We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Mind Divided
As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself. 
-- Leonardo Da Vinci

And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
-- Mark 3:25
Original Rider-Waite Tarot published by US Games 1999

The Two of Swords in the Rider Waite imagery left me with curious questions, so I spent some time researching the symbolic origins.  It wasn't an easy task because much of the esoteric imagery of the decks that arose from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were symbolic of secrets only the initiates and adepts were privy to.  What they publicly were said to mean could differ significantly to what they privately meant.  Or not.  One never really knows.  

A hoodwinked female figure balances two swords upon her shoulders.
Divinatory Meanings: Conformity and the equipoise which it suggests, courage, friendship, concord in a state of arms; another reading gives tenderness, affection, intimacy. The suggestion of harmony and other favourable readings must be considered in a qualified manner, as Swords generally are not symbolical of beneficent forces in human affairs.
Reversed: Imposture, falsehood, duplicity, disloyalty.

So we have some key symbols mentioned in his description as well as visible on the card itself. 

Blindfold or Hoodwink:
The term "hoodwinked" in reference to the blindfold is used in its archaic definition, to blindfold, rather than the more modern definition: to take in by deceptive means.  The blindfold on the woman is not there for purposes of deception but to heighten her awareness of her other senses.  This essay by Mason Brother Henry Taylor, written in 1923, explains the psychological, symbolic, and functional reasons for the hoodwink in ceremonial rites of their secret society. In reference to the blindfold featured on the 2 of Swords, this quote by Taylor is most appropriate:
Of the inward and constitutional lack of faculty, the Hoodwink is the fitting symbol. It stands for that darkness which is due, not to accident, or to tyranny, but to a lack in the soul itself, which the darkened one alone has the means to remove.
She has the physical ability to remove her blindfold herself, unlike the figure in the 8 of Swords whose hands are bound.  However, her hands are otherwise occupied with the two swords.  It appears that the darkness will not be lifted until she can resolve the issue represented by the swords.

The Latin code of gematria is a common means to explore the inner meaning of mystical writings and scriptures by use of numerology, specifically by exchanging letters and/or phrases with its numerical equivalent and is known to be used by secret societies in their writings. In this system, "hoodwinked" has the value of 1080. This is the female, or lunar, component of the number of fusion (1080 + 666 = 1746) and ascribed to the Holy Ghost.  If we use this numerical clue, we can then see why the figure is female and also why she is "hoodwinked."  She is attempting to hear the intuitive voice inside of her soul, often called the Holy Spirit by Christians, by temporarily blinding her sense of sight.

The Swords:
We know that Swords in Tarot indicate the mind, mental activity, communication, challenge, conflict, and the actions that arise from there.  In this image they are posed crossed with the points of the blade upward.  Symbolically upward pointing crossed swords indicate an active battle as opposed to downward crossed blades which symbolize the battle is over. Upward crossed swords can often be seen as a symbol of victory if the figure is holding the swords crossed over his head, but here the swords themselves are not crossed, but her arms are crossed over her heart in the sign of an X.  The X is the symbol for Chi in Greek which is the first letter in Christ and has long been used as a symbol for the Christ.  It is an ancient symbol of transformation and  is often seen as the position for the arms of a body laid at rest after death.  While some would attribute this practice to Christianity, one can see this same position in Egyptian mummies, which predate Christianity considerably. The X is the Egyptian sign of Osiris, the Sun God, who was later associated (by Christians) with Christ, the Son of God, so  the crossed arms of Egyptians were most likely in honor of Osiris, the Great Lord and signifying their own transformation into the afterlife.  The opposing thoughts or ideas represented by the swords are being held by a woman who is attempting to listen intently to her inner voice in order to be transformed in some way by the inner conflict.

The Moon:
The crescent moon in the upper right sky would ordinarily indicate feminine fertility, but at closer examination one can see the moon is not being reflected in its ordinary position for the waxing or waning moon whether one views it from the Northern or Southern hemisphere.  The points of the crescent never point southwest when it is waxing or waning, so it appears the moon is either being eclipsed here like this photo:  
Lunar Eclipse December 20, 2010
Or it is actually daytime and the sun is high in the sky and reflecting the upper portion of the moon:

Because  the 8 of Cups shows an eclipse quite clearly and this moon is drawn quite differently, I think this is a moon sighted during the daytime.  It is also a waxing Moon and therefore closer to the sun.  The moon is brighter during its newer phases and able to be seen during the day.  Mystery solved.    The waxing moon is symbolic of growth, manifestation, attainment, and gravidity.  The moon itself is symbolic of receptivity, intuition, illumination, passivity, psyche, time, transition, emotion, perception, mystery, wonder, shadow, balance, all of which can be seen in the meaning of the woman's challenge and position in this card.

