You will die in your bed, with great violence.

Four of Swords Cary Yale

Placement: The Minor Arcana



A corpse lies in state, or sometimes it is a sculpted effigy on a coffin, in a church. There is a stained glass window overhead. Three swords are mounted on the wall, pointed towards the dead person’s (or sculpture’s) head. A fourth lies beside or below the body. This description, however, applies only to cards printed after 1909.* The featured image above hails from the fifteenth century.


Right side up:

Four of Swords is an exercise in contradictions. On the one hand, fours in tarot relate to the idea of stillness and rest. You spend a third of your life in bed. Everything else in life involves change and growth and overcoming challenges. Bed is the best place for you right now. Don’t get up. On the other hand, swords indicate breezy freedom, strength, power, and an ability to make quick changes. How does one marry such conceptual opposites to form one usable idea?

Retreat! Call time out or an evening truce. Table any questions thrown your way. Catch your breath. Procrastinate. You will fight the good fight, tomorrow. Maybe the day after. Maybe next week. In the meantime, cocooning yourself in blankets while reading or probing your search engine of choice with inane queries is recommended. Not that this tactic will prevent your enemies from attacking you, but you risk a far worse death if you were to take action right away. A blanket-and-pillow fort may buy you a few extra seconds, especially if one includes a security blanket. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that security blankets contain magical properties, infused as they are by microscopic traces of drool, goldfish cracker crumbs, and possessive love, which remain despite many washings and many decades.


Upside down:

Restlessness. Literal restlessness. You are incapable of rest. You instinctively seek to accomplish every task at once and any delay only serves to fluster you further. Time in bed will not help you now, for your path is an express lane to Burnout, wherein towers of exhaustion overlook streets of frayed nerves and the famous river of tears (which is, in all fairness, lovely this time of year) flows through Panic Park. Must-sees for visitors include the Boulevard of Broken Concentration, Le Mauvais Appetit café, and The Heart Attack Hotel. It is a city that never sleeps.


* S.A.U.C.E. members Tina and Ray Moretti use this trivial detail to dismiss the rich symbolism now associated with the Minor Arcana cards. I ought to devote an entire post to them and their maddening tirade against modern tarot. That would show them.



Classic Four of Swords deaths:

  • Slashed with a pair of ingenious gloves invented in Springwood, Ohio and wielded by one Mr. Frederick Charles Krueger
  • Your bed of nails trick is rusty
  • Electrical shock from a damaged snooze button
  • Sleepwalking into an avalanche of broken snowglobes
  • Sleepwalking into a horde of zombies who mistake you for one of their own, until eventually one of them notices your distinct lack of rot and slaughters you not only for your brains, but also because cultural appropriation is harmful and annoying