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Thursday, 6 March 2008

Two Of Swords

life drew you, in the dark
two straight lines, to run forever parallel
or to meet at some far-off place
paths crossed in the onward
steel souls touching
-giving off sparks
-making light
-or facing the light, two swords raised

and do they have names?
left-hand, right-hand
my fear, my anger
my young ideas, my old soul
or one is me, and one is you
i do not know
but they are absolute
like light and dark
like land and water
all opposites must meet
in some liminal space, some shore

(but he tells me, there are no opposites
only halves.)

This is not the place for the conflict averse.

It's two Airs meeting, forcing a change in the weather. It had to happen sometime; the energy of the Ace splitting in two, meeting itself. Most decks stage this meeting on the edge of the sea, dangerous and inevitable and ever-changing. The Two of Swords is about the pure idea living in a world where there is difference and change, and how the idea adapts to cope with that.

What does that feel like? A lot of decks make the Two of Swords seem defensive - a lone warrior by the sea, warning others away from her, ignoring the tide that comes in from behind. She is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The Intuitive Tarot is different; she is the sea, and where the swords meet, there is light. Conway's notes say that it is their meeting that makes the light shine above her, but to me it seemed to be beyond her, like she was warding off the light, or readying to become one with it.

Either way, the Two of Swords is a moment when you would otherwise be alone and at the mercy of the elements - but you have your own inner steel, your ethics, the ideas that never leave you. Even if these things aren't in line with each other - and at the edge of the land, they never are - they'll help you. You've just got to balance them, and open your eyes, and live with the sea.

The RWS-based standard Twos of Swords is a blindfolded woman; this links them to the Eight of Swords, who is also often blindfolded but usually unarmed and lost - and to the Wheel, where the Imperatrix sits still and unseeing at the centre of everything. And then there's Justice, which is blind in many depictions but not in tarot, and who holds a single sword aloft, unconflicted and certain. This is not us. Instead, we're with the spark on the edge of the Wheel. We're struggling, and the tide is coming in.

Images of the Two of Swords

The Aquarian Tarot has a beautiful and fairly classic Two Of Swords. The one unusual element here is the girl's nudity. Rather than just waiting on the shore, she's almost overwhelmed by the sea...which is also the only thing that she's wearing. Disaster as clothing. It's all you've got, sometimes.

There's a predictably innovative image from the Osho Zen deck, Schizophrenia: never has indecision looked more perilous. Most decks see the internal conflict embodied in the Two of Swords as inevitable - like the rising tide - but the Osho Zen regards internal conflict as unnatural, and the accompanying text tells you to let go, and dive.

Here's an odd one from the Roots of Asia: the swords are perpendicular to each other, one pointed to the sky, the other marking the waterline. Perhaps as the waters rise, their point of contact changes.

In the Mythic Tarot, we see Agamemnon picking a fight with Athene. Hands up if you think this is a bad idea. This is an unusual one in that the conflicted figure in the centre, Orestes, is unarmed and helpless to deal with the conflict between the two Big Ideas in front of him. He's covering his eyes and trying to hide from the consequences of what's playing out between them, but, just look at the rest of the suit; that kid is getting fucked here.

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