Contemplating the Four of Swords

3 January 2018

My Full Moon in Cancer reading indicated the energy which would best serve me this month would be the Four of Swords. While I'd deeply love to escape on a meditation retreat in a temple for the next few weeks, I have a family and responsibilities that make it impossible. So I've been wondering how I can use the energy of this card in a more realistic and practical way. Although I drew the card from the Rider-Waite deck*, I decided to look at a few other decks too. Stylistic differences aside, the message is very similar in all of these examples - this is the card associated with rest, contemplation, recuperation and quiet withdrawal. 

Top: Original Rider-Waite, The Good Tarot, The Dreaming Way Tarot
Bottom: Sun and Moon Tarot, Starchild Tarot (Akashic), Crystal Visions Tarot

After some contemplation I came up with five different ways to encompass the lessons in the card. Although they are written with my own situation in mind, I'm sharing them in the hope that they may be helpful to you too. 

Swords relate to the mental realm, so while the cards show people physically resting, it's really about giving your mind a break. In The Good Tarot, where this is the 4 of Air, Colette Baron-Reid includes the following affirmation: 
It's time to rest my mind and allow peace to take the place of busyness or boredom. The mind needs quiet to find clarity. If I allow my mind to rest, I will have greater clarity and my mind will be sharper. This is the time for a break. I need to take care of myself.
So it's time for mental healing, self-care and seeking quiet. Great advice, especially after the chaos of (and the build-up to) Christmas. Looking at all the cards, we can see that the characters have indeed chosen solitude and, with the exception of The Starchild Tarot, they are sitting or laid back in repose so there is an element of physically resting too. (The bags under my eyes testify that I could do with that!)

I can incorporate this by setting time aside each day for the obvious - meditation - but also things that give my mind a break from thinking - I've been reading lots of text/reference books lately. I could watch some comedy or read a novel that isn't too deep or 'heavy'. 

The  (standing) Starchild's focus is on the aspect of retreat and pausing to gain a fresh perspective. It's a time to process experiences without feeling rushed or pressured - "a wonderful time for introspection and self exploration." On a practical level then, this should be a good time for tarot and reflective journaling. In his book Tarot Therapy Volume 1, Steve Hounsome writes:
The mind contains more than one level, yet few of us bother or are brave enough to delve down and explore the deeper levels. The subconscious and unconscious contain all kinds of horrors that lurk in the darkness, quietly working away to remove our potential and keep us trapped in their grip... we need to explore these strange images at some point and the suit of swords shows us how... [A] calm and 'meditative' state of mind is certainly of benefit as we seek to tame the wolf that lurks within.  
The way to do that is to "open to the darkness" (see point 4, below) and to be empowered by what we find there. Although it might seem counter-intuitive to do this (work) during a 'resting' period, I really can't think of a better time!

In both the Rider-Waite and Dreaming Way imagery, I get a sense that there is an element of being 'in hiding' - one is laying in a tomb (why not a comfy bed?) and the other seems to be hiding out amongst the trees. Personally, this aspect doesn't resound with me, as I don't feel the need to hide from anything, but I can see that keeping a low profile would aid finding peace and getting some physical rest. Plus, being in the UK at this time of year, my body is naturally in 'hibernation' mode, so it makes sense in that respect. 

On a practical level, it's perfectly possible to keep non-essential plans and appointments to a minimum at this time. 

The figure in the Sun and Moon deck is interesting - he looks very well balanced on his swords and the (little white) book explains the card as follows: 
Jupiter in Libra. Balance. To negotiate and to solve problems. Be open and flexible. Forced respite allows you to be fully present, make peace with the truth, pay attention and become receptive. - Vanessa Decort
Openness and flexibility - that's a helpful mindset for sure, especially if following the advice on self-exploration. I've kept this as an individual item, and used the word 'practice' intentionally - flexibility doesn't come naturally to me so it's definitely something to work on. 

Incidentally, Jupiter left Libra (relationships, fairness, justice) in October 2017 and is now in Scorpio  (until October 2018) highlighting the themes of transformation, shared resources, intimacy, psychology, power, healing. More reason to rest and it brings me to the final point.  

The fairytale figure from Crystal Visions looks positively chilly and is ready to defend herself if necessary - like the Rider-Waite knight, she has already done battle and ultimately needs rest for healing. She doesn't look physically injured but I can't help but wonder who the other three swords belonged to. Did she defeat her foes, or lose companions? As the preceeding card in the deck (Three of Swords) suggests heartbreak, betrayal and loss, it may well be the latter. 

In 78 Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack also talks about healing in relation to this card. She points out that in the Rider Waite deck (pictured top left) the knight is resting below a stained glass window of Christ giving a healing blessing. "The imagery suggests the the Fisher King of the Grail legend, whose physical wound mirrored the spiritual sickness of the kingdom".  

Unlike the stained glass image, there is no one else around to heal the girl in the card. She must do it herself. In a practical sense, this is a reminder that I need to get back to my pre-holiday routine of (Reiki) Self-Healing each day - it's not always been possible with a house full of people. However I also see this in the sense of healing as 'making whole' through a combination of all of the other points above. 

So these are the things I'll be working on until the next Full Moon on January 31st. How about you? Which card(s) are you integrating into the current month? 

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