Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.
~ Lewis B. Smedes
This week, sailing with the New Moon’s gift of new beginnings, we move from an agitated August into the month that will bring Autumn to the Northern Hemisphere, and Spring for our friends in the lands below the equator.
Astrologer Diane Lang writes about this week, “Finally we have an opportunity to relax our vigilance and feel like we can plan ahead for a change. After the turbulence and angst of recent weeks this is a big relief.”
In that sweet magic that is the Tarot, we are given a powerful card illustrating precisely this. This week, in the wake of storms and floods, we welcome the Six of Swords.
Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack notes that this Six is a classic example of how illustrator Pamela Colman Smith’s images could illuminate, and even surpass, Arthur Waite’s own interpretations.
Waite was rather literal in his interpretation, calling this card a journey by water and pretty much leaving it at that.
But Smith has given it a mythic depth that hints of Charon, the ferryman who crosses the River Styx, carrying the shrouded figures as they depart the land of mortal life. Or he could be a boatman guiding the woman and child to the shores of Avalon.
There is a sense of sorrow and even resignation, of “quiet passage through long difficulty,” as Rachel notes. But there is also a deep peacefulness here. As they glide towards the lands in the distance, they float lightly, not weighed down despite their cargo.
And, she points out, although the swords are stuck through the bottom of the vessel, they do not appear to be in danger of sinking, hinting at how we may eventually adapt to even the most perilous or painful circumstances.
This card is one that shows a time of transition, of quiet change. Perhaps this is literal travel, or a time of spiritual movement.
Although Swords are the realm of the mind, perception and communication, the boatman poles the vessel through the waters of dreams and the unconscious. 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 ahead are only barely differentiated from the waters. Their solidity, or the outcome of this voyage, remains uncertain.
As always with cards that feature multiple figures, the question can be asked – which one of these is us? Who is the helper that keeps the balance as he steers the boat to new shores? Who is the child who looks ahead? Who is the shrouded one, bent over with care?
Perhaps this is a call for you to step out of your ordinary routine and embark upon a vision quest. A soul flight to the Otherworlds may be balm for recent difficulties. What healing and forgiveness might be possible as you cross from the churning waters of your past?
What transitions are you making? In what ways might you now be journeying through a time of sorrow, mourning, or recovery? Perhaps this is a chance for you to get some distance, in order to gain perspective.
Is it possible that you have been carrying some grief for so long that you barely notice it anymore? Healing takes time, and this is given to you now.
This is one of only two Swords cards depicting more than one person. But unlike the Five, there is no conflict here. We are not alone in this transition.
Is there an important journey you need to make? If the past has been painful, we can at least be reassured to know that we are at last able to truly leave it behind.
This week, we all stand in a Gateway between what has been, and what still awaits. We are given this time to undergo an important rite of passage. What hope may await us on the shores ahead?
While it may be difficult to yet see our destination clearly, we are long past looking backwards.
There is no way but forward.