As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers.
It should eventually be titled: The Biblical Tarot: The Not So Minor Arcana by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, but who knows?
The principle of discovering the real meaning of a Minor Arcana Tarot card is based on the blend of the numerological meaning of the number of the card combined with its Suit.
The quality of Six-ness can be discovered from its location on the Tree of Life diagram - right in the center balance point, Tipheret.
The image on the Waite-Rider deck 6-Swords is of a man in a boat poling across a river with ragged refugees in the boat -- choppy water on one side, calm on the other, approaching a distant shore. Tradition has it, this is the crossing of the River Stix with the Boatman.
That's a beginning at finding the meaning, but it doesn't even scratch the surface of the process of Six of Swords.
Six is Tipheret -- Beauty or the beautifying adornment.
It is at the center of the Tree, the balance point, the heart and thus Soul.
One of the purely human gifts of perception is the ability to discern beauty. One of the components of beauty acknowledged across all cultures is composition -- the harmonious relationship of shapes, masses, colors, textures -- how things go together and relate to each other in harmony.
The very concept "harmony" isn't something you're going to be able to teach your dog even if he "sings" (cats, well, all bets are off). Harmony is a very human sort of perception.
Perceiving your own place in the scheme of things is an experience in perceiving the beauty of the universe, its overall composition as one whole, unity.
Swords are thoughts, words, deeds, and even opinions.
Six Swords is the result of the process described in 5 Swords -- in 5 Swords Egos met, in 6 Swords Egos have blended into a composition, and that composition is beautiful. That composition is a Relationship.
If 3 Swords is the wedding, 4 Swords the Honeymoon, and 5 Swords the first fight, 6 Swords is the settled, routinized relationship (image of the breakfast table, he reads the news, she packs the kids' lunches).
The days are routinized, the arguments are scripted ("Where the H did you put my keys!") every behavior is predictable including the complaint about dropping used towels on the bathroom floor. The cliches of life are an artistic composition.
But steady state is not a story, so writers listen up!
6 is love. Swords is Action. The 6 of Swords is LOVE IN ACTION. It is the action of love.
This process is the heart and soul expressing itself.
Swords are about Action -- and when a soul's action is thwarted, resisted, put off or denied, then the Action will burst out somehow.
People who have fallen into a routine will want change. That's the nature of life and the nature of the Suit of Swords. Change.
If the family has fallen into failure, in Six Swords they will move to another town, looking for other jobs, other schools, new opportunities.
If the family has been wildly successful, Six Swords becomes the TV Show Dallas -- the corrosion that wealth inflicts to sober people up and make them reach into their souls for something worth while.
We say we "fall" in love -- to indicate a change.
These processes we've been tracing from Ace to 6 of Swords are in the order of the "Lightening Flash" path down the Tree of Life from highest abstraction to concrete manifestation. It is a "fall" -- a decreasing of potential energy by actualizing it.
In 5 Swords we might see an encounter with a Best Enemy, combat, whacking off parts of the ego that don't fit, whipping the relationship into shape, and from the 5 of Swords you FALL (look at the Tree of Life diagram, it's DOWN to the 6) into love.
The Six of Swords is that thing guaranteed in the USA Declaration of Independence -- THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Not happiness itself, but the pursuit. That's where they're going in the boat -- someplace they hope/expect will be better.
When you finally get a glimmering of an idea of the composition of the world and where you fit into it (at this person's side, leading an army, planting trees), you begin to evaluate your life in terms of the rightness and beauty of it. And you make changes to improve the composition of your life.
The Six of Swords Reversed represents that long, steady state when nothing changes. It won't change until you start feeling stuck in a rut, stultified, trapped in a dead-end job or relationship, repeating habitual actions that go nowhere.
As you criticise every imperfection in your life, you build up a head of steam for change.
Eventually, you will make (actions = swords) a change.
You will make this change because you can see the composition of your life as a whole as it is now -- and as it could be.
