The Seven of Swords from the This Might Hurt Tarot.

The Seven of Swords has long held a fascination for me.

It’s a tricky, slippery card, traditionally interpreted as an omen of betrayal, theft, loss. I’ve always found, though, that it also emanates a kind of playful energy, a trickster energy, and I’ve wondered over the years if there’s a way this sneaky little archetype might be put to good use.

I was listening to an episode of the Rise Up! Good Witch podcast, in which the host, Corinna Rosella and their guest, Sanyu Estelle, so beautifully and articulately discussed the healing potentials of the Six of Swords.

Corinna expressed that they are still exploring and uncovering the flow of ideas between the healing escape of the Six of Swords and the sneaky betrayal of the Seven of Swords. The Six – as this wonderful conversation evidenced – is full of possible readings that suggest rescue, mutual aid, emotional intelligence, compassionate care. And then comes the Seven, the thief in the night.

The suit of Swords is rarely considered to be an easy place to dwell, full of neuroses and anxious pitfalls and sharp edges. Maybe this sequence of events – “thank god we made it out alive!” followed by “we’ve been robbed of what little we had left!” – just comes with that Swordsy territory.

Listening to this conversation was clarifying for me, though, because I realised that I rarely read the Seven of Swords that way. Sure, depending on the context, it might be someone trying to pull one over you. It’s always a sign to be on the lookout for trouble. But if I was to consider it in sequence, I’d be more inclined to read it as the escapee pictured on the Six of Swords, in a new land, surviving by their wits.

Some corners are cut, some bridges are burned, sometimes we do things we have to reckon with later, but sometimes survival takes creativity. Not to mention, a little ruthlessness.

Sometimes we’re the trouble, and that’s not always a bad thing.

My reading of this card is heavily informed by one of my favourite books, Trickster Makes This World, by Lewis Hyde, in which Hyde explores the tricksters of world mythology as generative figures – yes, they steal and lie and cheat, but they stole fire from the gods and music, and gave it all to us mere mortals to enjoy in exchange for giving them some sport from time to time.

Now, we’re not trickster gods, and we’ll probably have some explaining to do later on (goodness knows, the suit of Swords from the Seven onwards isn’t exactly a picnic, so if there’s comeuppance to be had, we’ll have it!), but next time the Seven of Swords comes up, maybe consider its generative qualities first, before you start looking around suspiciously for what’s about to go wrong.

The Seven of Swords from the Fifth Spirit Tarot.

What creative solutions does it invite? What slippery possibilities might it be possible to explore, under cover of darkness or in disguise? Where might you need to use your sharpest strategy, to outwit your adversaries (remembering that sometimes our adversaries are ourselves)? Is there some holy fire to be seized while the gods are sleeping? Could we steal Apollo’s cattle and turn them into a lyre? Let’s find out!

A Tarot Spread for Exploring the Seven of Swords

If you’ve drawn the Seven of Swords and want to explore its possible meanings, or if you’d just like to spend some time with this slippery fellow, I’ve created a tarot spread to dive deeper.

If you like, before you shuffle, pull the Seven of Swords out of your deck and place it on the table. Give that trickster a chance to look you in the eye!

CARD 1: What kind of trouble is available to me now?

CARD 2: What creative possibilities can I generate within this situation?

CARD 3: What new knowledge or experience might I gain by engaging with this trouble?

CARD 4: How might I be cautious and careful to protect myself?

CARD 5: What idea or approach might I incorporate in order to minimise the trickster’s impact on those around me?

CARD 6: When the time comes, how might I move away from the trickster zone of Seven of Swords?

A note on that last card – Lewis Hyde’s work stresses that the trickster figure works best on the thresholds of the world. Trickster is neither here nor there, neither god nor mortal, neither alive nor dead. Working with the tricksy Seven of Swords means we need to step into that grey area. But that’s not a place us mortals can stay. Part of our work with the Seven of Swords is knowing when it’s time to step out of the shadows and into the sun. I hope that last card helps you figure out when and how to step over the threshold, one way or the other!

I hope this spread helps you to generate some ideas about working with the Seven of Swords without blowing up your life!

For further juicy reading on this card, I love Susan T. Chang’s dive into the decans. Much food for thought!

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