Six of Swords: Mercury in Aquarius

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

February 2019 Tarot Card Astrology: Six of Swords

The Six of Swords tarot card, Mercury in Aquarius, has its celestial counterpart enacted starting tonight at 10 p.m. and lasting through February 4 around 2 p.m. The Six of Swords: Mercury in Aquarius is about escaping a repressive or debilitating situation and arriving at a place of healing, rejuvenation, and return to power. I provide the correspondences for you to practice ritual work to help you integrate this freedom. Be sure to check out all the articles, upcoming and past, on tarot card astrology.

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Six of Swords: Mercury in Aquarius

  • The Six of Swords is titled “Earned Success.” Tarot readers ascribe to it meanings such as moving on, progressing from rough water to smooth sailing, escape, and the notorious “journey over water.”
  • Mercury rules intelligence, communication, travel, commerce, and magic; he can also be a trickster. Mercury represents how we think and learn. The related god, Hermes, crosses borders that others cannot traverse, exemplified in his ability to lead the dead into the underworld. Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo and is also exalted in Virgo.
  • Aquarius is a fixed air sign ruled by the planet Saturn. Analytical and abstract thinking, innovation, idealism, rebellion, and exile are keywords for Aquarius. Its symbol is the water-bearer, a figure pouring water from an urn, often into a pool. Two wavy lines, indicating ripples in the disturbed water, form the glyph. Steven Forrest says the glyph represents two snakes, symbolic of knowledge. Saturn rules Aquarius.
  • Six of Swords: Mercury ruling the second decan of Aquarius
  • The calendar dates, when the Sun passes through this decan each year, are approximately January 30-February 8.
  • Mercury will move through the middle portion of the sign of Aquarius this year starting January 29, around 10 p.m. through February 4 around 2 p.m. Yes, the Sun and Mercury will be in this decan at the same time this year.
  • Mercury’s day is Wednesday, so the best time for ritual work would be Wednesday, January 30, at dawn. The Sun and Mercury will be tightly conjunct at this time.

Mercury in Aquarius

Five different Six of Swords cards illustrating a variety of Mercury in Aquarius symbolism.
The Six of Swords from, left to right, Barbara Walker Tarot, Mary El Tarot, Deviant Moon Tarot, Tarot of the Pagan Cats, and Spiral Tarot. Although many tarot readers suggest that the card simply represents a passage from difficulty into ease, the Six of Swords: Mercury in Aquarius illustrates complex symbolism of destruction and creation moving toward perfection.

Mercury is clever, tricky, light, and fast. Saturn-ruled, fixed-air Aquarius craves revolution, but must completely demolish the previous way so the new utopia can be built from the ground up. This middle, fixed decan of the fixed sign of Aquarius invokes what is unfluctuating, gaze steady on the permanence of perfection.

Saturn sets boundaries and Mercury crosses them. Breaking boundaries defines Aquarius. Mercury and Saturn work together in this sign to realize the Aquarian ideal. In the Aquarian tarot card sequence, the Five of Swords, Defeat, ruled by Venus in Aquarius, gives way to the Six of Swords, Earned Success. This in turn leads to the Seven of Swords, Unstable Effort, ruled by the Moon in Aquarius. This is the difficult story of re-creation. Giving up. Achieving the right to move on. Wobbling in paradise as you try to get your land legs back after the voyage. Knowing that everything that falls apart, must. And fixing it builds a stronger foundation, one baby step toward the enduring eternal. The Six of Swords: Mercury in Aquarius has accepted defeat in order to move on.

Image of the Six of Swords

The RWS Six of Swords shows a ferryman poling two passengers across water.
The Six of Swords from the Rider Waite Smith Tarot by A. E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, Pamela-A edition.

Many readers, including Arthur Edward Waite, describe this image as a smooth journey, or that the travelers in the boat advance out of difficulty into easy progress. These tarotists say that the choppy waters in the bottom right of the card represent hard times, and the still expanse before the boat signals a new effortlessness. (In fact, these disturbed waters almost form the Aquarius glyph.) However, it is the pole that breaks the water in that quadrant of the card. In order to advance, you must upset the serenity, the status quo. This Swords card is not celebrating a life of leisure. This card announces that progress arises from making waves.

Title of the Six of Swords: Earned Success

You must earn this success. You didn’t win it. No one suddenly noticed that you’ve been doing great all along and gave you employee of the month. You put in the hard work from big idea to tiny detail. You brought your efforts to the attention of preoccupied superiors, probably repeatedly until they heard the squeaky wheel. And you were willing to take the risk of squeaking instead of being a well-oiled cog like everyone else! And truth be told, you have absolutely no assurance that any of this will work. With Defeat behind and Unstable Effort ahead, sometimes you think with relief that you should just stay put. But, unlike the child’s toy that repeatedly hits the wall, you recognize that your bruised nose won’t break the glass ceiling. All is lost anyway. Shatter it.

