A mighty queen, viewed in profile, clutches her sword while seated on a throne engraved with images of an angel and a butterfly. She raises her left hand, in a sign of salutation, and a torn lanyard dangles from her wrist. Clouds loom on the horizon, and a single bird flies directly above her. Here, as with her husband the King, the air is still.
The Queen of Swords is the “watery” element of air, that is, the element of air that is the most mutable and adaptable. We see these celestial “shape-shifters” every day in the form of clouds floating across the skies, ever changing their appearances, breaking up and reuniting. Clouds can provide us with shade, and they store life-giving waters. Metaphorically, they can mislead us by “clouding our judgment,” and that is a negative aspect implied by the card.
The Queen is traditionally assigned the zodiacal sign of Libra the Scales, cardinal sign of air. Governed by Venus, Libra—like our Queen—has a passion for justice. She knows, however, that to administer justice equitably, one must be adaptable in applying the law; that sometimes it is necessary to look beyond the letter of the law, to ensure that “the punishment fits the crime.” She wields a swift sword—pointed straight upright, unlike the King’s—but her outstretched hand of welcome means she is a merciful Queen by nature. Likewise we should practice mercy at every turn—even toward people who have wronged us: “You have heard it was said, ‘Love your neighbor, hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Words of wisdom, then as now, and ones the Queen strives to live by—and one reason, perhaps, why this card is often associated with the fields of charity work or public administration.
The lone bird in the sky is unusual inasmuch as birds tend to fly in flocks. One traditional interpretation of this is that the bird represents the departed soul of the dead king, suggesting a state of widowhood for the Queen. In any event, we can interpret this as the solitude we need when weighing the direction we want to follow in life. Once we have spent a time in isolation, praying in secret as Christ urged His disciples, we can re-emerge, as the caterpillar from the chrysalis, and spread our spiritual wings anew like the butterfly and the angel engraved on the Queens’s throne.
Meanings of this card can include: Justice served, mercy and forgiveness, solitude and deliberation, a new phase in life commences, and conventionally, an older woman born under an air sign; but also justice deferred or denied, vindictiveness, confusion, unjust decisions, or widowhood and loneliness. The Queen of Swords implores us to err on the side of forgiveness whenever possible. Many times, an open hand is a more potent weapon than a clenched fist.