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UPRIGHT: Mental clarity, intellectual power, authority, truth
REVERSED: Quiet power, inner truth, misuse of power, manipulation
The King of Swords sits upon his throne, facing forward as if ready to confront whatever life throws at him. He holds a sword in his right hand, the hand of the conscious, rational mind, and points it upright and to the left, the side of the subconscious, intuitive mind. This symbolises the King’s decisiveness, but also flexibility in all matters; while he makes decisions based mostly on his intellectual understanding, he stays open to his intuition. The King wears a blue tunic, symbolic of a desire for spiritual knowledge, and a purple cape, symbolic of his compassion and intellect. The back of his throne is decorated with butterflies (transformation), crescent moons and an angel just near his left ear, positioned as if to give him subtle guidance.
The trees behind him stand still, and the clouds have settled. The wind from the previous Swords court cards has died down, giving the impression of stability and clarity rather than the confusion of sweeping change.
NOTE: The Tarot card meaning description is based on the Rider Waite cards.
The King of Swords is a symbol of intellectual power and authority and has the courage and intellect to achieve all that he desires. When this card appears in a Tarot reading, you are in your power, ruling from a place of authority and respect. You stand firm in your truth and express yourself with deep conviction. As a result, others pay attention to what you have to say.
The King of Swords indicates that you have a clarity of mind and can perceive the truth, so it is up to you to take the lead with providing an objective point of view and making decisions based on impartial judgement. You are well-positioned to judge your situation appropriately and identify any limiting behaviours getting in the way. You are also masterful at keeping your emotions in check while you draw upon your intellectual power and mental clarity to ascertain the truth. You cut straight to the point and get to the heart of the matter for maximum efficiency and impact. While you may worry that you are not being particularly caring or sympathetic with others, this detachment is what you need most right now.
The King of Swords encourages you to use your logic and intellect to navigate the path ahead. You will need to make firm and well-researched decisions and stay fair in your dealings with others. You need to be able to take any situation, look at it with total impartiality, and then come to a balanced and insightful decision.
Often, the King of Swords represents a professional advisor, such as a solicitor or attorney, financial adviser or taxation consultant. This advisor has a solid reputation and a vast amount of knowledge in his particular field. He is impartial and will draw upon his experience and his innate understanding of the rules, systems and structures to give you well-researched advice. He may come across as detached or disinterested in your personal circumstances unless it relates specifically to his skillset. This is so he can provide only the most relevant guidance to you. He prides himself on his expertise and qualifications and is likely to charge a high fee for his services. Nonetheless, he offers the rigour and specialist knowledge that you need right now.
If you have not engaged the help of an expert, the arrival of the King of Swords suggests that it may be worthwhile getting legal or financial advice. If you are expecting changes or particular circumstances that will require an expert opinion, you can be on the front foot by seeking help before they happen. That way, when they do roll through, you are ready to demand your rights and find an outcome that benefits you. You may also benefit from finding an advocate or mentor who can provide you with smart advice.
The King of Swords reversed represents ‘quiet power’. You may not be the loudest person in the room or the most visible on public platforms. However, you have a lot to contribute and share in your own, magical way. Your power and authority come from within, from your unwavering belief in yourself, your deep connection to your values, and your commitment to stand firm in your truth. You do not allow others to steer you off-course, instead preferring to draw your energy from your Higher Self and connect with what truly matters to you.
That said, sometimes the King of Swords reversed can allude to a misuse of power. You may have accumulated significant power and authority, but it has gone to your head, and your ego is now running the show. You may be using your ability to manipulate or persuade others to fulfil your personal needs, withdrawing love, sex, or support as a way to punish your partner. Or you may be using your advanced intellect to make others feel inferior or disadvantaged.
An inverted King of Swords can represent someone who is very intelligent and likes to show off to others about how smart he is by using big words or discussing lofty topics about which no one else knows much. He may be cutting in his words, critical of others, and stern in his manner. This card may represent a person in your life or even yourself; either way, you need to be wary because, although this King may be alluring and intelligent, he can do only harm. He has only his personal interests in mind and will do whatever he can to achieve these interests, even if it means taking advantage of you.
The reversed King of Swords can also reflect a lack of decisiveness about where your best opportunities lie or in what direction you want to go. You may also lack the mental clarity to work out what you need to do in your situation. Your thoughts are scattered and may start to feel panicky and out of control. Upright, the King is typically a very rational man who uses his intelligence and a definitive understanding of a situation to make critical decisions, but reversed, this card indicates that you are feeling lost and uncertain about your options, let alone the decisions you need to make. As a result, you are delaying necessary decisions and generally not achieving anything because you are getting so worried.