Mapping the Six of Swords

I wanted to see if I could group cards around the story of one.

Draw out the reasons, the influences, the backstory and the positives and negatives that surround one card in order to get a fuller interpretation of its meaning, and how it might translate in a reading.

I drew the Six of Swords at random and set it in the middle. I then went through all the cards, pulling out anything that felt linked, without stopping to think why at this point.

Starting with the centre card, then working through the rest, I noted down the first connotations that came into my head for each card. This became a list of characteristics which I instinctively relate to the Six of Swords.

The I moved the cards around until I had arranged them into something that made sense:


Here are the ideas that came up for each card:


Six of Swords – Self-imposed exile. Leaving behind a previous life or situation to start again.

Backstory..(to the left)

Wheel of Fortune – twists of fate, good luck followed by bad, then again by good…the sense that fate and fortune our out of our hands, that we do not have control over our lives. The Devil – bondage from which we can free ourselves but choose not. Eight of Swords – we can escape our predicaments, tear off the blindfold and untie ourselves…there is nothing stopping us.

What’s happening.. (left and right of the centre) T

wo of Swords – Closing off emotionally, strength of being alone with onesself…but could also be defensive and ignore the kindness of others. The Star – new beginnings, hope, things coming together.

Mindset and this is manifest (above)

The Hermit – Exile from society to develop inner awareness and knowledge. The Hanged Man – Achieving the Hermit’s goal. The Four of Swords – Taking a moment to mentally and spiritually prepare – focussed meditation. The Two of Wands – Holding back; you have your own plans.

Inspirations..what needs to be incorporated (below)

Queen of Swords – a sad knowledge from a painful past, but strength and wisdom and a commitment to truth. Strength – a gentle and loving control over the situation, preventing hurt through exercising love and understanding and taking responsibility.

Bringing this back to the Six of Swords…

I find I’ve created a story around the centre card. I’ve found out why she is leaving and where, emotionally, she is going. I’ve found the positive and negative in the card, and the characteristics she needs to channel in order to make the destination a good one.

The woman in the Six of Swords is is moving on.

In her past, she found herself trapped in unhealthy cycles, not thinking to free herself, accepting her situation as fate, as beyond her control. But she takes that control – scary as it may feel. Leaving behind the people and places associated with those times, she is bourne away (by a good friend or a kind stranger?) to a new start, a new life in a cleaner light. Will this be a beginning of hope? Or will the self-exile continue? Aside from the Devil, and the boatsman and the small child in the centre card, every other one of the cards shows a person acting alone. The mindset of this person is someone who is tired, who wants quiet, to not see anyone for a while, to rediscover themselves and gain perspective on the world and their place in it. They wish to step out of the rush of everyday life and let their true selves (perhaps the old self they though they had lost). But this isn’t about forgetting the past, so much as about understanding and learning from it, beginning a slow process of letting go.

She must channel the energies of both the Queen of Swords and the Strength cards in order to achieve this. The Queen of Swords brings the sad wisdom that comes from seeing bad in the world, and understanding it. But this wisdom is also a power – it strengthens us against the blows the world can throw. It is a gentle wisdom too – understanding the world does not lead to bitterness and cynicism, but a commitment to truth, and to living well ourselves. The Strength card encourages us to weild our powers gently. The exiled woman from the Six will need to work hard to control her thoughts and emotions.

She has all of this within her, and I feel that the patterns here in the cards suggest that she’s gonna be alright.



I also pulled out the Six of Swords from the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Piu-Mun Law to compare the pictures, and found it very different. In this picture the focus is as much on the swan as on the boy she bears away. Where in the Waite-Smith picture the woman takes the swords with her, here the swan flies off and the swords and bad memories remain back down on the ground. The boy he carries sleeps soundly and is aware of nothing. The exile seems less of the his choosing, and more that, just as he thinks he can’t go on, a benevolent force comes to him to bear him away, leaving trouble behind. Linking this back to the other cards in the spread, I imagine that the boy is not aware yet of the work he will have to do when he arrives, but that he puts his trust in that benevolent force.

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  1. Little Red says:

    Thanks! It really helped me to ‘get a feel’ for the Six of Swords. Okay so it might mean something completely different when it comes up for someone else in a reading, but doing this exercise enabled me to see how to feel my way all around a card, rather than just sitting there trying to remember the meanings I learned from a book. Because it was just quick key concepts of the surrounding cards, I was able to do it without looking up any meanings too, which was really nice.

  2. Tash says:

    This is a wonderful exercise for getting to know the cards and how they relate to one another, I started with The Devil and branched out from there. Although doing many cards at once seemed overwhelming so I’ve done short 3-card maps. For example, The Devil – Temperance – Three of Cups. Then once I grasped that, I tried another, and another to get myself thinking about the story of each set. Very useful and fun to practice! 🙂

  3. That Shadowscapes card is beautiful. My interpretation of this card feels a bit different from what I’m finding is established. I see the swords in the RWS card to be tools – a protective screen of brave thoughts and sharp morals that will help her on her difficult emotional journey. The Shadowscapes card made me sad, because with my view, that would mean s/he is leaving behind those clever tools.
    I love what you did with the story-telling of this card. It’s a great idea, and really opens up a lot of insight. Thanks for sharing.

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