Six of Swords

Element: AIR

Upright: Moving Forward, Healing, Releasing Baggage
Reversed: Rough Journey, Stuck in Past, Slow Healing

Symbology, Meaning and Interpretation


Moving Forward, Healing, Releasing Baggage.

The major theme of the Six of Swords is the journey. It could indicate a passage away from adversity and sorrow, a change for better times. It is often described as an example of a rite of passage, marking an important stage in a person’s life such as entering a new phase or moving to a new place.

In the card, we follow a boat ride of two figures, both suggesting some kind of melancholy or pain. They are running away from the past/recent harsh moments in their lives but seem to carry the baggage of that past with them, represented by the swords carved on the boat.

This is an indicator that it is a good time to get away, to travel and discover new places, people, and experiences. That is an essential part of personal growth, a transition into the unknown, leaving fears and doubts behind.

Note that the waters are much calmer ahead, contrary to the turbulent waters from the past.

One of the travellers, a young man, is crying, physically expressing the inner torment, and representing our emotional, subconscious mind. We can say that he is under a process of healing, embracing his pain and moving into new adventures. For that, he also needs to get rid of the swords on the boat that delay the progress.

The other one is travelling in silence, covered with a cloth. Related to our rational mind, this figure, immersed in thoughts, does not reveal an identity. That could be a more enthusiastic side of us, where a feeling of hope is gradually flourishing.

According to the Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite, the journey by water suggests a spiritual journey, symbolically compared to the boat of Charon, who carries the souls across the river Styx.

That spiritual journey signals that we need to find the calmest place in our minds and travel to that place. We may be able to do that with a deep process of introspective self-knowledge as well as regular meditation.


Rough Journey, Stuck in Past, Slow Healing.

The journey into the calm waters sees in the inverted Six of Swords a moment of turbulence. The waters, a symbol of our emotional side, are agitated as in a stormy night. We seem to experience consequent delays and setbacks in our travel. That means we need to struggle a little more to get rid of the pain and sorrow.

That rough journey is often linked to the emotional baggage and events from the past that were not washed away. Those painful memories are a barrier to our progress – it is demanding to heal the old wounds and make peace with the past in order to reach calmer waters.

Remember the myth of Orpheus in the Underworld. He was given the chance to rescue his lover from the dead by never looking backwards to her. He did not follow that rule and as he looked back, she vanished right there.