The Airy suit of Swords has a nasty reputation but it’s a largely undeserved one. In my experience, Swords is certainly a suit that engages and describes conflict, the downside of thoughtless competition and the consequences of our less well-thought through actions and interactions. But I’d argue that the Swords also tell us more about our capacity for cognitive dissonance than we perhaps want to know.
Cognitive dissonance arises when you find yourself trying to cope with two contradictory facts, such as your belief that the election was stolen from Donald Trump versus the complete failure of his followers to produce any actual evidence to prove this assertion. Cognitive dissonance hurts. Deciding that you’ll accept the new, contrary state doesn’t help because you still have to process the discomfort of having ever held the previous belief. So most people take the sensible option. They find an explanation – any explanation – that allows them to continue without change. They invent conspiracies or assert that the lack of evidence is proof that it’s all been suppressed. And so on.
That’s the key difference between, say, the 10 of Swords and the 10 of Wands. The latter strains to deliver a whole world of fiery activity and delivery and allows for the subject to pretend that everything is under control, no matter overloaded they might appear. Admitting that something is wrong or that they might have taken on too much is quite out of the question. The former shows the aftermath of taking on too much and dropping the ball. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t a simple of matter of Subjective Wands versus Objective Swords either (though there’s certainly something to be said for that).
The other problem with Swords is their tendency to show you what has already gone wrong as much as what’s going wrong or will go wrong. But along with this goes that Airy clarity which offers a solution, even if its rooted in a kind of tough love (yes, the universe loves you. It just has a funny way of showing it at times).
One way of looking at the Swords is to see them as dramatising and analysing a difficult process. Think of the disruption of the 7, the stubborn refusal to accept facts of the 8, the anguish of the 9 and the moral devastation of the 10. At each point, the surrounding cards may offer a way out or a solution or a road not taken but still (if you hurry) available.
To summarise, Swords are cards of conflict and thought and dishonest thinking is at the root of most of the conflicts they model. And asking yourself the tough questions is the only way to resolve their various dilemmas.