I recently performed a reading for someone who is facing surgery and wanted to know what post-operative circumstances would be like. (This is not a medical scenario involving the diagnosis of illness or the proposal of remedies so there are no immediate ethical concerns.) I used the Celtic Cross spread with reversals. I won’t go into the details of the reading other than to say that the conclusion was “Science will win out in the end,” but three of the five cards shown below appeared in the layout. This got me thinking about the cards of the tarot that can suggest surgical procedures when they appear in a reading about well-being (Lenormand has its “Scythe” so I assumed that there are tarot cards to mirror that premise).
The suit of Swords obviously has the most to say about this condition. As I see it, the Ace of Swords (“Root of the Power of Air”) implies the initial, single-pointed probing such as blood-drawing and biopsies leading to a plan of treatment; the 6 of Swords (“Science”) shows the reliability and inherent precision of modern surgical methods; the 8 of Swords (“Interference”) suggests the act of intervention itself, which may be less routine than anticipated; and the Knight of Swords and the Magus depict the surgical team (strictly by their roles, not their gender), with the lead surgeon (Magus) as the final authority. Four of these cards relate to Mercury, the god of science and medicine: 6 of Swords (Mercury in Aquarius); 8 of Swords (Mercury in Gemini); Knight of Swords (Gemini court card); and the Magus (Mercury archetype). The Ace of Swords is associated with the “scientific” sign of Aquarius. All are expressions of the intellectually penetrating element of Air.
Since this is a brief look at visual flags for possible surgical deterrence and not a catalog of the procedural complications that might arise, I intentionally left out the problematic 3 of Swords, 5 of Swords, 7 of Swords, 9 of Swords and 10 of Swords (which could reflect related symptoms rather than cures). I also omitted the two non-invasive Swords cards, 2 and 4, which imply the diagnostic analyses preceding more acute measures, and ruled out the trump cards of the Air element as too abstract for my purpose; the Prince, Princess and Queen of Swords I felt to be less emblematic of scalpel-wielding than the Knight and could denote supporting disciplines. The rest of the cards suggest other forms of therapy and are subjects for a separate essay.
Thoth Tarot, copyright of U.S. Games Systems, Inc, Stamford, CT