The Six of Swords shows a silent and somewhat mournful journey. Mother and child are hooded with shoulders hunched, implying grief or sorrow, yet the boat is not stuck but moving forward, implying the promise of slow but steady recovery or improvement. The card thus suggests a graceful passage through a difficult and trying time, that is, carrying our sorrow and troubles without resistance. You may be now undergo a period of hardship or delay, or you may have long been waiting out a time of trial and tribulation. You are not totally still, for the boat is moving forward toward something new and better, but the progress is painstaking, slow and incremental. This card comes up a lot for the process of healing after a bad injury. Some things only time can heal.
This is not the dramatic upheaval of the Tower, nor the radical transformation of Death, yet the card can sometimes be referring to the period of mourning or grief. Instead it is a much more mundane and familiar situation, that of simply “making do” with a less-than-ideal situation and hanging onto an inward sense of hopefulness while enduring the unpleasantness that you face in your current circumstances. It is a period of drudgery, perhaps, with not much glitter or sparkle to life, yet we can tolerate it better if we remember that it is only temporary and transitional.
The card can also represent a difficult situation which has been going on for many years, but which no longer causes pain or stress, perhaps because you have now adapted to conditions and accepted the reality of the situation. In other words, it shows the situation of the pain and hardship (symbolized by the Swords) becoming more mundane and manageable, as opposed to traumatizing and destructive. The Swords have not changed, but our emotional experience of them has.
There is a great lesson to be found in this interpretation of the card. Often we point to an external event or circumstance as the source of pain in our lives. “If only (blank) were different,” we say, “then I would be happy”. Yet in reality, it is not any situation in and of itself which causes us pain and upset; it is our perspective of the situation, and how much we are resisting the situation, that causes our inner turmoil. The drama, in other words, is in our thoughts. If we fight and buck against our circumstances, they wound us. If we instead accept the cold, hard facts of reality with objectivity, equanimity and grace, they cease to be destructive weapons that pierce us, and instead become tools that we can make use of to change our circumstances into something more pleasurable.
The Six of Swords is connected to Mars in the 4th house, as a breakthrough to freedom from a familiar environment, and Mercury in the 9th house as the search for new horizons.
Card meanings upright:
The Six of Swords card can symbolize crossing a troubled sea to enter calmer water in your life. You may soon be finding and implementing solutions, and it is possible you will bring others along with you in the process.
Card meanings reversed:
When the Six of Swords card is reversed, it can indicate cancelled or delayed travel plans in your life. You may also experience difficulty with problem solving, especially in mental tasks such as math or science.