In the Tarot, cards are generally separated into two parts—the Major Arcana, which are thought of as being more about archetypes, things the Divine or universal energy brings about, or bigger picture themes and ideas for you to focus on as you navigate your journey. The Minor Arcana then, are cards that focus on smaller picture things. Either they look at specific areas of life, help problem solve more minor (in the grand scheme of things) issues, or they focus on the Earthly or “mundane” where as the Majors are often more spiritually or philosophically inclined. Because these are often “lower bearing” cards, and because often one card’s meaning or relevance is correlated to the cards that precede or follow it, we may not cover each of the cards individually in this series.
That being said, let’s jump in! The Swords are our suit of logic, mental clarity (or lack thereof), and intellect, but this is not a lot of people’s favorite suit as the Swords often bring bad news or intend to force us to cut away the things in our life that aren’t working, even if we really, really like those things. This is the suit that corresponds with Air, so it is a suit of swift-moving action, where clear thought and precise actions are needed to reach our goals. The Ace of Swords leads off the suit strong with these ideas in mind. This card USUALLY brings swift, sudden news, often that can anger you or break your heart at first glance. This is one of the cards that actually shows up if we’re expecting illness or injury, and it’s one that can predict heartbreak with pretty good accuracy. This card isn’t always bad news though—frequently a sudden, brash insight rocks our world in the best way possible. We get some news that cuts away things we’ve wanted rid of, or we suddenly know how to solve that pesky problem that’s been nagging us for months.
As we queer the Swords over the next few months, one of the big things I want to look at is how mental illness, sobriety, and identity intersect in the LGBTQ+ community. Because this suit can also indicate mental illness for anyone, ignoring that life on the margins causes unique manifestations of mental illness or that medical care for queer people is disgustingly inadequate in a lot of places would be ridiculous. As such, one of the first ways we queer this Ace is by taking all of that into account. I have seen this card manifest for myself personally, as well as some clients, as warning that a relapse in mental illness is imminent. This has also been true for queer clients living in sobriety in more than one case that I’ve seen. This card’s job is just to deliver that news, so the surrounding cards would provide the advice or the seeker’s next steps. The flip side of this coin though, is that for those who have been struggling with mental illness or who know their drinking or drug use is becoming a problem, what the Ace of Swords does instead is promise that your breakthrough is happening. There can be and often is a sense of victory in this card, and for LGBTQ+ querents, that breakthrough usually comes with a promise that the resources and community you seek to navigate help is in your orbit.
Because the Ace of Swords does bring bad news at times, often suddenly, I never rule out someone outing you without permission or being confronted and treated with hostility because of your identity. However, one thing we think about with Queering the Tarot is the idea that some of the “negative” cards are a little subversive, a little more positive for our community. While this card is always hard, it could be telling you to take matters into your own hands, that now is the time for YOU to deliver news about your identity, transition, or life to others who may not want to hear it. While there are always repercussions, often times tragic ones, if the Ace shows up to push you this way, it’s because, quite simply, it’s your time to do so. If it gets to this point, you’ve probably been waiting too long and “fate” (or whatever your concept of that is) is about to intervene if you don’t take matters into your own hands. It could also be for all the best reasons. Often we are asked to wield the sword, deliver the hard blow, and whatever falls away as a result needed to so that you can walk through life as your fabulous queer self unencumbered by the burden of secrets or those who will refuse to love you as a result of them.
It is a hard card because it cuts away the strings that keep us bound, but it is a necessary card because (unlike some others we’ll explore at later dates) this card shows this is not time for us to be bound. Because of this idea, I’ve also seen it show up for transgender clients who have fully transitioned except for the surgeries they desire. In this case the ideas of cutting away what isn’t necessary become very literal, but usually come as a welcome relief in these situations. It’s then a promise that it’s time to take that leap and that you’ll be thrilled with the results if you do.
Finally, the Ace of Swords alternatively does have a very dominant energy. An optional interpretation if you’re reading for a queer querent who’s strongly kink-identified as well, this is often a quick note from the cards that it’s time to escalate your play or learn a new format for training and punishment. That dominant energy doesn’t have to be used in such a literal sense though. It could all be going back to the idea that you are being called on to bear the news others will perceive as bad—breaking up with partner that loves you, coming out in a space where others will respond poorly, or being your own sword-bearer and going to rehab or into therapy, for example.
Be sure to check out the full Queering the Tarot series.