This blog has been up and running for just over a month now, so I thought it was high time for a little explanation as to my choice of Six Swords as my divination moniker and to share a bit (actually quite a bit) about my spiritual path, as the two are very much interconnected.
This card is the calm after the storm of the fives, the clearing away of tension, static and confusion. It is a time of sadness, but also release, relief and healing. It isn’t the moment of change or transition itself, it is the moment just after we decide to instigate change. It is the realisation that in order to search for truth, we need to let go of what we think we already know, and be brave enough to sail to unknown shores.
One of my favourite descriptions of the Six of Swords comes from my wouldn’t-be-without Crowley Tarot Handbook to the Cards by Akron and Banzhaf. In it, they say: “[The swords’] tips touch a red rose in the middle of the heart that is the centre of the golden rosy cross made of six squares: symbolic of harmony and allegoric for the endeavour to win inner insights through external observations. This external striving for the inner truth corresponds to the drive for freedom inherent to everything intellectual: the longing for liberation through the knowledge of the inner laws of nature. The Six of Swords embodies the scientific endeavour that has retained respect for the mysteries of life.” In a shadow aspect they speak of this card as representing “mistrust, scepticism, prejudices (for example, rejection of spirituality)”.
This last part, the rejection of spirituality, speaks so very strongly to me as someone who has spent the last year or so gradually moving away from staunch atheism to a more gentle agnosticism. When I first acknowledged my own need for spiritual fulfilment, I thought that choosing my path would be as simple as picking a pantheon I liked and going with it. Because of my own ancestry I thought it would lie with Norse or Celtic paganism. I’ve always enjoyed their mythology and symbolism, but they never really spoke to me on a deeper spiritual level outside of their divination systems of Runes and tree wisdom/Ogham.
What I only recently gleaned was an understanding that you don’t really choose your path, it chooses you, it likely already has chosen you; you just have to still the mind, release expectations and listen, using all of your faculties to try and decipher the message. Initially very surprisingly to me, I feel myself called towards Buddhism, with a particular focus on meditative and devotional work with the female bodhisattvas Guan Shi Yin and the 21 Taras, in addition to Gautama Buddha. I’ve always had a deep love and fascination with Buddhist cultures and practices, and had the great privilege of spending a year travelling around Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in my early twenties. Despite my reverence, I always saw the concepts of Buddhism much like its temples – something I visit, but don’t call home.
Now that I know my call down this path is genuine rather than self-constructed, I feel rather foolish…because it was there all along! The hours upon hours I spent looking at the Buddhist artefacts my father had collected on his own travels around Asia; the incredible pull I felt to travel some of the region myself; just how far off of every beaten track I would go to explore the temples; the time – seemingly out of nowhere – I burst into flooding tears, emotionally overwhelmed, while staring at a Buddha statue in a temple in Vientiane – even writing about it now is making my eyes well up.
I have only ever experienced the feeling I associate with the World card in tarot once: I was visiting Wat Phou in Champasak, a – formerly Hindu – temple in Laos. As I approached the temple and spent time wandering around inside, an almost indescribable feeling of peace, serenity, and the unity of all things washed through me. After an hour or so of slowly walking around the temple I went outside and collected a fallen frangipani flower from a nearby tree, the heat suffusing the air around the temple with its sweet fragrance, and put it in my hair. Towards the end of my descent down the temple steps, an older local couple, who were starting the climb up, stopped to speak to me, both smiling the husband said only “you are beautiful”. Now, even at that age I had dealt with plenty of creeps and advances from much older men, and this situation was really not that. I know in that moment I was radiating all of the serenity the temple had brought me, and that they saw and felt it too. It wasn’t a complement of my looks, it was a recognition of the elated spiritual state I was in.
These memories have always remained so strong while many others from my travels of over a decade ago have faded, and it’s only now that I am truly letting myself understand why. All along, these memories that still spark an incredible emotional and physical reaction in me (actually crying a bit now), were trying to show me the way, gently prodding me to my path, urging me to question why these seemingly small events were held so close and dear to my heart. I turned a deaf ear to them, inflexible and blocked from the message. But I hear it now.
Those swords that I used to have defensively pointed outwards, barring any of the spiritual messages trying to make it through are now calmly resting at the still point in the centre. Rather than using the swords of my intellect for harsh and unyielding skepticism, they are now being used as a conduit, actively enriching my spiritual growth and translating the messages I feel, into ideas I can understand. Akron and Banzhaf use the term “holistic” to discuss the experience or mind-frame of the Six of Swords, and that is where I feel I am now, I am slowly de-compartmentalising all of the different aspects of myself, reuniting my long banished spirit with my body and mind.
I am only at the very beginning of this journey, and I look forward with hope and excitement to the places it will take me. One of my favourite depictions of this card comes from the Tarot of the Hidden Realm. In it we see the birth of a new dawn through grey clouds over a mountain range, ravens of prophecy and otherworldly messages herald the rising sun, and the scene is infused with shades of muted purples. I find this colour choice very fitting as purple is associated with the crown chakra, the seat of spirituality, liberated thought, divine grace and transformation, and the woman shown appears to be responding to that call of a higher wisdom, breathing it in. This card is such a perfect expression of that tangible sensation of release and surrender – a surrender to the air, to the mountains, to spirit, to new ideas and new feelings, and a recognition of a higher purpose.
Another favourite of mine is from the Tarot of the Sidhe, the image and caption, “Insight’s Voyage” speak for themselves so perfectly.
These images show us that the destination is not yet important, it is the decision to move in a new direction that counts. We may very well return to exactly the same place, situation and people, in fact we may never physically leave at all, but the important message of this card is to seek new insight, to restore inner balance between heart and mind and to reach the shores of new inner landscapes, transformed.
So, what is the Six of Swords to me? It is taking the sharp and conflicted elements of my intellect on a healing journey through the watery aspects of spirit and emotion. It is allowing myself to wonder at the mysteries of life. It is letting myself be uplifted and carried by my soul, wherever it wishes to take me.
If you feel like sharing, I would love to hear about your spiritual path, how did it find you? Are you settled in, or do you still feel a bit like you’re flying blind? Are there any tarot cards you associate with your journey so far?
*Wat Phou temple picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons