A barren gray landscape. A right hand bathed in a halo of white light emerges from a storm cloud in the heavens, brandishing a sword that is topped by a crown. Two garlands are strung from the crown, one of holly, the other a palm frond. Six golden raindrops surround its blade.
As with all of the Aces, we pass a new marker on the royal road of self-discovery, in this case the emergence of the first stirrings of human consciousness. The tempering powers of Wands (fire) and Cups (water) have produced Excalibur, the magic sword of myth and prince of the powers of the air. The crown signifies kingship, or lordship of the realm. If his realm seems a bit desolate now, it s only because he has only now become aware of it, for he has only now come into being. The holly branch is a fertility symbol dating to the Druids, and the palm frond, to the Egyptians, signified victory and triumph; to the followers of Jesus, it stood for the gift of eternal life, so this sword has great healing powers as well as the power of destruction. Six golden yods dangling around the sword are divided equally into threes, which suggests an active religious function both for good and for ill. In our own lives, we experience the power of this card whenever we “will” a thing into being that is of, but not contained within, ourselves—a painting, or a novel, or a business proposal, or a Tarot divination. It is the force of intellect propelled by will to achieve a tangible goal, not merely to express ideas for their own sake. Swords are utilitarian tools, after all.
Meanings this card in a reading can include: Triumph, victory, the matter successfully resolved, powers of intellect channeled; even, potentially, fertility; but also force misapplied, intellect employed for sinister ends, a potential threat to the querent, sterility and barrenness. The creative power of air can carry us a long way in this world. But air can blow both hot and cold; it can toss the waves of the ocean (Cups) and fan the flames of fire (Wands). Its power of creation is equal to its power of devastation; therefore we must be mindful at all times how we are wielding it: For our own selfish ends, or for the glory of Creation?