In the Maat tarot, swords are affiliated with the element of Fire and the northern hemisphere season of Autumn. (By contrast, the Golden Dawn tradition designated Swords as the suit of Air.)
Interestingly, even though the Maat tarot is different to many decks in this respect, its Minor Arcana show many links to the Rider Waite Smith tradition, even to the point of having several Swords scenes similar to those of Pamela Colman Smith. This should calm the nerves of anyone deeply ensconced in the RWS system who worries that the elemental differences will be too jarring for them to overcome.
I have to admit that elemental designations that differ from the RWS ones *do* jar me and often keep me from making good use of good decks. (This is because elemental associations are one of the cornerstones of my tarot methodology and figure heavily in readings.) But I am determined not to let that happen to me with the Maat, which is worth the extra struggle.
Julie Cuccia-Watts' Black and White Activity Book for the Maat decks explains her reasoning for choosing Fire for Swords. Swords are made in fire, after all, and both swords and fire are dangerous yet also positive if used with constructive intent. Very well said!
The Ace of Swords, which is the first card in the Cycle of Aries, is a strikingly and appropriately fiery painting of a single sword against a backdrop of brightly burning orange-yellow flames.
In reflecting upon this image, I see that the bottom half of the blade glows orange/red. Although this may just be the reflection of the surrounding fire off of the shiny blade, the image could also be read as capturing the moment in time when a sword is being created, when the steel blade is being forged in fire. I like the idea that the blade is being forged/created--after all, this is the Ace of fire, representing beginnings and new growth.
For some reason--maybe my scripturally-saturated Christian upbringing--the phrase 'the sword of truth" keeps floating down to me as I look at this card. I picture the hot blade cutting through old ideas and negative thoughts. But then I catch myself and realize I am superimposing the traditional designation of Swords as Air (ideas and thoughts) onto the Maat, and I don't want to do that. Still, it seems to be a very righteous and truthful sword to me, doing what Cuccia-Watts writes about in her Activity Book, "becom[ing] the saving grace tool."