Today’s article is a reprint of my meditations on the Seven of Swords that I first published on Facebook in 2012. You might also find my recent post Seven of Swords: Moon in Aquarius and my tarot card astrology series of interest.
Decan: Third, the mutable decan (transitioning, distributing)
Calendar dates for the decan: February 9-18
Decan ruler: Moon (the emotional self) – The High Priestess
Tarot Card for this decan: Seven of Swords
Card Title: Lord of Unstable Effort
(For a full list of the decans and associated cards, please see the Astrological Decans Chart)
The Moon is watery in nature, and is here ruling the mutable third decan of the fixed air sign Aquarius. Mutability is a natural quality for the Moon, which is associated with illusion, dreams, cycles, tides, gestation and maternity. Aquarius is idealistic, community-oriented and innovative. The Moon is dreamy, family-focused and traditional (honoring cycles of the past). When giving the rulership of the third decan of this forward-thinking sign to this nostalgic planet, we harness progress to the cycles of the past, and through remembering history repeal its prophecies. In this case, the Moon waves from the door as we step forward from the blueprint of our Aquarian utopia into the Piscean gestation of our transformative dreams. If however, we have not honored the advice of the second Aquarian decan and adapted our idealism to the different needs of the community, then our clarity is washed away in the flow and ebb of what-ifs and could-have-beens.
The RWS Seven of Swords shows a foregrounded figure carrying five swords, moving past two other swords planted securely in the ground. He tiptoes away from a military camp, looking over his shoulder—we might think he is worried of pursuit but the sly smile gives him more confidence than that. However, he doesn’t appear to have a firm grip on the swords, one of the visual cues to the card title, “Unstable Effort.” Three figures on the distant horizon seem by their large gestures to be arguing or in an animated discussion—perhaps too focused on their own conversation to notice this apparent thief. Yet, one of those figures has stood up—we can’t see the details in this silhouette, but has he turned to look over his shoulder towards Tippy-toes? Is our sneak about to be caught? Are we worried for him? Wait, what is our emotional allegiance? Are we rooting for the thief, clearly center stage of our drama, or do we cheer on the victims, those tiny, practically invisible, shadowy figures from whose camp he carries off his loot? Or are they part of the camp at all? Is it possible they are the invaders? What do we know for sure? How can we make a decisive evaluation when so much is not clear?
When the Moon has lowered her veil of secrecy over our lives, our chivalrous Aquarian idealism is dissipated, and lacking focus, we waver in indecision. Aquarius is classically ruled by Saturn, planet of authority, ender of cycles, and lord over time. Here his rulership is being subtly undermined by the matriarchal Moon, whose cycles bow to Saturn’s limitations and then, with a simple breath, begin again like Brahma creating the universe. The advice of Moon in Aquarius is to release the command of logic and float in intuition as the means to finding our way out of our cycles of worry and fear. This mutable decan of Aquarius reminds us that as firmly planted as our ideals may be, without following the unstable or chance stroke of intuitive luck, all is undermined.
Consider this story: Parshvanath was walking one day when he saw an old man next to a fire. Because of his inner knowing, he could tell that a pair of snakes was in one of the logs in the fire. He quickly warned the man that he was burning the snakes, but instead of acting rapidly to save them, the man became angry at Parshvanath and denied the presence of the snakes. Parshavanath pulled out the right log and put it out, then gently split it, revealing two badly burned snakes. He recited a prayer for them before they died and were reincarnated.
When something goes against your confident rational knowledge, are you able to act on it quickly, or are your efforts dissipated in anger, arguing and denial? What cycles die and are reborn when you deny your inner knowledge?
Parshvanath is often depicted with snakes, called in this epic the “persecutors of all creatures,” growing from his shoulders. Is the hero of the Seven of Swords a recreation of this mythological being? Are the five shouldered swords allusions to the persecutions of our worry and denial? Do the two swords firmly planted recall the snakes hidden in the logs? Does the attribution of Moon in Aquarius remind us to follow our inner knowing in order to act when logic is unclear?
In the Star Trek Original Series episode, Spectre of the Gun, Kirk and his officers are unfairly thrust into a fantasy recreation of the earth’s Old West, and realize they are about to relive the story of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, playing the roles of the losers in that conflict. They realize that they are not in a world governed by the laws of physics when a nerve gas tranquilizer, which they hope to use to incapacitate their antagonists without harming them, does not have any effect despite being carefully and accurately formulated by Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy.
Spock: “It did not function but it must function.”
McCoy: “Nothing could go wrong, Captain. It should work.”
Spock: “A scientific fact…But if the tranquilizer does not function, which is clearly impossible, then a radical alteration in our thought patterns must be in order.”
Spock summarizes here the meaning of Moon in Aquarius—the radical alteration of our thought patterns to allow for the impossible to become possible. Kirk and his human crew are unable to make the necessary mind-shift needed to prevent what appear to them as real, live bullets– which have a precedent within their reality of causing death– from actually doing them harm. (These same sentiments cycle around again thirty years later when Morpheus says to Neo: “When the time comes… you don’t have to dodge bullets.”) Spock mind melds with each of the Enterprise away team and plants the necessary suggestion for them to survive the onslaught from Wyatt Earp and his posse.
Spock’s affirmations during the mind meld process with McCoy speak of illusion: “The bullets are unreal, without body. They are illusions only. Shadows…without substance. They will not pass through your body for they do not exist.”
Again, the Seven of Swords. Picture this time the Morgan-Greer depiction of the five swords across his shoulders as shadows, without substance.
The modern ruler of Aquarius is Uranus, the Fool in tarot, known for radical perception shifts. The mark of our success in succumbing to the lessons of Aquarius is to release the Saturnian limitations of logic and embrace the Lunar illusion, but as firm, real and graspable—to jump off the cliff knowing the wings will sprout, just as they do in our dreams. When we realize our ability to create our own reality rather than submitting to worry and fear, we are flushed down the birth canal of Pisces and when the Sun enters Aries we are born into the Real World where matriarchal intuition overthrows the limiting structure of paternal architecture.
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.