The 4 of Swords: Rest, Rejuvenation, Resolution.

It is important to remember that when any of the Minor Arcana fours of the tarot crops up in a spread, the card in question can positively represent stability or negatively indicate stagnation.  All fours are concerned with structure and operate within tight, defined frameworks, deriving power through discipline, control and order. At its best, fours represent achievement and attainment. At its worst, rigidity and a dull, sluggish state of mind and being will prevail. With the suit of Cups, the free-flowing nature of emotions is brought to a standstill. With the Pentacles, we exercise tight control over our resources, and with the Wands, our passion is contained and given structure. The more Yang suits (Fire and Air) benefit from this sense of ‘order’ as the active, aggressive qualities of Fire And Air are tempered with patience and control. The more Yin suits (Water and Pentacles) however suffer as the receptive qualities of these elements become fraught with stasis, resulting in frustration and apathy.

4 of Swords from the 'Mystic Dreamer' Tarot

The 4 of Swords marries the inertia and passiveness of the suit of fours with the tempestuous element of Air, bringing all mental processes to a (much-needed) standstill. Here, the mind is quieted and peace reigns supreme over our thoughts. We withdraw from the external pressures of our lives and even our own internal dramas to gain objectivity into our situations. From a more spiritual perspective, the 4 of Swords heralds a time when we need to retreat and seek our own answers from deep within our soul because it is only in the tranquil solitude of that space between mind and heart that the most profound insights can be found.

Traditional depictions of this card show a man lying on a bed or pallet, three swords suspended above him while a fourth either rests under him or at his feet. In the Rider-Waite deck, much as is shown as in the Mystic Dreamer version above, the person lies upon an altar in front of a stained glass window, in a setting that could very well be a church or monastery. There are strong religious themes associated with this card, as shown by by the images etched upon the stained glass, as well as the glow emanating from behind the window. A few of the things that come to mind when I gaze upon this card are rest, recuperation, reflection, introspection, meditation, and solitude. Do note that this card cannot be read as either positive or negative without a thorough examination of the rest of the surrounding cards. At its best, the 4 of Swords represents the attainment of deep spiritual insight after a period of withdrawal and challenge. At its worst, it signifies a time of convalescence due to poor health or misfortune.

Whether internal or external, the 4 of Swords points to a need to escape the travails of daily life. This card frequently crops up when the querant is nearing a point of collapse, exhausted by the various demands upon their time and resources, frustrated by circumstances and overwhelmed by the countless burdens of their personal and professional responsibilities.  This is especially pertinent if present with the 7 or 10 of Wands. This card comes as a message to slow down because if you don’t, circumstances will conspire to make you do so, through depleted resources or  poor health. The 4 of Swords signifies a need to rejuvenate the body, mind and soul, so take a vacation or schedule a retreat. Get more sleep and take up activities that help align you with your Higher Self, perhaps through dream-journaling or meditation. The key is to focus on achieving a state of inner peace, so choose serene,  tranquil environments and activities/ partners/ careers that help you slow down.

4 of Swords from the 'Thoth Tarot'


Astrological Association: Jupiter in Libra.

In the Thoth tarot, the 4 of Swords is known as Truce, and corresponds astrologically to Jupiter in Libra. Those born under the sign of the scales are concerned with justice, equality and balance. Librans are motivated to seek peace and harmony in all their relationships, and often make skilled diplomats and mediators. Aside from a talent for conflict resolution, Librans are also interested in matters of social reform and fairness, and can often be found working in humanitarian fields such as counseling, psychology, social work, law and advocacy.  As a philosophical planet, Jupiter enriches the mind and broadens one’s horizons through foreign travel and study. In the sign of Libra, the interests can be geared towards politics, ambassadorship, and law. If the 4 of Swords represents the negotiation of the mind (Air: Swords), specifically the introspection of one’s values, then to ensure that the negotiation is successful, the qualities of Jupiter must be embraced to their fullest: open-mindedness, generosity of spirit, and a willingness to be flexible and consider multiple options/ viewpoints. Oftentimes, this requires not taking an extreme stance but rather keeping to the principles of Libra to achieve balance and equilibrium in all domains of life.

‘Truce’ can be understood as an opportunity to resolve conflict, signified by the chaotic yellow webbing in the background of the card. These indicate collective issues that await resolution. In The Tarot Handbook, author Angeles Arrien refers to the process of achieving truce as the four-fold way. This is indicated by the four swords meeting at the middle of the lotus blossom, encompassing all four levels of consciousness: emotional, mental, spiritual and physical. The four-fold way experience includes:

1. Being present

2. Paying attention

3. Upholding the truth of the matter at all times

4. Detaching from the outcome.

The fourth principle is possibly the hardest of all as it requires one to divest oneself of all emotional attachment to the situation. Those with Water and Fire strong in their charts will struggle with this but for those whom Air features prominently, will be better equipped to detach emotionally. Here, we are being asked to surrender to Divine will and to have faith that the Universe will work in our favour to manifest a harmonious outcome for everyone involved.

4 of Swords from the 'Tarot of Dreams'

When the 4 of Swords makes an appearance in a love/ romance spread, it can point to a state of mind rather than an actual situation. The querent may perceive themselves as alone and isolated and even if committed, could feel a lack of warmth and intimacy in their current partnership.  Sometimes, this card comes as a message that taking a break from the relationship could prove beneficial and that time spent alone will help put recent hassles/ difficulties into perspective. Schedule a quiet retreat away from your partner for a week or two. You may just find that you return to your relationship with a renewed zest for it. If single, because of this card’s association with vacations and trips, can suggest meeting someone through travel. Holistic health and wellness spas are indicated, as are meditation retreats. Check the surrounding cards for confirmation.

From a financial perspective, this card can herald a time when income flow is static. While frustrating, the message is to use this period of inactivity to revise your budget or long-term financial plans. While it may seem endless, bear in mind that the situation is only temporary. The 4 of Swords also points to delays in the receiving of promised payments and from a career standpoint, indicates stalled activities and projects that have difficulty progressing. Disappointment and dejection in work is common, so put some much-needed distance between an unsupportive environment or unsatisfying prospects, focusing instead on projects closer to your heart. Usually, this card signifies a much-needed break from the dullness and routine of daily life. By revamping your priorities, you could find that you return to your job with a much more creative outlook and fresh ideas.

4 of Swords from the 'Vampire Tarot of the Eternal Night'

When the 4 of Swords crops up in a health spread, the message is usually a negative one. Poor health, low vitality, and periods of chronic lethargy are some of the common manifestations following emotional trauma or overwork. Sometimes, a long period of convalescence is indicated especially after acute illness or surgery. Meditation, counselling and psychotherapy are more beneficial to achieving holistic balance than traditional medicine. Use this time to reconnect with the inner self through journalling, guided art/ image therapy and reading.

Overall, the 4 of Swords is one of those cards that is best interpreted in the context of its surrounding brethren. Taken alone, it is neither positive nor negative; rather, it points to a period in which a step back from the pressures of love and work is advised if a rejuvenation of perspective is to be achieved.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shanti Baku
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 16:55:30

    Thanks for this, the four came up with the High Priestess reversed, and this has helped shed some meaning.


  2. Shanti Baku
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 17:15:05

    * Sorry! Wrong reading.
    The 4 Swords actually came up with the Page of Pentacles.
    The High Priestess reversed was with the Ace of Swords yesterday.
    Same query, different days.


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