Out of love, you will leave where you are to go somewhere else and make a new start, clean up your act, begin success, make it all new and better. It may, however, as the card image suggests, take horrendously deteriorating conditions where you are to blast you out of your rut and make you a refugee.
The Waite-Rider drawing illustrates what the person caught up in striving to change doesn't see.
Swords are actions, but more than that. By the time the project (writing a book, crafting a marriage, raising a kid, whatever) has reached the level of 6, these actions have become habits, coping strategies that become your "baggage" in life.
The astrological association of 6 on the Tree of Life is the Sun. The natal chart's Sun position describes how that individual uses energy.
The Six of Swords is thus how you, individually, habitually utilize your personal energy resources. And that characteristic methodology is behind your habitual actions.
Your habitual actions add up to the shape of your life.
"Every single time! Every time I get close to a promotion, I get fired." Or "Every time I get engaged, the girl dumps me." "Every time I clean up my desk, it's heaped again in two days!"
To utilize this insight into the "every time I" composition of your life, you have to be over a certain age -- usually 29 years old begins the process, and 36 reveals the shape of it -- sixty years and you really see it. (1 Saturn cycle; 3 Jupiter cycles; 2 Saturn cycles.)
Each of the Swords in that boat image represent a habitual action pattern -- the boat represents leaving, trying to flee the consequences of actions. And all actions have consequences.
Fleeing doesn't work. Never once, no matter how much love drives this process, will it work. Why? Because the action of love is to preserve and protect.
Move to another city for a job - your habits will reconstruct the life you had in the old city.
Divorce this dud and marry a nice new person - same fights all over again.
Why do people do that? Change everything but what's really bugging them?
It has so many facets, aspects, textures, components and manifestations the word is almost meaningless. Yet we all know exactly what it means. At core, it is perhaps the universal human affinity for the experience of perceiving beauty.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. It is, however, also an attribute of our material surroundings. There is always beauty in our world, but we aren't always capable of perceiving it.
Once we have experienced that perception of beauty in conjunction with a thing, person, or action, we develop an affinity for the thing that becomes an attachment. We want that experience of beauty again and again, and cling to the circumstances or actions first associated with it.
If you have a vivid memory of a marvelous Thanksgiving family weekend, you will love Thanksgiving and try incessantly to recreate those special conditions. Failing at that endeavor produces what's known as the "Holiday Blues." And the blues can become a habit you take with you.
Humans early on in life develop coping strategies -- ways of succeeding, getting pleasure, being psychologically reinforced, methods of dealing with adversity. When a method works more than once, it is repeated -- and eventually becomes so ingrained the adult isn't aware of that habit.
That is one of the things the swords in the boat symbolize -- the unconscious coping strategy actions that we take with us when we think we are breaking free of a stultifying trap, or successfully fleeing an intolerable situation.
We love our actions, our companions, our opinions, the sound of our own voices, and ourselves. We resist change. We love the people in whose presence we see beauty. We will cling to those things with all the power of our Sun Sign. In Astrology, the Sun represents the Will and physically the heart of the body, the pump that powers our actions.
If the trap or the situation was the result of our habitual actions, we will recreate that same trap and mysteriously that battle will confront us anew.
The 6 of Swords represents that cliche scene in every horror movie where the menace is vanquished, the Hero turns away, and just as he thinks he's free, there is the menace again right in front of him.
That menace is actually inside himself.
If the image on the Waite-Rider deck is taken to be the River Stix -- then the card is telling us we can't even get away from our ingrained, habitual actions by dying and reincarnating. These habits are part of our Soul, and manifest in each personality we wear in successive incarnations.
These habits are old, familiar friends, what we perceive as our Identity, and thus beautiful to us.
So in 6, Swords manifests as the action of Soul Growth, or incarnation to perfect a particular Sword, a particular habit or way of thinking.
The attribute that lets us develop habits is not bad. The content of the habit might need adjusting to fit the composition. (writers: rewriting is the key to success.)
