Tarot for the Modern Reader
King of Swords


Image of The King of Swords cardWhen a court card shows up in a reading, we need to determine if it represents another person, or an aspect of ourselves. It can indicate how we are acting or feeling in a given situation, or suggest a personality to emulate.  Sometimes it's a quality we project onto others, and occasionally, they represent situations. However, I typically find that it represents either someone else involved in the situation, or some aspect of the querent.
Kings typically represent the "mature masculine" of the court cards. Like Queens, they have reached a higher level of mastery, they are no longer learning as much as they are teaching.  They manifest the qualities of their suit in a very outward manner. They are usually teaching or leading by example in their respective suits.  They are the fathers, leaders, bosses, and rulers. They have been given power and authority because they have earned it and know how to use it. Their long gowns connote wisdom, respect, authority and tenure. Also to note, the qualities of each king can just as easily be seen in a female querent, they are not gender specific. Kings are responsible for leading their people, so as they represent mastery and success, they also represent social responsibility.
In the King of Swords, we see a very austere man, sitting straight upright, from a forward facing position, the only court member to do this. He wears a long blue gown with a purple robe, conveying wisdom. His crown features a cherub face and wings, and on his throne appear more winged figures, crescent moons, and butterflies, which are a well known symbol of both communication and transformation. He holds a lone sword upright as his staff, though it is tipped slightly to the right side, signifying not just pure wisdom but action.  This king must use his wisdom and judgment to act as well. The birds in the picture again are symbols of wisdom, taking us mentally above the attributes of the other suits, such as passion, materialism, emotions, ect.  However this same attribute can lend this king to arrogance.
According to Rachel Pollack, this king appears to be the most comfortable BEING king. He is a commanding, authoritative decision-maker.  She asserts that while the Emperor (whose posture and positioning are mirrored in the King of Swords) is the archetypal embodiment of order and law, the King of Swords is the "Emperor's representative on Earth".  He puts them into practice in the real world.
This is a person who prides themselves on being very intellectual and factual.  If this is you, you probably don't count on your emotions for much of your intelligence, preferring to receive your intel from concrete facts and figures.  You likely do not put much stock or belief if spiritual systems, particularly the further removed from mainstream religion they are.  You are extremely logical and information oriented.
This king is usually identified in the real world as someone in the justice system in some way.  He could be a judge, a lawyer, or any other member of a legal team, as well as a senator or politician of some sort.  He could be someone who simply gives legal advice, such as a consultant. He is certainly a professional, so he could be a member of the business class, though it would be more likely, if he were a high-powered CEO or some other official in change who uses their power and authority in their job. At the very least he is a manager of others in some capacity. He could also be into architecture or engineering, the sciences, or any communications career. He is definitely educated.
He could be an editor, a great fit for this card, as it combines the critical, discerning and cutting nature of the sword and the intellectual communications inherent in the suit. This could also represent a doctor, most notably a surgeon, due to the swift cutting nature of the blade, as a surgical tool.  Just don't expect him to have much of a bedside manner, he is all about procedure. As an earthly representation of the Emperor, he could easily be a military commander. The King of Swords can represent an expert in almost any field; he is the vast embodiment of applied knowledge and intellect and can instruct or advise accordingly.
Similarly, as a card of advice, the King of Swords may be advising that you need to seek out an advisor of some sort.  It could indicate that you need legal counsel, a lawyer or legal consultant of some sort, or simply a specialist in the field pertaining to the matter in question. It could be that you need to seek out a mentor, however in this case, it would not be for emotional support or camaraderie, but for the knowledge and instruction they can provide you.
He is a man of the law and expects the rules to be followed.  He is very much like the other members of his court, but unlike the Knight, he is less rash and headstrong, and more of the mature qualities.  He has the same desires and expectations of others, but as a leader, is able to maintain his composure and expectations appropriately.  Like the queen who also expects others to play by the rules, he will dole out appropriate rewards or punishments for those who either meet, or fail to meet the requirements.
Like the queen, he is stern but fair. He is authoritative and commanding, intellectual and logical, cool and collected, with a sharp mind, and clarity of thought.  He uses all of these traits to be an effective leader.  In a given situation, this card is calling on you to be logical, to suspend your emotion in the situation and use your intellect and ability to see the situation from all sides clearly to make a fair and rational decision. You must be objective.  This does not mean that you don't care, simply, that you do not let your feelings of a particular situation affect your decision of the outcome.  He has a strong commitment to truth an honestly and believes in the value of principals and maintaining ethics.
As a father, he can be somewhat detached, providing well, and raising children to be honest and morally upright, but he also expects the rules to be followed. There are appropriate rewards and punishments in either case.  He favors giving his children a strong start as responsible individuals over extra cookies and hugs.  He loves them and means well, he is just not the emotional type.  As a partner, he is a bit cool as well.  He is not overly passionate or emotional, though he does have a way with words, and can swoon any woman with a penchant for good communication and intelligent conversation. He must be careful as in both instances he can be critical, and demanding a bit too much.
He is closely associated with the Justice card, as a representation to his commitment to truth and honesty, as well as fair decision making.  When you see these cards come up together in a reading, it's possible that there is a legal situation you are facing, or are currently going through.  If both cards are upright, the indication is that the outcome will be fair, though that does not necessarily imply it will be in your favor.
As a representation of the Air signs, he exemplifies the sign of Gemini in his communication skills. He is the impartial judge and representation of all things both legal and fair in the sign of Libra, and as the Aquarius, we see his affiliation with the sciences, and his ability to serve the higher good.

