The Queen of Swords – Rider-Waite and Morgan-Greer tarot decks (respectively)
I recently decided to leave Rome. Many ask why I would want to leave such a beautiful place/easy life, but, many don’t know that I made crucial sacrifices to live here. While it was fun, inspiring, intriguing and challenging for the five months I have been here, there were many facets of my life that left me feeling somewhat bored and powerless. I did not live in my own space, I had to deal with clashing, intensely critical, judgmental personalities and not-so-subtle power dynamics in which I couldn’t escape, but did my best to ignore (how much namaste the shit away can you do?).
Bottom line, I felt as if my life wasn’t mine. I had to make a decision. I made a Queen of Swords, cut-the-bullshit decision based on the wisdom I’ve acquired, based on heart (intuitive)/mind (perceptive) self-reflection. I decided to set my own course, a course in service to myself (that extends outward to others). A course that falls in line with my talents and strengths rather than fights against it.
The queen of swords often gets a bad rap. She’s the “loner spinster” woman of the tarot deck – “A woman widowed!” The Rider Waite deck definition: “Widowhood, female sadness and embarrassment, absence, sterility, mourning, privation, separation.” Probably written by someone under the Patriarchy’s thumb. Just being honest. As the Queen of Swords would be.
I come from Puerto Rico, and my people like to call trailblazing types a “candela pura.” Candela puras are often thought of as eccentric, they follow their own beat and don’t really fit into society’s norms. Culturally, these types are not necessarily frowned upon, just observed as maybe being “different.”
and the Queen of swords IS different.
The other queens in tarot are depicted as being more mothering, sacrificing archetypes, the queen of wands would be depicted as a muse, the queen of cups is the selfless, unconditional caretaker and queen of pentacles provides a kind of security and abundant care taking role (I will feed you!). The queen of swords isn’t for really anybody else (except maybe higher minded things like justice, or humanity), she is first for herself. We shouldn’t mistake her as being unfeeling for putting herself first – she has all the feels, she is ruled by water just like the other queens. But The Queen of Swords knows heartbreak and mourning. Her keen eye of discernment both engenders and alienates. She is the bullshit minimizer in a world that mostly rewards bullshit maximizers or co-dependents. “I will care more about your problems than you will,” the other queens might say. She’s the opposite.
The Queen of Swords is a badass. Her archetype is further characterized in Latin American culture as the Mexican slang word, “chingona.” Urban dictionary defines the “chingona” as a “really fuckin’ cool girl.” Mexican poetess Sandra Cisneros has this to say about this cultural rebel:
“It takes a long time for women to feel it’s alright to be chingona. To aspire to be a chingona!…You are saying, ‘This is my camino, this is my path and I’m gonna follow it, regardless of what culture says.’ I don’t think the church likes chingonas. I don’t think the state likes chingonas! And fathers definitely do not like chingonas. And boyfriends don’t like chingonas. But, you know, I remain optimistic. I will meet a man who likes a chingona, one day. One day, my chingon will come.”
The queen of swords truly doesn’t give a fuck. In Asian culture, her archetype might be Hua Mulan from the poem Ballad of Mulan. You might be familiar with her from the Disney movie. Mulan was a woman warrior who fought in place of her father. Here is a quote from the text:
“They ask Daughter who’s in her heart,
They ask Daughter who’s on her mind.
“No one is on Daughter’s heart,
No one is on Daughter’s mind.”
And do you know why? She don’t give no fucks. QUEEN OF SWORDS Y’ALL.
For anyone familiar with the mythic tarot, the queen of swords is portrayed as the Greek goddess Atalanta. Atalanta was an interesting figure. She was raised by a she-bear and learned to hunt like a bear. #GOALS. She was also one of those virgin huntresses not unlike Artemis, who didn’t want to marry. Some dude even wanted to marry her but she refused him. Also, she would only date guys that beat her at hunting and/or racing. Even then, an ensuing coupledom was precarious at best. Zeus turned her and her partner into lions. Oh well! Life as a queen of swords isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The Morgan-Greer tarot deck illustrates the queen of swords surrounded by roses. The rose is a perfect symbol for this queen – a symbol for both beauty and pain. T.S Eliot elegantly conveys her beauty and terror combined with the symbolism of the rose in (arguably my favorite) the poem Ash Wednesday,
Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.
The Queen of Swords is quite often alone. And so what. We are destined in life to hold this duality: that we are utterly supported by the universe, and that we are inevitably alone in this world. No one can entirely be there for us. The Queen of Swords intrinsically knows this. Listen, boys and girls, if there’s anything she can teach you it’s this: boyfriends/girlfriends don’t have to like you. and neither does the church. You’re alright being you, thorns and all.