By Sarah Taylor
“Will you take just one sacred pause? Set aside everything you know, for just one moment, and lay your hands on your heart. Feel the aliveness of the sacred world. See that there is no grace coming in the future, there is no awakening around the corner, for love is here now.” ~ Matt Licata
I read this passage from psychotherapist and writer Matt Licata (who posts some truly pithy words of wisdom on Facebook) moments after drawing the three cards for this week’s reading, and I was immediately drawn to the interior image I had of the figure in the Four of Swords: “lay your hands on your heart.”
All of the Fours in the tarot’s minor arcana represent pauses of one kind or another. As far as Swords go, the Four of Swords is one of the least ‘barbed’ of its suit, but it is still very much a Sword: this particular pause is more necessity than preference — a heads-up. Or, rather, a heads down.
If we are to avoid the skirmish and pain of the Five of Swords, then we need a rest, and a rest of a very particular kind: this describes a meditative state, a sense of spiritual nourishment that feeds us when we unplug from the world and go within. If we do not go within, we go without. The Four of Swords is as simple as that.
Seen in the context of the other two cards, the Four of Swords implies the preparatory work needed to ensure we are sufficiently restored and aligned for a creative endeavour that extends beyond the individual.
Whereas the Two of Cups is about falling in love with oneself through the mirror of another, the Three of Cups is a deepening and broadening of that idea to include community predicated on a feeling of celebration and mutual support. There is an abundance to this card (which lies in contrast to the Three of Swords in the centre of last week’s reading) — a fecundity. Love begets love; the presence of love influences those around it.
A necessarily limiting factor in the Four of Swords (the three swords pointed down at the prone figure, holding him in place. Or else.) has become one of upliftment, the swords now mirrored in the three cups that are held above the dancing figures. The complexity and enmeshment underlying the need to enter a state of contemplation starts to move and is transformed — by virtue of a laying of hands on the heart — into a dance of emotional liberation.
The final sword lying under the battle-weary soldier is also transformed into pure (pro)creative potential in the final card, the Ace of Wands. The enclosed space of the Four widens into a landscape that is more sky than earth. The feeling is one of freedom and mutability, underpinned by the fertility of the Three of Cups, yet with more of a sense of otherworldliness to it.
And that is the Ace through and through: it is otherworldly. It is the pure expression of its suit, and, as such, it is not of this Earth. It is from Spirit, handed to us by a disembodied hand carried in on a cloud — symbol of the divine nature of its origin.
Wands appear first in the minor arcana. Creative and erotic, they are the least ‘solid’ of the four suits. Wands are the driving energy of the universe. They are the oomph that precedes feelings (Cups), then thoughts (Swords), and finally matter (Pentacles). They are the force behind the desire to merge. Given that the Ace is limitless, the Ace of Wands lies at the heart of everything. It is the source of all creation.
But there is a caveat to this. Disincarnate as it is, the Ace here on Earth could be something, or it could be absolutely nothing. It is up to us to harness it — to meet it in an act of co-creation in order to bring something into being.
It is the Three of Cups that describes the flavour of this meeting. It is as if the Ace is being handed to the group of dancing women who are communing in a spirit of fertility, joy and ritual. I write ‘ritual’ not only because of the considered way in which they are moving: the union has involved a prior and conscious effort to disengage in order to re-engage in this way. There is a symmetry to the central card that feels stable — stable and co-operative enough to be open to receive the erotic potential of the Ace of Wands. But over and above ritual, there is inclusiveness based on a heart connection — the one that was initiated in the Four of Swords.
To the soldier in the Four, the suspension of animation is an act of faith. When we are called to move within, we do so without the benefit of knowing what lies at the other side of our withdrawal. That, I feel, is the point: we are surrendering control and certainty to find something that lies beyond the limits and limitations of our smaller selves.
Faith leads us to a wisdom that can only be understood by feeling it. It is this ability to feel that equips us with the tools to identify and work effectively with the Ace of Wands when it is offered to us: we cannot know it with the mind; we know it through our bodies and our hearts. And it is in that moment when we feel the Ace that we finally understand the reason for our exile.
Astrology/Elemental correspondences: Four of Swords (Jupiter in Libra), Three of Cups (Mercury in Cancer), Ace of Wands (the pure potential of fire)
If you want to experiment with tarot cards and don’t have any, we provide a free tarot spread generator using the Celtic Wings spread, which is based on the traditional Celtic Cross spread. This article explains how to use the spread.