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King of Swords Reversed

Image of The King of Swords card reversedIn the reversed King of Swords, truth and honesty have turned to corruption.  Kings are to demonstrate social responsibility, and in the case of this reversed king, he is no longer using his mind, power and position to serve society, but himself. This is what makes him corrupt. He is unjust.  He is looking out for himself in the given situation, think of any corrupt official in the legal or political system, taking bribes, or swaying decisions, so as to receive some other favorable treatment or outcome.  There is no commitment to truth, fairness or doing what is right.  He is self-serving. This king reversed is the epitome of a powerful mind turned arrogant and power hungry for the sake of power itself.
You could simply be encountering an unscrupulous person, or one who acts without integrity or morals, in any area of life.  Of course it could be in the legal system, but it could be someone claiming to be a specialist, who is really just interested in taking your money.  If this card comes up when you are inquiring about an advisor or specialist of some sort, be very careful, do your research, ask for references, and double check credentials.
Sadly, this card, especially alongside or in combination with the Justice card reversed, implies that a court matter will not proceed fairly or justly.  It could be that the case will not go your way, but as it usually is an indication of whether or not something is just, the implication is that if it doesn't go your way, you will feel that it should have and that you were treated unfairly, or there was some sort of favoritism for someone else, or some personal gain for someone making the decisions to rule the way they did.
If you know that you are guilty of what you are facing, whether in a courtroom, or other area of life, this card is a warning that you are acting without integrity.  If you are trying to beat the system or get out of the consequences for your previous actions, it will likely come back to you at a later point. This card could also indicate criminal activities, or a lawyer who defends criminals, making money by finding loopholes to get the guilty off "scot-free".  There is no commitment to moral integrity.
The King of Swords reversed is also a harsh disciplinarian.  Where the upright is firm, a rule maker, and rule follower who expects others to do the same, this king reversed rules with an iron fist.  The rules are set, and you will follow them.  If you don't, the punishment can feel harsh, unyielding, or too strict. The reversed King of Swords doesn't care, he demands compliance.
Alternatively, it's possible when this king comes up reversed, there is a problem holding authority.  This could be you, or someone close to you.  You are unable to take a stand, or make a decision.  You may be in charge and expected to make decisions, but you are unable to for some reason.  It could be that you lack the ability to be impartial at this time, or that you are too emotionally attached to the situation.  It could be that you honestly are just too weak-willed or have too soft of a temperament to take on the day to day demanding decisions and criticalness that being in that position demands.  It could simply be that you are losing your edge, or senility could be a factor.
There is a difficulty in the mental processes in some manner, clarity of thought is lacking, and you are mentally undisciplined or just plain mentally immature. You could argue your point just for the sake of being right, even if you do not have the logic or data to support your point, or you could simply not be able to communicate clearly and succinctly at this time.  It could be that your lack of commitment or ability to rationally make logical decisions leads you to not being able to accomplish anything significant.  It could be that you are in a mental crisis of some sort. There could be mental health issues.
This would also not be a good time to have any kind of surgery.  If you have any kind of diagnostic or evaluative services done, you would be wise at this time to get a second opinion.
As an expression of the suit of Gemini, this is where we see all of the different kinds of communication difficulties. In Libra is where all of the negative qualities of corruption, unjust behavior, and anything to do with the legal system come into play.  As an Aquarius, there is no commitment to the greater good of the collective social, and many of the specialist qualities and credentials are called into question as well.

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      I'm Liza, professional Tarot reader, writer and mentor, and this is Tarot Liza. Everyday we're working to bring our mission of delivering more value and Tarot education to the Modern Reader to life! Welcome! Read more...