A young woman kneels upon a small reed boat that drifts out to the middle of the river. Kneeling is associated with humility and submission. Boats are associated with a spiritual voyage or experience. "To be in the same boat" means to be in the same situation. Reeds are a symbol of fickleness and weakness, but can also symbolize flexibility.

The woman is adrift in the boat since she has nothing other than her hands with which to steer it. To be adrift means to float without control or to lack aim or direction. The woman is not in control of her situation - she has neither food nor water with her and she is unable to steer the boat in whatever direction she might want to go.

She turns and looks back over her shoulder to the shore. But we can't see if her gaze is longing, defiant or dismissive. However she gazes back to the city, she's looking at her past and paying no attention to her present or her future.

The six swords between her and the shore form a barrier or wall that separates her from what she has known. Because there are no other people in the card, we don't know if she's been thrown out of the city, if this is some sort of rite of passage or if this is some sort of initiation.


ETA: Barrett assigns the keyword of "Science" to this card. What the fudge?


rwcarter said:
ETA: Barrett assigns the keyword of "Science" to this card. What the fudge?

That's the same keyword Crowley used. It is my understanding that Barrett based much of this deck on the Thoth. (Compare the 7 of disks of the AET and Thoth to see more of what I mean.) However, this one card, the 6 of Swords, seems to be where he diverged from Thoth and invoked the RWS, with some caveats.

The first thing I notice in this card, is the distance between the boat and the shore. For whatever reasons, this lady presently needs to distance herself from whatever is happening in the city/civilization. This could be either constructive or destructive. It is possible she merely wishes to run away.

That brings me to the second thing about this card that strikes me. The swords are actually floating in the water. This suggests to me her thoughts (swords) mingle with the water (emotion), and this is where I see Crowley's keyword of 'science' does apply. At the same time, I must note the difference between the AET 6 of Swords and the RWS 6 of Swords.

In the RWS 6 of Swords, the swords are in the boat, with the woman, child and man. It is as if the only way she can exit whatever situation she left behind, is from a strictly logical (swords) standpoint. In other words, her thoughts (swords) must be strictly separated from her feelings (water), in order for her to have safe passage.

In the AET 6 of Swords, her swords mingle with the water and actually float! It is as if the water (emotion) supports her thoughts (swords) and keeps them above water. This is an entirely different take on this card than the RWS version. Here we have someone who is AWARE of the relationship between thoughts and feeling and in some ways, appears to have integrated the two in her exit from the city.

And yes, she is rudderless, having no means whatsoever to steer her little boat. If she is in fact running away, this could show a destructive lack of control on her part. On the other hand, maybe she willingly gave up control of the situation she recently left. If that is the case, she is still rudderless, except she is relying on her feelings (water) to take her where she needs to go.

In my opinion, this is quite a cheery card, especially when compared to the RWS 6 of Swords, which has always appeared to be so dark, for some reason.


Hi Sweet,

In the last month or so, I finally realized that this deck is Thoth-based. I need to a) take a look through one of my Thoth books and b) revisit some of the cards that have given me problems since that might be because I was looking at them through a RWS lens.

I hadn't noticed that the swords were floating and also hadn't made the thoughts/emotions connection either.

I'm really glad you're posting on these cards. It will help me to revisit them myself!