This journey then, is nothing more, yet nothing less, than a period of acclimating to a new way of seeing, a time of transition and revelation…
~ Bernadette Roberts
This week, which promises plenty of volatility, change, and agitation, the Six of Swords is our visitor.
As you probably know, Swords are the suit of the element of Air and rule thought, intellect, perception, communication, and our stories. And like last week’s card, the Sixes of the Tarot offer resolution to the conflicts of the Fives.
In the case of Swords, the unfair defeat depicted in the Five made have now led to a strategic retreat, or a painful withdrawal from a situation.
Artist Pamela Colman Smith has given the R-W-S version of the Six of Swords a mythic depth that hints of Charon, the ferryman who crosses the River Styx, carrying those who are departing the land of mortal life. Or he could be a boatman guiding the woman and child to the shores of Avalon.
Behind them are troubled waters, ahead is a calmer, yet unclear shore. As they glide towards the lands in the distance, they float lightly, not weighed down despite their cargo.
Although the swords are stuck through the bottom of the vessel, the boat does not appear to be in danger of sinking, hinting at how we may eventually adapt to even the most perilous or painful circumstances.
Notice that the cloaked adult figure is bent over, like there is a weight on his or her shoulders. It is a demeanor of despair and even defeat. But both the child and ferryman are more upright, less burdened, and gazing forward.
In the Swords suit, only the Five and Six depict more than one person. But unlike the Five, there is no conflict here and we are not alone in this transition.
In fact, as is the case with all cards that feature multiple figures, we may choose which of these most closely resembles us. Who is the helper in a current situation that keeps the balance as he steers the boat to new shores? Who is the innocent one who looks ahead? Who is the shrouded one, bent over with care?
This card is one that shows a time of transition, of quiet change, and stands in contrast to the astrological intensity of this coming week. As astrologer Elisabeth Grace writes, we are going to be feeling the effects of “two planetary shifts and a Full Moon this week, followed by two weeks of intense/volatile action-oriented energy, courtesy of willful Mars challenging the never-ending Uranus-Pluto square.”
And of course, the great turning of the Wheel arrives on Saturday at Yule, on the Winter Solstice.
Although Swords are the realm of the mind, ideas, and communication, the boatman poles the vessel through the waters of dreams and the unconscious. And it may well be that the ferryman’s pole is the wand of magic and creativity.
So we have Air, Fire, and Water combining to help us make this journey. But the lands (Earth) ahead are only barely differentiated from the waters. Their solidity, or the outcome of this voyage, remains uncertain.
Perhaps this is literal travel, or a time of spiritual movement.
What transitions are you making? Has some cherished idea run its course, or failed to come to fruition? What restoration of balance or new ways of seeing are called for?
If the past has been painful, we can at least be reassured to know that we are now able to truly leave it behind and help is offered to do so.
This week, as was the case last week, we are in an important healing transition. In the Halcyon Days before Winter Solstice, we are betwixt and between what has been, and what still awaits. We are given this time to undergo an important rite of passage. What rebirth may await us on the shores ahead?
While it may be difficult to yet see the destination clearly, we are long past looking backwards.
There is no way but forward.