In the Seven of Swords we see a man carrying five swords. Another two swords stand behind him. A village of tents is visible in the background. To the left of the image, we see a group of people, perhaps armed with spears and / or swords.
Like a thief in the night, the man seems to have stolen the swords from the village or military encampment. He tip toes away, taking the villagers only means of defense. Carrying five swords, he does not have the full complement of seven, but he has taken enough to leave the village without its arms.
On one level, the card speaks to us of trickery and perhaps treachery. We should be aware of the thief in the night, the one who plays underhand and steals our defences before we awaken. He may be dressed as a simple villager but he can inflict substantial harm on us.
On another level, the card tells us to ”think outside the box”. Battles are not always won by brute force – we may have to become the ”thief in the night.”
Sevens, on the tree of life, are associated with creativity which fits nicely with the second description above. But an extension of creativity is anarchy, a world where rules do not apply. Thieving, playing underhand, stealing through the night along with creative thinking are all encouraged under the Sevens. The suit of Swords in the Tarot is associated with the mental faculty, so it is little surprise to see a depiction of a thief stealing away the defences of a village or army encampment – precisely the type of plot brought about by one with the ability to think.
Our understanding of the Seven of Swords depends very much on whether we see the querent as the thief or a member of the village. One is actively seeking victory, the other is sleeping while the enemy sets him up for defeat.
In both cases, victory is not complete. That the thief cannot carry more than five swords suggests this battle has been won, but the war remains uncertain – two swords remain behind at the encampment. Similarly, the thief must be wary of alerting the soldiers to the left of the image. Indeed, one looks like he may have his sword or spear raised, having spotted the thief. Both scenarios paint a picture of an incomplete victory – a blow has been struck but it has not been a knock-out.
At times when we are on the receiving end of a blow we must remember that if we are still alive, we have not been knocked out. There is always a way back, there is always a path to recover from the loss of five swords.
It is hard to reconcile the card with the mere act of thievery. As with much of the Tarot cards, the imagery is subtle and deep, the meanings of the cards tied into a wider understanding of the universe besides the literal, simple explanation that greets the eye at first glance.
Reversed: The Seven of Swords Reversed is no less singular in its meaning than it is when it is upright.
On the one hand, the card tells us of a forthcoming blow, loss or setback. We need to be aware of the thief and be on the defensive. That blow may come on the mental plane rather than the physical. We may find ourselves wrong footed, out smarted and out played rather than suffering a physical defeat.
On the other hand, it suggests to us that we are not being creative enough in attempting to come up with a solution to our problems. We are thinking ”inside the box” instead of thinking of alternative solutions – like thievery. We must push ourselves to forget our conventional thinking and think of creative solutions to overcoming our problems. Arguably, this is a card that suggests our high morals may be standing in the way of our progress.