The 6 is about love - about giving one's whole self, about blending into a Unity (yeah, two hearts beat as one; two people, one soul -- there's a reason why cliches are cliches).
The 6 of Swords is telling us Love Conquers All.
Remember the 6 of Wands -- the man on the horse leading a Victory parade (as I said, the Waite-Rider pack is rooted in the zero-sum-game view of the universe). That man is a leader -- his men follow him for love of his vision, values, and objectives. But he is a conqueror driven by love of an idea. (Wands are Ideas). He is an idealist whose ideas are loved.
As Swords manifests through 6, Love becomes an actual action, not an emotion (that's 6 Cups). Love becomes an transitive verb, not passive or reflexive. (Yeah, I know, you can't do that in English.)
By finding and unifying with your Soul Mate you can unlock that white-knuckled death-grip on your old habits and let yourself grow to the next level. And of course, this has the same effect on your Soul Mate, who also grows.
The way love conquers all is through the changes wrought at the level of those unconsciously held coping strategies, the habits dragged with us from incarnation to incarnation and re-created to suit each of our new Natal Charts -- like the menace in the horror movie, appearing before us again and again until we stop doing whatever it is that projects that menace into our surroundings.
You (and only you) can change those habits you drag with you from life to life.
I said under 5 Swords:
Thoughts are Swords.
Thoughts are weapons. Thoughts can hurt others. (this is mysticism, remember?) Merely thinking something nasty about someone can do actual damage to the universe, and it does not matter whether the thinker has a lot or a little magical power gained by Initiation. On this, everyone is equal. Every thought, word and deed no matter how small alters the universe.
And that's the mechanism whereby you project your personal menace or nemesis or ideals of beauty and happiness into your surroundings. What you hold in your heart (Sun, Tiphereth) projects into your world, for good or ill.
The 5 of Swords will try to beat it out of you -- the 6 of Swords will succeed in loving it out of you.
Love is growth. Love spurs you to let go and give to others.
That isn't really "sacrifice" which has such negative and painful semantic nuances.
It isn't sacrifice when you don't actually give up anything of value.
When you love, your definition of Identity, of Self, expands to include the Other. So when you give to the Other, you haven't given up anything -- you still have it because your Self still includes it. You can give up your life for another, and it isn't a sacrifice at all. It doesn't hurt. It isn't a loss. If life is not a zero-sum-game, then there are no losses.
Understanding that concept is what lets people allow themselves to be loved -- to allow another to include them in the other's Identity.
To do this on an individual basis is what allows the soul to love God and be loved by God. That's a biggie and takes a lot of practice with smaller things.
The 6 of Swords Reversed represents the situation where there isn't enough energy to get out of the current habitual circumstance. That's not necessarily bad. It just means the way out of this trap has more than one step. And it means the objective can be achieved only by approaching it stepwise, with a lot of practice, by forging yourself some new swords.
That's all right because you have more than one life. If you're in a trap, find the beauty inside it and love your way out of it. Improve your habits; the trap will dissolve of its own accord.
There's one other property of 6 that we should notice here.
In the Jacob's Ladder diagram
(Google produced this URL
On that web page, count up from the center bottom circle of the long Jacob's Ladder diagram -- 5 circles up, and that is the circle we've been discussing as the 6 of Swords. Its Tree (the Swords Tree) has the black background.
Note that 6-Swords is ALSO the 1 (or Ace) of Pentacles (the red background).
These two vibrations or processes are actually the SAME THING. Remember the guitar string analogy, two notes the same but an octave apart. That's why it's called the Music of the Spheres -- the universe is made out of vibration.
6 or LOVE is always the connection point between one of the 4 Trees and the next.
6 is always at the heart of something and also at the start of something.
At LOVE pure energy transforms from one level to another.
The whole of Creation is about LOVE.
Love holds everything together. Love connects everything to everything.
Think about that. Love doesn't really have to do any conquering because the universe is not a zero sum game where winning creates losers. Love doesn't conquer. Love is.