Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The 4 of Swords - Gestation


This is the 4th blog installment (see previous Tuesdays) on the Tarot.

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:
The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.
The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..


As you brought your idea-energy through the Three of Swords, you made the commitment to this project -- whatever it is.

For a writer it's a story. In order to write this story, you must not-write all the others in your idea-file. You are going to invest the irreplaceable capital of your life, the hours of your day, your creative juices, into this one project and therefore not in any other.

Completing this project will change you, your identity, and narrow the field of choices before you for the rest of your life.

As it is for an actor who becomes "type cast," your life will never be the same again You have "lost" something, or sacrificed something, narrowed your options in order to bring this artwork into existence.

Swords represent thoughts, decisions, words, and deeds - actions.

The project that is committed to in the Three of Swords could be a marriage, having a baby, adopting a child, buying a house, being your parent's executor, buying a car, saving to take a trip around the world after you retire, choosing a major in college, taking a magical Initiation, floating a loan to open a business, etc.

Any project requires commitment for success, and therefore requires forsaking all other projects. You make that sort of choice when you choose to take this particular incarnation -- a choice you can't change until it's all done and over with and you get to go back and start over (in Kaballah reincarnation is the norm). But you don't start over free and clear -- you still have this life on your record. And in this life, you still have consequences from past lives to deal with.
If you have not been capable of commitment before - the 4 of Swords may be a totally new experience for your soul. (writers: consider the dramatic potential in that!)

In the Three of Swords the field of action is narrowed, focused, brought to a white-heat of intensity. The energy is squeezed through an aperature and comes out fast and hard -- visualize a wide river squeezing down to spill over a narrow waterfall.

Now visualize that waterfall hitting a pond, and spreading out into a wide placid lake.

That wide, placid lake is in the process that the 4 of Swords represents - the action of growth.

Or take the reproductive analogy, gestation. There is flirting (Ace of Swords), courtship (Two of Swords), Commitment/marriage/consumation (Three of Swords), and now in 4 of Swords, pregnancy, gestation. A long, quiet time of growth.

Writers often say, while they are spending ridiculously long hours at the computer, that they are "with book." It is a compelling, absorbing, monopolizing experience, just like being pregnant.
In the chapter on the Three of Swords, I noted --

"The Jacob's Ladder diagram, the basic structure behind the Tarot deck, is a cascade of 4 interlaced Tree of Life diagrams (see The Biblical Tarot: Never Cross A Palm With Silver) - one diagram for each of the four "worlds" or levels of reality represented by a Suit.

There are four Worlds of the Kaballah, four letters in the Divine Name, four variables necessary to create a Boolean algebra and four forces that hold the world together (the forces physicists want to combine into a Unified Field Theory).

Our manifest reality has three spacial dimensions and Time. See my reviews column


for January to June 2007 for a series on how the Soul enters manifestation through Time."

The core non-verbalizable meaning of each Minor Arcana Tarot card is a blend of the Gematria (or numerology) behind the number of the card and the "World" or Suit of the card.

Other disciplines, such as astrology, have symbols that represent such combinations of symbols.
For example, astrologers associate the Fours of the Tarot with the kind of influence they expect of the planet Jupiter: growth, inclusion, benevolence, The King on His Throne dispensing Justice, making treaties, including foreigners in relationship.

Jupiter is associated with Saggitarius -- the natural 9th House -- which is all about higher education, foreign travel that "broadens" the mind, philosophy, and a jovial sort of pure honesty that comes from affably including everyone in your Identity.

The 9th House (and thus Jupiter) is about the thought processes of other people, of society, of the group minds you belong to. The 9th House and thus Jupiter is about the expression of the philosopical and religious values of society -- the larger group you, as an individual, must include yourself in -- and be included into.

Four is the foundation of our "four-square" manifest reality. Therefore, when you bring energy down to the level of FOUR, you hit a resonance that induces vibration in every level of reality, and every level of your life.

Think of a perfectly tuned guitar. Pluck one E string and the other E string resonates -- i.e. picks up energy and begins to vibrate and produce sound even if you didn't touch it.

That's how the universe as a whole works. Touch one thing -- other things on the same wavelength absorb energy by induction, without being touched.

In the case of the guitar, the medium that transmits the energy is air. In the case of the universe, it's something else -- maybe "soul" would be the best name, maybe ectoplasm or phlogiston -- but it's the substrata of the universe.

For more on how this musical analogy works with the structure of fiction that lets authors convey emotion to readers/viewers, see my April 2007 review column:


So here in the 4 of Swords action sets off ripples that reach to the four corners of the the world.
Swords are Actions. The "action" that can be expressed in the 4 is GROWTH.

Growth is a thing you do when you're apparently sitting still (kids grow during sleep; people sit still to study and grow mentally).

Thus the image on the 4 of Swords is the warrior retired from the field of battle but he's not actually doing nothing. He's healing. Healing grows new muscle and skin, new bone. What's been cut away in Three Swords regenerates here in a new form - scar tissue, stronger, harder, more durable - i.e. Strength of Character.

