Contrary to the Queen of Swords, the King is often seen as lacking compassion. This is is someone so intellectually driven, they can only see that their way is the right way. This is someone so eager to rule, they will gladly step on other people to get there. This King is peak Air–cool, callous, and so sure that what they are doing is for the greater good that they’re willing to rule out empathy.
This King is not all bad–very few things in the world are strictly good or bad, right or wrong. If you need to make a decision for YOU, this card shows up urging you to think about your own best interests and cut away anything that is unnecessary or damaging to you in the process. We sometimes need a shot of intellect to remind us not to get totally lost in the rush of feelings or passion we’ve just encountered. It can also be a warning; this King doesn’t care about our feelings, but if something that inhibits the greater good is coming, they’re going to tell us. This card can very easily be about clarity and finding peace. It can very easily be telling you to own your power in a given situation.
This is one of my least favorite cards to get in a reading. I don’t like being selfish, even when I know it’s for the best. I don’t like conflict or fighting, even when they’re necessary. It is one of the most interesting to queer though. This King can be and often is so obviously white supremacist patriarchy. This is the world and the set of institutions that are so cruel to LGBTQ+ people or anyone who is marginalized. This card, in a reading often says “You’re not wrong. Fighting this is going to suck, and you might lose”, or it says “Well, you were on a good trajectory, but now this sexist or transphobic thing is going to mess it all up or stall you substantially.” This sword in this King’s hand might be coming for you, or you might find out that the things you’re grappling with are because the sword has already swung in your direction. This is why this is one of my least favorite cards, and I have seen it manifest this literally a dozen times in the past couple of years especially.
Yet this King’s Sword is double edged, and like most (if not all) of the Swords cards, there are ways we can still “win” whatever it is we are facing or fighting. While so much of my work queering the tarot with LGBTQ+ clients is centered on following your heart and listening to your gut, when we are in the thick of a fight that, unfortunately, doesn’t always work on it’s own. Sometimes we need to think like our oppressor, using a clear head and an aggressive energy to use succinct and intellectual communication to open someone’s mind or even to beat them in a court of law. Sometimes we need to be willing to pick up that Sword and say “Hey–you–I’m done. I’m cutting this down”, whether that “this” is a rule or law we don’t agree with and decide to fight against or even just that person’s affect and influence in our life.
The King of Swords rarely ends totally happily. In fact, it rarely ends. You might change that law but the system is still slanted against you. You might open someone’s mind but what about the next fifty people? You might win the battle, but the war for your dignity and your rights is still raging on. That’s okay. This card teaches us how to fight, and that’s important whether we’re winning that fight or not. In fact, it’s crucial. We want to know how to walk the walk and talk the talk if we want to survive in our society. The Tower promises big, dramatic change, but the little by little and step by step are just as crucial to creating real and sustaining change, and that’s what the King of Swords can bring if we let them.
*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.