The Number Two:
Two is the number of the Major Arcana High Priestess and if we place the cards side-by-side we can see the clear imprint of the High Priestess on the 2 of Swords.
Original Rider-Waite Tarot published by US Games 1999
The crescent moon is all over the High Priestess card, from the shape of the pomegranates to her crown and the moon at her feet.  The two swords echo the High Priestess' columns, which are said to contain the archived scientific wisdom of the ages.  The water behind the 2 of Swords is flowing beneath the High Priestess' feet.  The crossed arms of the 2 of Swords woman also echoes the cross on the chest of the High Priestess.  It could be said then, that the 2 of Swords figure is seeking the High Priestess' intuitive guidance and will take all the time it needs to take to get it.  The duality of the number two seeks balance and a means to incorporate the opposing forces into a whole.

Ok, so that was some really cool investigative work, but besides telling us what we likely already know, that we're stuck in an inner conflict between opposing ideas, how would this card help us move out of that place?  What is interesting about this card is though it is of the Swords suit, it actually recommends a very non-Swords approach.  Its advice is to turn not to the light of the sun, the rational, but to the reflective light of the moon, the intuitive and emotional.  Hence the imagery of seeing the moon during the day, to incorporate the intuitive with the rational.  The process itself is transformative because what results is a new thing, a new truth or idea that comes as a blending of intellect and emotion, spirit and reason, divined from the wisdom ensconced within you.

No telling how long one must sit in this stillness, in this uncomfortable quandary. It might be brief or it may last quite a while, but to remove the swords to their downward position to indicate the battle is over and peace reigning, we must must be willing to wait in quietness.  Sooner or later, that insight, the third sword, will break through.
Original Rider-Waite Tarot published by US Games 1999


  1. "It is also a waxing Moon and therefore closer to the sun."

    Having lived all my life in the southern hemisphere. I can't ever help but see the moon depicted in this card as a waning moon. Because of this I've always looked at the Two of Swords as a wake up call. A reminder that this situation of going inwards and tending towards non-action has to eventually end. There may be dark moon times ahead when when one finally breaks the deadlock, but growth will ultimately be the result of acknowledging that we can't stay in one situational "phase" forever.

  2. Perfectly right and perspective is everything. I've always seen the two's as short-lived because there is such tension in their polarities and that tension tends to snap pretty quickly. The lemenscate in the 2 of pentacles is, I think, a self-deception, a thought that this can go on forever and ever, when the two simply states it cannot.

  3. This was amazing to read. I shared on my Facebook friends for them. THank you.


  4. P.S. Love this blog!

  5. Thank you so much, Mandy! I'm really glad you like 78 Notes To Self. And thanks for passing it along to others, too. :)

  6. I am always glad to read your posts. I like your insights, your analysis of symbolism... It is true about this precise post but also in general. (Though I believe Leonardo was kind of making a joke for posterity. Quite well-known HE was pursuing a thousand things at the same time. :-D) Thank you very much for the knowledge you bring us !

  7. Yeah, I thought that, too, Styx. :D Leo was one hell of a multi-tasker! Maybe it was a case of do as I say not as I do. LOL

  8. Anonymous10:53 AM

    nice post and blog. just adding my two cents here. The crescent moon in two of swords is a subtle reminder by Waite that the astrological correspondence for this card is the MOON in LIBRA ;-)

  9. I need people like you because I don't know squat about the astrological correspondences to the cards and Moon in LIBRA is exquisitely PERFECT for this card!

  10. sonia4:47 AM

    Another valuable insight Giny,Being attracted to all the esoteric sciences I ended up with too much of it- like a jack of all trades-However those too quotes- davinci's and Mark just struck into me - and as styx and you had mentioned Davinci was not just a multitasker -he was on top of all too- He even had the drawings on how to make an aircraft even before wright bros did it- Well talking about multitasking, I drew a spread as to give me a solution as to which path to follow- Would you believe it ?-I got 2 swords in the cause of problem place of the spread.And I didnt quite get it- I just thought Oh well you need some balance and that's it- Thanks to your wonderful article Giny