The Column

Queering the Tarot: Queen of Swords

The Queen of Swords is most often depicted sitting on a throne looking regal and proud. This archetypal figure is often seen or understood to be an older, independent woman; often a widow who has done just fine on her own. She wields the Sword calmly and confidently with a look on her face that lets you know she will use this tool when needed. This Queen tells it like it is, values honesty, and is a quick thinker with almost supernatural perception. This means she’s not only concerned with what is fair and just, but she can suss out what’s really going on like none other. She is intelligent and strong, and able to make absolute judgments devoid of emotion. She does not lack compassion or personality though, and usually errs on the side of what is truly just. Traditionally that means this card is read either as a person in the querent’s life that fits that description, or as an energy that the querent is being called to take on. If you’re asking about basic life decisions, this card is telling you to make the most logical decision, or perhaps the one that honors yourself the most. If you’re dealing with problematic or troubling people in an area of your life, the Queen of Swords is telling you to be compassionate but to perhaps wield the sword and sever those ties. This Queen always wants you to be honest with yourself and others when making your decisions, and wants you to do so independently.

The Queen of Swords, to me, brings two images to mind. One of is of my queerplatonic partner’s grandmother, and that is perhaps why I see so much compassion and love in this card despite its seemingly cold appearance. The Queen of Swords isn’t cruel, and is actually a bit of a marshmallow. She’s not going to mince words though, and she’s going to expect you to pull yourself together when it’s time to get things done. What this brings to mind from a queer perspective is the question “What do we owe our community?” Self-care is important, but so is the work we’re doing. No one is telling you not to live in or express your neuroatypicality or to just “get over” any trauma you’ve experienced.

When you’ve committed to a social justice movement or a project that will help your community though, there is, unfortunately, a time where you DO just have to pull yourself together and get stuff done. Whether you haven’t been behaving like your best self or just haven’t been putting your promised energy in, this card shows up to remind you that now is the time to pull it together and get back out there and fight. Alternatively, this card also shows up when you’ve been doing no self-care whatsoever. If you’ve been fighting and working and putting in a ton of emotional labor for other people, the Queen of Swords shows up to remind you that you can pull back and cool off for a bit. However, self-care isn’t always rest and coloring. How clean is your home? How clean are YOU? Have you eaten and drank enough water lately? Have you been sleeping? As the Swords so often do, this card delivers the advice we don’t always want but do need. It might seem contradictory to include both messages, but really this Queen shows up to dish out the advice you need the most when you need it the most. Surrounding cards are important, but so is having a conversation with the seeker, especially if that’s yourself.

The Queen of Swords is often the marker of a queer woman in general for me. I often try to stay away from the gendered assignations in the tarot unless it’s to subvert them, but the other image this card calls to mind for me is the “Virgin” archetype of yesteryear; that is, a woman who is independent, unmarried, a happy “old maid.” After years of scholarly research, we know a great number of these women to be LGBTQ+ without the language or public acceptance to be out as such. Despite being in the closet, the ones we know about regularly spoke out against the society they lived in, using their wits or their pens to create scathing critiques of their times. This is incredibly representative of the Queen of Swords; her own identity sits close to her chest, but she will be damned if she won’t speak out on the injustice others are facing.

The Queen of Swords speaks deeply to the part of our wounded radical souls that still thinks that in the end justice will win out. We want to be this person who so firmly but lovingly commands this sword, using our words for good and allowing that good to win out. It isn’t always a realistic message, but it’s an important one. What is truly just and truly fair can win. We can speak out against oppression in our society and become Queen. We can create the world we want to see through fighting or creation or whatever else we have at our disposal. In my heart, I still believe those things are true even as we lose battle after battle in present day. Yet we keep fighting, and when we want to stop the Queen of Swords shows up to say “No, keep going.” This card is that energy that drives us towards fairness and equality no matter what. This card knows the only way to win is with strength and confidence, and it shows up when the message that those things matter is precisely what we need.

*PSSST! Big news! Queering the Tarot is a series I’ve been running for what seems like forever. Now it’s being compiled, finished, and rewritten as a book by the same title through Red Wheel/Wieser publishing! It’s still way too early even to pre-order, but keep their website on your radar for future purchase options and release date information.

The Column is a community-supported non-profit news, arts, and media organization. We depend on community support to continue the work of solid LGBT-centric journalism. If you like this article, consider visiting Give MN to make a contribution today.