Reflections on The Seven of Swords

From today’s one-card reading:

Q: What should I be thinking about today to live a more fulfilling life?

A: This.

VII

At first, this might seem like an odd bit of advice, given this card’s traditionally accepted meanings of futility, treachery, confusion, deception and the like. But if we further contemplate the tableau depicted here, perhaps we can divine some other, less obvious, meanings.

One thing that we can say about the figure in the Seven is that he a risk-taker, stealing away in broad daylight with his enemies’ swords. How much easier and safer this would have been under cover of darkness! In this regard, the Seven reminds that we sometimes need to take chances in life, that we can’t always live by the same safe routine. We innately know this, yet many of us are afraid to take risks, most likely because we fear failing in whatever we attempt. Here, the Seven can be instructive in underlining the true “futility” and self-deception of such thinking. We consciously “perceive ” failure on the part of the thief in the Seven because he has “only” stolen five swords and left two behind. But this is presumptuous thinking on our part—perhaps, after all, the thief only needs five swords, or perhaps he has come looking for two or three, and nabbed a couple of extras for his comrades. For all we know, the swords might have first been stolen from him, and he is simply reclaiming what is rightly his!

Put simply, we simply cannot know by looking at the surface, one way or another, whether the thief has “failed” or “succeeded” in his mission—both concepts are, in essence, illusory and ultimately self-defeating—and similarly, we should not consider ourselves to be “failures” if we take chances and fall short of our imagined goals, which in their very conception may have been grounded in error.

Another clue can be seen in the thief’s attire and his surroundings. In nearly all of the cards of the Trumps Minor, the characters in the cards, the clothes they wear, and the environments in which they exist are vaguely reminiscent of medieval Europe in general and Arthurian England in particular. Here, however, the scene is distinctly Eastern in its aesthetic: Our thief is clad in the garb of a Russian cossack or a Turkish zouave, and the tent city behind him resembles nothing less than an Arab caravanserai on an Oriental trading route. In terms of “spiritual geography”, in other words, the Seven is far removed from the other “characters” in the minor cards. As Swords signify the formative powers of ego and will, the Seven could be warning us about setting ourselves too far apart from our spiritual fellow travelers, or it could be suggesting that we “think outside the box” (or on this case, outside the tent), and be willing to entertain modes of thought that would normally seem foreign and strange to us. This is yet another form of risk-taking, without which (as any first-year business student will tell you) there can be no tangible reward.

As suggested previously, though, one thing the card does not counsel us is to sit still and do nothing. Even if we stumble in our endeavors, the fact that we attempt them at all—regardless of whether we achieve our desired objective—is of singular importance if we are to ever know a fully individuated life. As the old saying goes, it’s not the destination but the journey that counts, and the only true failing is to have never risked failure at all.

Dante DiMatteo

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