As the novel you are writing grows, the pagecount gets longer and longer. But you still don't have a novel to send to market. It's just growing. You feel like you're standing still.

Think of the large, placid lake receiving the waterfall. More and more water enters the lake, spreads out, and grows the lake. There may be fish living in the lake, more and more fish as the lake gets bigger. Birds, insects, other animals come -- the lake LIVES, but it is stillness incarnate.

After you buy a house, there is a long period of stillness where you are adjusting the budget to include that mortgage payment. Fewer dinners out, movies, plane trips. Life quiets down -- but assets are pouring into equity in the house. That's the stage of 4 Swords.

After you have a child, life likewise becomes more "quiet" amidst the noise -- assets are pouring into raising this infant to school age.

After you get married, there's the quiet period of growth in Relationship that precedes the first real fight (5 Swords).

After you choose your major in college, there's the quiet period of long hard study days when all the rest of your life gets put on hold (except for frat parties of course -- eventually, you'll see that period as "quiet" too).

After you open a business, there's the long hard pull when you put all your strength into building the business but see nothing much happening.

After every major life-choice, there is this FOUR period of stillness during growth, a stillness that is pregnant with potential.

And that stillness can become so wearing that you begin to feel you've made the wrong choice in the Three of Swords process.

Every last bit of your life blood and substance is pouring into this project, and you see no change, or (as in pregnancy) you're so exhausted from it that you can't wait for it to be OVER already!
That is the point at which you know a good part of the energy you've poured into your project is energizing the entire universe -- like trying to heat the house with the windows open to a snowstorm.

Every choice, every action, every thought, every decision echoes throughout all reality like the guitar E string induction process.

Every single flickering thought affects all of creation -- that's the theory behind the Jacob's Ladder diagram which is the foundation of Tarot. Your efforts are indeed moving the whole world. That's not my theory, just my way of stating a pervasive Kaballah theory to get you ready to take the leap into advanced Tarot study.

Consider how much easier it is to do anything in a group that's focused on doing what you're doing -- Weight Watchers' meetings, Breast Cancer support groups, political rallies, exercise classes. Their thoughts are energizing you as your thoughts are energizing them.

In a novel plot, the writer has to handle this 4 Swords-process carefully because the apparent stillness can get boring.

If your plot explores 4-Swords stage in too much detail, you can generate a "hung hero" (a protagonist who can't do anything to change his situation.) The trick to handling the 4-process part of a plot is to let the protagonist LEARN -- (i.e. include; Jupiter) -- learn a philosophical point of view, learn how another person feels, learn some hidden truth of the situation -- all of which eventually changes his/her own plans.

Let your protagonist "include" more in his/her world-view and grow because of it, and your reader will not get bored. (In script writing, this is called the character Arc.)

When GROWTH has become complete, gestation is finished, the last final exam is taken, the first year of declaring a profit is here, you've written The End, then Tarot readings will produce the FOUR OF SWORDS REVERSED.

That huge placid lake fed by the floodwater runoff over the waterfall -- gets too large for its basin and spills over the next cliff down the mountain, or breaks its banks and becomes a river heading out across a meadow, cutting a new valley in the world.

Because of the nature of GROWTH (Jupiter), the transition from absolute stillness to furious activity can be a powerful, even violent, outburst - like a busting balloon. This happens if the transition has been resisted too long and too much energy has poured in.

The Four of Swords stage of activity -- the building of potential energy by pouring all resources into a project -- can end gracefully if it ends at the right moment.

That moment is often marked on the unseen or psychic level by the return or splashback of the energy that bled away into other 4's out at the ends of the universe.

Remember the E strings on the guitar transferring energy by induction? When some of that energy that moved from the struck string to the unstruck string comes back to the struck string, it's time for the next note in the song.

When the Universe starts to give you feedback on your efforts on any project which is in the stillness phase of growth, it's time to start moving again.

Three years after you buy a house, you've gotten some raises, made some extra payments on the mortgage, paid down your credit cards -- now go out for dinner and a movie, take a vacation, support a charity, become active again.

When you've written THE END, go celebrate, then dig in to the rewrite phase and start looking hard at current markets to shape the material for them.

When the baby finally enrolls in kindergarten, go job hunting with an eye to a new career.
But now that growth is finished, don't expect to move on without meeting opposition.

The opposition met in the 5 of Swords will test the validity and completeness of this gestation process -- have you produced something of value or only grown soft, fat and lazy?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Fascinating, Jacqueline.

    Novels without Character ARCs do bore me to tears. It's the whole Intimate Adventure thing.

  2. Yes -- I think of it as the things that HAPPEN in a story have to HAPPEN TO someone, to impact an individual and knock them off course. Otherwise, the THINGS THAT HAPPEN aren't interesting no matter how graphic or action-oriented.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg