A funeral bier carved with forms of a knight at prayer and a sword lies in a chapel. On the wall behind it, three swords hang vertically, and a stained glass window depicts Christ healing the sick and afflicted as mentioned in Scripture.
When Jesus heard that his mentor John the Baptist had been slain by Herod, he departed His disciples to mourn in a “lonely place apart.” The Four of Swords is our lonely place apart, where we go when unspeakable sadness signified by the Three of Swords has entered our lives. We may mourn the loss of the person in the casket, the card seems to say, but the deceased is forever at rest and at peace. This should give us cause for joy and relief, knowing that the deceased is protected by the Holy Trinity (the three swords on the wall), and that our departed brother goes forward to join all those who have preceded us in the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth that is symbolized by the death and resurrection of Christ.
When we are processing our grief, we need to learn how to “lay down our sword” (our ego, as signified by the horizontal sword on the side of the casket and beneath the effigy of the deceased) that we might again find and know love. Prayer is obviously one way to accomplish this, as the card indicates, but there many others such as meditation, psychotherapy, and various mind/body reintegration exercises such as yoga or pilates. Once we have put our ego-consciousness aside, we can honestly assess the suffering we feel, to see how much of it we have created for ourselves—and chances are that we’ll find that it is more than we thought. This is a card of deep introspection, and as the number four ‘squares the circle” on the Tree of Life, it shows the element of Swords in its perfected form: a suit of struggle and death, but also of healing and rebirth.
Meanings of this card can include: Rest following tragedy, self-examination, meditation and prayer, ego-consciousness checked, relief from suffering, or letting go of pain; but also refusal to “let go”, depression, wallowing in self-pity, rejection of spiritual principles, or “death of the soul.” The need to retreat to a “lonely place apart” after suffering a loss is something we all need at times, and if we don’t give ourselves that kind of “personal space,” it can cause us a great deal of psychic unrest, as we will see tomorrow.