The Six of Swords is a card of slow change and subtle beauty, symbolizing a transition from the woes of the past to hopefully greener pastures. A sensitive and poetic image, surreal even, it has that dream-like quality where an otherwise mundane setting is charged with meaning by a single odd element.
A ferryman carries two passengers in his boat, a hooded woman and her child, across a lake or river. The six swords in front of them are a bitter omen; if they were removed, the boat would sink. Even so, the passage is smooth and easy, the waters are calm, and the burden is light.
Beyond a first interpretive layer, that of a journey by water and slow but steady movement, the card’s not-so-obvious details are open to interpretation. In this article, we examine the Six of Swords’ symbolism and potential meaning in a Tarot reading.
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Six of Swords Symbolism
In the Six of Swords, there is no distinction between “me” and the “others” because we are all in the same boat.
The three figures in the ferryboat are moving away from us and this present moment in search of a better life. Perhaps these are refugees who were forced to leave their homes after the Five of Swords disaster, carrying this tragic experience wherever they go.
The swords nailed onto the boat’s floor, block their vision; this is a journey into the unknown.
There is trust, grace, and unsullied love here, a form of silent understanding that develops only through shared ongoing struggle.
Also, a yearning to arrive at a better place where the troubles of the past will be no more; and with this yearning, the necessity to adapt to new circumstances and find out the best way to move on and rebuild.
A turning point, a spiritual journey, a rite of passage; the themes of transition and collective change with the aid of expedient means are prevalent.
The ferryman, who provides a great service, is the driving force of the card. He navigates the boat with a black pole, whose color indicates emptiness and the meditative void, but also potentiality and the mysterious depths of the unconscious. And, like a wand, it is a symbol of creative energy and willpower.
On a metaphoric level, this vehicle of intellectual understanding allows for smooth passage after a traumatic incident. The waters of emotion are calm, there is hope on the horizon, and news travels fast; if one of us catches a glimpse of the shore, we’re all saved.
But how could anyone begin anew with yesterday’s emotional baggage? It may feel like it, but nothing is actually stable here; there is nothing to hold on to and nothing to understand.
Though the crisis of the Five has been overcome or at least left behind, we can already recognize the need for the Swords to be led by or contained within another element, the Wands or the Cups. Things might have taken a turn for the best, but the journey is far from over.
The ferryboat must reach the shore before the past sinks its teeth even deeper in the Eight’s prison of thoughts and the complete devastation of the Ten.
Way past the point of no return and brought here by someone else’s recklessness or cruelty, these people have no choice save for crossing the river of sorrow together.
The scars, the memories, and the sadness will remain, but the pain has worn off, or they’ve grown accustomed to it. Life goes on and the struggle has brought these people closer. They will support and take care of each other no matter how tough things get.
We say that our lives change, but that’s not quite right. We are the ones going through these perceived changes and experiencing all the different phenomena, while life is ever the same, invariably enduring and adapting to the passage of time…
What does the Six of Swords Tarot Card mean?
The Six of Swords means you are moving away from an unpleasant situation without knowing exactly where you are going. Life may soon start getting better if you apply a bit of forward thinking and focus on the future.
This transition requires you to adapt to new circumstances and chart your course accordingly.
The Swords in the foremost part of the ferryboat symbolize troubles and sorrows that stuck around. They have been piling up for a long time, and even though they belong to the past, you cannot let them go just yet.
Ignoring them would make things worse, and trying to remove them would sink the boat; they are part of who you are for now.
Perhaps when this voyage is over, you will manage to bid the past farewell and breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief. But what is your destination?
The card signifies a journey or a spiritual transition. You have emerged from a crisis, but you are not out of the woods yet.
To break free from the past, you need to accept who you have become because of it. Then, with proper guidance, cooperation, compassion, and sound thinking, you might just find what you are looking for.
Another message of this card is to keep on moving and never look back. A problem cannot be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it. Also, do not attack your problems head-on; find a way to evade them for now.
Focus on the future and the means at your disposal, but also be mindful of what you have lost so far.
Finally, never forget that you are not alone in this. You’ve got good people by your side who love and support you, and this is their struggle as well.
Six of Swords Keywords
- Rite of passage
- Slowly moving away
- Expedient means
- Going through tough times together
What does the Six of Swords Reversed mean?
When reversed, the Six of Swords’ meaning is still that of a transition from the past toward a better life. However, you’re having a tough time adapting; you resist the change. Disturbing emotions arise when we address a persistent problem that has been kept in check by silence and complaisance.
Though healing is possible here, this path was not your first choice. Something feels wrong but it’s one of those things we avoid talking about, a sort of problem that people usually keep under wraps so as not to aggravate the situation.
Such an attitude might help maintain the peace within the group, but ultimately the issue must be addressed one way or another.
So perhaps it’s for the best to keep silent about problems that cannot be solved right now; it is not the appropriate moment for an urgent confrontation. In a case like this, patience becomes a virtue.
Human beings show a great willingness to endure suffering and support their loved ones, even when it is obviously wrong to do so. Unfortunately, the solutions of clemency, pity, and toleration are only temporary and sometimes just as useful as trying to patch the holes of a sinking ship with a band-aid…
To relinquish harmful memories and behaviors and turn this collective struggle into a meaningful journey, we must discover subtle yet direct ways to communicate honestly and help with each other’s burdens.
Six of Swords Reversed Keywords
- Rough journey
- Resisting change
- Silent understanding
- Emotional baggage
- Mutual struggle
- Unfavorable issue
Is the Six of Swords Tarot Card a Yes or No?
The Six of Swords denotes a transition toward a better life. Even though times are tough, the promise of hope is enough to go on. Thus, for a Yes or No question, the card means “Yes.” When reversed, it is a sign of resistance, so the answer might be “Not yet.”
If you’re looking for answers, the Six of Swords’ advice is simple. Keep going forward and don’t look back! No matter what has happened or how tough things get, you are on the right path and will figure it out eventually.