The Astrology of the Six of Swords

Mercury crosses boundaries. Aquarius is the promised land. Water represents emotions, intuition, and connections — because water is deep and undifferentiated. The skiff glides across the void. The Spirit, the Breath, the Mind of God was hovering over the waters. Swords, the element air, are symbols of conflict, worry, trouble, and sickness. But they also represent light, clarity, thoughts, and the breath of life. Light skims the darkness of the deep. This is the story of creation.

Mercury is the intellect, the idea. Saturn is the formless clay. Aquarius is the vision. The sword carves the clay, removing what is not needed to reveal the inherent form. To engrave the word. Creation arises from destruction, from loss. Let go.

The freight is light, says Waite. Freight is from the same root as fraught: anxious, worried, distressed: common keywords for the Suit of Swords. The freight is light. Worry is brilliance. Weightless. Swords cut away what is unnecessary. We’re traveling light. Let’s go.

Saturn weighs Aquarius down with the oppressive demand of superiority. Mercury governs travel and expresses the qualities of elemental air. Here in the fixed air sign, light, quick Mercury overcomes starting friction. Aquarius only knows what is static, the dismal bedrock of defeat, or the pinnacle of excellence. Mercury grants us passage from one to the other. Lead-foot Mercury in Aquarius burns rubber and we lurch into motion. Mercury is the space between the wavy lines. He gives us double vision and one is two is one again and we’re already there. Mercury splinters the placid mirror of the pool, we realize our imperfection, and we see beyond self. Once an athlete broke the four-minute mile, it became a commonplace achievement. Once we sacrifice the deadlock of the impossible, we become ambassador to all who desire that lofty goal.

Mythology of the Six of Swords

This is one of the few Minor Arcana cards for which my teacher taught me a mythological correspondence. Sailing to Avalon, he called it. According to legend, when King Arthur was mortally wounded, he was placed in a boat and sent to Avalon, the Island of Apples, where he could heal, rejuvenate, and return, the Once and Future King. On his return, there will be a golden age. Mercury is the messenger of the end of one cycle, and announces the beginning of the next.

Often the characters in this card are seen as Charon, who poles the ferry across the River Styx, transporting the dead to the underworld. Mercury also is considered a psychopomp, leading souls to the afterlife.

Ritual for Six of Swords: Mercury in the Second Decan of Aquarius

If you would like to engage the qualities of Mercury in Aquarius, such as breaking out of a rut and advancing toward your idyllic life, consider doing ritual work with the Six of Swords. Develop your own ritual using the correspondences below, or consider adapting the one I outlined in this previous Mercury post. Below are the correspondences for you to work with.

Mercury Correspondences

  • Orphic Hymn to Hermes, or any of the Homeric Hymns to Hermes.
  • Color: orange
  • Number: 8
  • Incense: storax, frankincense, lavender, cinnamon, clove, or gum mastic
  • Stones and Metals: opal, fire opal, orange stones such as carnelian, quicksilver is the metal, but more useful for ritual work is aluminum or any type of mixture, i.e., an alloy
  • Symbols: Caduceus, winged helmet, winged shoes, messenger bag, signposts, pen, paper or scroll
  • Beverage: Lavender or cinnamon tea
  • Food and Flavors: Anything spiced or flavored with Mercury-ruled plants, herbs, or spices, or expressing Mercurial attributes, such as combining, mixing, or crossing borders–“fusion” styles of food, etc. Wheat, honey, olives, strawberries, cinnamon.
  • Clothing and accessories: wear orange and/or wear jewelry made of Mercury-ruled metals and stones, or dress like a notary or scribe, alternately as a messenger, traveler, or schoolmaster

Upcoming Tarot Card Astrology posts for Aquarius

  • Seven of Swords: Moon Ruling the Third Decan of Aquarius
  • The Moon moves quickly, passing through this position in less than a day, from 2-4-19 11 p.m. to 2-5-19 7 p.m.
  • Best times for ritual work: Late night Monday, February 4, in the hour or so leading up to the Moon and Mercury conjunction at 12:11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 5. Alternately, Tuesday, February 5, 3:36 a.m.-4:46 a.m. (day of the Moon, hour of the Moon, the only one during this short time period).
Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five 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 grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit

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