A ferryman rows his boat across a body of still water towards a distant shore. Seated in front of him, backs turned to us, are a hooded adult figure and a small child. Six swords stand upright fore of the passengers.
Like other of the cards in the suit of Swords, this is another cryptic image—but not surprisingly, the conventionally accepted meaning of this card is motion—a “journey” or “voyage” of some kind: Most benevolently, perhaps a voyage of intellectual discovery. But there is something too somber and otherworldly about the image to conclude that what we are to ”discover” is something that can be divined by intellect alone; for this is a journey we all must make one day, when we “cross over” into the next plane of consciousness.
This is not a “death” card per se but merely a card of transition, a word rooted in the Latin transitio—literally, “going across” or “passing over.” The sixth Sephira on the Tree of Life, Tiphareth (“Beauty”) is signified by the six swords in the boat. As Tiphareth stands at the spiritual center of the Tree, this suggests that the voyage depicted here is one to be accepted and embraced at the appointed time, for it is central to understanding the God-consciousness that resides within our Selves. Here, ego has been left to die on the battlefield portrayed in the Five, and all that is left is the psyche alone and freed from constriction and strife, no longer guided by our intellect but by the intellect of the Divine tillerman, who pilots the ship.
Meanings in a reading can include: Journey, voyage of discovery, a new stage of consciousness, reunion with God, the Dark Night of the Soul that precedes salvation, the psyche cleansed, or travel by water (traditional); but also arguments and quarrels, unwillingness to change course, spiritually “paddling around in circles,” “rocking the boat,” or fear of letting go. The Journey Beyond is indeed a great mystery, but it is one we can choose to enter in a state of dread and terror, or in a state of serenity and calm. It is entirely up to us.