Court Card Thumbnails – The King/Knight of Swords

The Minor Arcana: The King/Knight of Swords


Fire of Air; The Lord of the Winds and the Breezes; the King of the Spirits of Air

Astrological Correspondence:

21° of Taurus to 20° of Gemini


Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Active, clever, subtle, fierce, delicate, courageous, skillful, but inclined to domineer.  Also to overvalue small things, unless well dignified. If ill dignified, deceitful, tyrannical and crafty.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Whatsoever arises out of the idea of judgement, and all its conexxions – power, command, authority, militant intelligence, law, offices of the crown, and so forth. Reversed: cruelty. perversity, barbarity, perfidy, evil intention”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley):

“The moral qualities of a person thus indicated are subtlety and cleverness. He is fierce, delicate and courageous, but altogether the prey of his idea, which comes to him as an inspiration without reflection. If ill-dignified, the vigour in all these qualities being absent, he is incapable of decision or purpose. Any action that he takes is easily brushed aside by opposition. Inadequate violence spells futility.”


As a person involved in the situation, the King/Knight of Swords is the kind of  resourceful ally I would want on my side in any civil disagreement or legal proceeding, as long as he doesn’t become bogged down in petty details, irritate the judge and jury, and never get back to the main argument. Conversely (like almost any trial lawyer), he may be thoroughly enamored of his own opinion and love the sound of his own voice; there is a snide aphorism for just such an insufferable person: “Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one.” In the early days of the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon series, Bullwinkle appeared as “Mr. Know-It-All,” a resident expert on practically everything, none of it particularly useful. It seems our self-important King of Swords has a role-model in popular culture. Although he bears the exalted title of “King,” in his role as an “adjudicator” this ruler impresses me more as a feudal peer meting out regional justice, passing judgment on which peasant farmer gets the lion’s share of the slaughtered cow, or which rustic suitor gets to marry the swineherd’s daughter. Although he may look regal, he’s not afraid to hike up his trouser cuffs and wade into the fray (especially if there are facts and figures to chew on). Although described as “delicate” by Mathers and Crowley, I think what is meant is “refined,” like polished steel that cuts all the better for it. This King is not someone to trifle with or underestimate.

As an attitude or behavior of the seeker, the King/Knight of Swords encourages careful consideration of all aspects of a situation, followed by decisive action. There is neither time nor place for second-guessing, and clemency is not an essential ingredient in the deliberation, although absolute fairness is. As Jack Webb (“Sgt. Joe Friday” in the 1950s TV show Dragnet) used to scold distraught female witnesses in his deadpan voice: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

As an impersonal influence upon one’s life, this card can describe a situation awash in minutiae that demands meticulous sifting and weighing to get at the crux of the matter.  Ultimately, actions speak louder than words.


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