The sixth house/twelfth house axis gives me heartburn. As a student-practitioner of traditional astrology, I know them as the places of “Bad Fortune” and “Bad Spirit” respectively, and where the Greater and Lesser Malefics rejoice — Mars in the sixth house, and Saturn in the twelfth. To me, these are not places in the chart where, in readings, clients want to go. The fifth house, tenth house, seventh house, and eleventh house, for various reasons, are the popular kids on the block. After all, these are the places where we interpret relationships and career successes, as well as our hopes, dreams, and wishes.
The other day, I was ruminating on the swords in the Tarot. Inspired by the work of T. Susan Chang and Mary K. Greer, among others, I alternatively try my hand at rhyming couplets (which I stink at, by the way), or imagining the cards as proxies for scenes in novels or pictorial summaries of the day I had. All of these techniques go towards my continuing efforts to deepen my understanding of and connection with the cards.
Sometimes, however, my favourite thing to do is ponder the Tarot astrologically. And, when trying to vainly choose my favourite sword card, I came up short. While difficult cards pepper all the Tarot suits, I’d rather draw the Seven of Wands than the Three of Swords on any given day.
Astrologically, the swords represent the various decans of Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. In and of themselves, these are not signs of greater or lesser “difficulty” than the earth, water, or fire signs. Yet, a disproportionate number of challenging cards find their way into this suit. Upright or reversed, these cards offer insights into our state of mind: fears that keep us up at night, feelings of entrapment, conflict, sorrow, and burnout. When drawn, the swords are concerning because they represent areas of difficulty that may be hidden or unconscious. When I pull these cards, I am often reminded that I might want to pay more attention to my dreams, engage more deeply in shadow work, or meditate on whatever feelings of discomfort may be rising to the surface.
One particularly compelling case can be made for the suit of swords corresponding to the astrological twelfth house. Loss, affliction, alienation, restraint, limitation, exile, self-undoing, deception, sorrow, misery, misfortune, hidden enemies, and illnesses — these are some of our twelfth house significations.