistic, just to overcome my anxiety or hypothyroidism.
        I can’t participate much in queer communities due to my disabilities. There is no active GLBTIQ organization in the town I currently live in. There seems to be some kind of informal network, but I can’t reach it.
        I used to live in a bigger city, and participated in queer groups when I had enough spoons. Even there I couldn’t make friends or access the informal network. I am partially faceblind, and my natural way to communicate and parse social situations is different from non-autistic people. People have ignored me so many times in group meetings, even walked away when I tried to talk to them, or left the building and locked the doors while I was in the organization’s bathroom. (See also this piece of research.) There is an in-group and out-goup, with an invisible wall between them.
        Bars are too noisy for many autistic people, including me. There are loud biphobes and transphobes in GLBTIQ Internet communities, and I am one of their targets. Heck, I have found more acceptance in some media subfandoms than in the queer community. I owe nothing to the queer community. It has excluded so many disabled, bisexual, trans, racialized (like Romani) and other people not fitting its narrow standards.

        • Hey all! Thank you so much for your feedback on this piece. I wrote a MUCH longer response hopefully addressing your concerns below. I am very sorry for any harm my words caused and hope the apologies and clarifications below help.

    • HA, you’re right! I’m so sorry and embarrassed. To be honest, I’ve been dealing with a very arduous, exhausting, prolonged case of post concussion syndrome and I blame brain exhaustion. Thanks so much for the correction for people reading along!

  4. Hey all! I want to thank everyone so much for the honest feedback on this. I’m very sorry for any harm this piece caused, and do think some of it came down to me not being explicit or careful enough in my language and want to address those points, specifically.

    For starters, I as a very chronically ill person and person with PTSD, I know all too well that many people do tell you to just “get over it” when stuff is wrong. I’ve heard this from my own family and even medical team, and certainly the world at large. When I said that no one was saying to get over it, I specifically meant that no figure in the tarot nor myself was saying or implying that in this moment, for the purpose of this article. It was an attempt to clarify the following statements, but that got lost somehow and I am truly sorry for not specifying and causing damage there, especially since that is a hot button issue for me.

    Regarding what we owe community, I just want to explain or further elaborate on my intentions there. I purposely explore multiple queer interpretations of each card because not everything is going to hit for everyone. I HAVE seen this card come up in this way for tons of my own clients as well as myself. I do want to explain that I have NOT seen it come up when someone was in the middle of a flare-up of any chronic illness (which I consider mental illnesses too). Rather this card comes up when we are coming out of the flare-up or perhaps aren’t experiencing one but are still experiencing the inertia that can come with chronic and mental illness. In those cases we can often summon the spoons to get stuff done, and I was only implying that this is likely to be the card that shows up when this is the case, and only when this is the case. I talk about times we just can’t or shouldn’t because of health/trauma/we’ve just been hitting it too hard with several other cards such as the Ten of Wands. I ONLY meant those statements in regards to this card showing up for people facing that feeling of “meh” in between chronic and mental illness breaks. I also don’t think anyone owes a community that has been cruel to them anything. This interpretation is specifically for people who are very rooted in their community and have agreed to multiple roles or projects there within.

    Even with that, you may not feel or agree with my statements on this. I hope you can find value in the rest of the piece or my material in general because I really do pour my love for all queer people into it. I’m not a cisgender, able-bodied person, and I certainly have my share of trauma and mental illness that I’m sorting through, always. I’ve lived in very, very small towns (for most of my life, actually) and in dire poverty (also for most of my life). This IN NO WAY excuses any harm I’ve done, but I hope you can understand where I’m coming from knowing what point of view I’m working with.

    Even with that being said, you might not agree at all with those statements or even take offense to them. As hard as that is for my double Pisces, Cancer heart, I know that that will be the case sometimes when I write. In fact, if I just thought y’all were angry I wouldn’t respond, but I felt confusion in your feedback and pain and I never want that to be the takeaway from my work. Please let me know if you have continued clarifications that you need or feedback that you want. Thank you again for this feedback–it is really valuable as I move forward with this series and my book, and it’s really valuable as I continue my work as a queer activist to make this a community for all of us.

    • Too queer to the queer community says:

      So it was a wording problem. Apology accepted! Actually, your piece accidentally made me understand some behavioral patterns from groups I used to be a member of. And I like how you expand the Waite-Smith based court card meanings. The card meamings are definitely a book-worthy project,

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