A young prince leads a charge at a full gallop against an unseen foe. His sword lifted high, his countenance bears a ferocious mien. He is suited in full armor, with a red plume atop his helmet and boots that are reminiscent of the feet of a bird. Trees bend behind him in a stiff wind, and five birds soar in the sky.
The Prince of Swords represents the “airy” element of air, the component of air in its purest, least obstructed aspect. Our Prince certainly has a determined look on his face—his mouth open, he may be emitting a battle cry—but is he leading his troops off to war, or could he be jousting with a rival for a maiden’s hand in marriage? The air, like Swords, is a double-sided element that can blow one direction today and another direction tomorrow. The Prince is, therefore, somewhat flighty (pun intended) and unpredictable, and capable of acts of the greatest gallantry as well as those of the lowest treachery.
The Prince of Swords has been assigned the astrological sign of Aquarius, which in turn is ruled by Saturn, traditionally thought to by ancients to be a bad omen: Likewise the number of birds in the sky, which stand for the five human senses and the body of man. We can surmise, then, that while the Prince may fight nobly and with the best intentions, someone—perhaps even himself—may very well be harmed in the struggle. The moral lesson here is: Choose your battles carefully. If you’re going to “die on a hill,” don’t let it be for pointless ends.
We should also note that the trees behind the Prince are swaying toward him, which means he is riding into the wind. This should remind us of the need to take chances from time to time, to “swim against the current” that governs our lives; nothing ventured, nothing gained. Less positively, of course, is the possibility that our risk-taking fails miserably, and in the case of the Prince, the stakes could be high. His father’s kingdom—his inheritance—might be on the line!
Meanings in a reading can include: Chivalry, gallantry, bravery under fire, agility and speed, strong sure leadership, or conventionally, a young man born under an air sign; but also foolhardiness, excessive risk-taking, defeat or loss of fortune, underhandedness, or slaughter and plunder. The Prince knows he must prove his bravery before he can expect to ascend to his father’s throne. But bravery can take many forms, and sometimes it’s best to sheathe the sword and fight another day.