April 15, 2021
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The King of Sword is the fixed Air sign of Aquarius, as the elemental counterchange of Air of Air.  Although most of the imagery in Waite’s version of this key is of a general airy nature, such as the billowing clouds in the sky, there are two symbols which denotes Aquarius.  The triangle of butterflies at the head of the King’s throne denote Aquarius in a minor fashion, for in some variant of Key XVII – The Star, a butterfly rather than a bird rests in the branches of a background tree.  Also, Key XVII is assigned to the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, which governs Aquarius.  The problem with this symbol, even if it is Aquarian, is that butterflies abound in the Knight and Queen of this suit as well.  The goat and bull of the pentacle suit must be our guide in this matter, which means that the King of Sword must correspond to the fixed Air sign of Aquarius.  The second clue is the two birds flying parallel to each other in the upper right portion of the sky.  These two birds suggest the astrological symbol of two wavy lines, which is the symbol for Aquarius.  The description of this card in Book T has the King sitting in a chariot drawn by elemental winged fairies.  Though Waite did not follow Mathers’ innovation of a chariot for the King, he did embroider these winged fairies into the throne on a level with the head of the King.  A butterfly-wing motif is used in describing these arch-fairies, and that is another reason for the butterflies in Waite’s own version of the King of Sword.  The Golden Dawn crest for the King is a winged angel’s head, and Waite works this into the crown of the King as well. (Hulse, The Western Mysteries, p. 453-454)

The King sits on a throne decorated with butterflies; he holds a Sword in his right hand.  His crown is decorated with the face of a cherub.  The trees in the background are jagged-looking, as if blown by a fierce wind.  Birds fly high overhead and gray clouds gather in the background. (Amy M. Wall, The Tarot of Awakening, p. 282)

The King of Swords combines air (Swords) and fire (Kings).  This card occupies the path from Keter, symbolizing will, to Netzach, the sephirah of the emotions.  The element of air is shown in the card by the clouds, birds, butterflies and winged angel. (Amy M. Wall, The Tarot of Awakening, p. 282)

Where the King of Pentacles looks down, the King of Cups looks to the side, and the King of Cups looks to the side, and the King of Wands is seen in profile, this King looks directly at us.  The King of Swords is a highly self-aware intellect allows him to maintain a clear head, no matter what the provocation.  His gifts of intellect and self-awareness lead to scrupulous self-honesty.  he does not flinch from the most excruciating self-examination, because he is far more interested in the truth than in pampering his feelings or ego.  Netzach is the only emotional influence on this card. but it suggests that this wise King allows his emotional nature to help him govern his intellectual kingdom. (Amy M. Wall, The Tarot of Awakening, p. 282-283)

The unflinching character of this King can sometimes feel like criticism or judgment.  However, the King of Swords intends not to hurt feelings but to remove roadblocks and correct faults.  Those of us who avoid such teachers may find that we are not as honest with ourselves as we need to be.  We may want to take a clear-eyed look at what we’re trying to hide or protect. (Amy M. Wall, The Tarot of Awakening, p. 283)

Those on the Path of Service, the Path of Devotion, and the Path of the Mystic often feel that the resolute self-examination of the King of Swords is not necessary; however, this aspect is crucial on all spiritual paths to keep us from wandering off into fantasy, wishful thinking, or self-delusion. (Amy M. Wall, The Tarot of Awakening, p. 283)


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