Gay Tarot - Sage of Swords


The Sage of Swords is a wise, elder judge in court. You can see a scan here:

I think this Sage somehow carries the principle of the Sage of Cups to a higher and slightly different level: a referee, too, in some regards, but of more serious matters.

Elentir said:

This interpretation of the king of cups makes a nice compliment to the King of Swords, who is in many ways also a mediator (as in judge or decision maker), but whereas the King of Swords mediates between differing opinions, points of view, or even differing versions of "the truth," the King of Cups mediates between differing feelings and desires. The King of Swords would be great in a business dispute, but the King of Cups would be better for a divorce dispute.

So the Sage of Swords will have to settle the divorce dispute, too, and it rests to hope that there will have been a Sage of Cups involved before it came this far :)


Sage of Swords cf. Sage of Cups

Yes, the Sage of Cups is like the couples therapist that they went to before they went to divorce court to stand before the Sage of Swords!



-- Lee


This card's thread might be a good opportunity for me to say something about the fact that the suit symbols do not appear on the cards (as Chris mentions in his wonderful review). Actually, I personally would have liked ideally to have included the suit symbols. I enjoy my various non-scenic-pip decks, and I also like playing cards. I feel that the suit symbols appearing on a card, whether it be a non-scenic card or a RWS-type card, really helps establish the tarot-ness, if you will, of the deck.

My problem was, I simply could not figure out (or perhaps was not clever enough) how to accomplish this while still keeping the modern setting, which was very important to me. One simply cannot have modern characters carrying around swords and goblets and giant coins without looking ridiculous. The Sage of Swords is a perfect example -- can you imagine him holding a sword while he sits at his desk in the courtroom?

I could perhaps have searched for modern analogues of these implements, using different ones on each card (I actually did this on the 8 of Coins, which shows a clockmaker with eight clocks), but I felt this would result in a bunch of cards which would be basically about how clever I was (or wasn't) in working the suit symbols into the scenes, rather than having them be about what I really wanted the cards to be about.

The result, frankly, isn't the perfect solution, because a part of me feels that Minor cards without the suit symbols make it less of a tarot deck and more of an oracle deck. Of course, there are other decks which do it the same way; one example is Riccardo's Fey Tarot. On the other hand, I feel that the ability to express what I wanted to express was a higher priority for my deck than that it have the highest degree of tarot-ness. I would love someday to be able to design a tarot deck where I could make it as tarot-ish as possible, and then, you can be sure, I'll work in the suit symbols, or even have the pip cards be non-scenic! Maybe someday I'll get the opportunity.

I'm just sort of babbling here, not sure if this will be useful to anyone...

-- Lee


No Lee, you're not babbling. It's quite interesting, in fact :D

I don't think it is less of a Trot deck without the suit's symbols on each card. I actually consider it more important to find a picture that carries it's own symbols and the content, the meaning of a card rather than containing a lot of cups/wands/swords/coins or something. I never liked pip-cards that much for exactly this reason- I think I know enough about the Tarot by now to read from them- but I still don't like them. I don't think they drag you any further- when I have a picture, it can tell me things I haven't thought about before. Even things I don't want to hear, in fact. With a pip-card, there is always only the meaning I have remembered at some time. Maybe the other cards can give it extra meaning in a spread- but I could never do my daily draws the way I do them now with pips... And I'd really miss it!!!

Moreover it is fun to find the suit's symbols in your deck, in the one or the other card. For example, the cups in the 2 of Cups or, of course, this great 3 of Swords. - Makes me think of a sword-fish behind the Sage of Swords on the wall :joke: Sorry. *still laughing*


This is another great tarot topic that I'm happy to comment on, though I hope it's not too far off topic.

While I would never read with unillustrated "pip" cards, I very often refer to the numerological symbolism (in accordance with kabbalistic correspondences) combined with the meaning of each suit to reference the fundamental meaning of each card, regardless of the illustration. Thus the fact that there are no suit symbols on the cards in this deck, while it will certainly open up the range of my usual card associations, will in no way inhibit my use of the (RWS) traditional meanings of the cards when I read with them. I am completely with Lee in feeling that without the structure of the major arcana, the court cards, and the four suits, it wouldn't feel like a tarot deck anymore. (I do use the Lenormand oracle from time to time, though.)

I very much agree with Lee that attempting to find modern analogues to the suits would have had a detrimental effect on the deck. It makes me think of the PoMo tarot; a very amusing deck, but not quite in the same spirit as this one. Perhaps traditional suit symbols could have been incorporated into the cards' scenery and backgrounds, but I don't think it was necessary. Cups and coins might not have been too hard, but swords and wands would have definitely been a strain!

In fact, although I combine both the numerological/elemental significance of each card with the traditional RWS pictorial representations as references, I have often wished for an RWS deck that had no titles, no suit symbols, and no rank indicated on the card. Just the picture and nothing else. I have considered trying to custom print one of my own.... but that's a whole different project! :(

Other decks have done odd things with suits; in particular I'm thinking of the Olympus tarot, which instead of wands, swords, cups, and pentacles has persons, places, things, and creatures.

Speaking of traditional RWS imagery, I saw an image of the 10 of swords from this deck and I found it rather bizarre (not that I didn't like it). Could we start a thread on this one, Telcontar? :)


I thoughy using letters, clocks and geese as element symbols in the deck was quite appropriate. There are many ways to convey Air and I think the symbols. The eight of pentacles usualy connotes a period of waiting and studying before you are on your own.

So the King of Swords... a judge was definately a great way to go. Judges must concern themselves with what is correct rather than what is right, what is legal rather than what is moral. A King of Swords often has to make decisons that the rest of us don't have the stomach for. When I was first looking at the cards online Iwondered if the figures wern't a bit too specific. I wasn't sure if a judge and a chef were broad enough to symbolize everything their cards convey. But reading this forum I was impressed by the way someone could see him as a divorce attourney, probably making the card fit very appropriately for romantic readings.

I don't know if I've ever scrutinized a deck so much before. Usually I just say "Well I like most of it and accept everything else as being part of the artist's vision" but since this deck is so very close to home I'm really giving it the third degree. I'm paying as much attention to what isn't in the deck as I am to what is shown. It's maddening that I still have to wait for a copy of the deck of my own to sift through and pass judg.... I mean evaluate. Maddening!


Welcome, Shade!

Nice to meet you here :D

I kept thinking of the Sage of Swords and thought the little hammer in his hand is a nice substitute for the sword. It is a symbol of his might and, like the sword, it provides the means to enforce a decision.

Moreover, I like the way he has changed from the younger but sterner King of Swords to a Sage of Swords- Elder and wiser and maybe a little (but just a little!!) more benevolent. Being a Sage implies that for me... And his deep-thinking look does so, too, like he's not only exploring laws and prior court decisions in his mind but his own conscience, too.


A word about sages in general...

The Voyager deck has apparently had a great effect on me, particularly its use of Sages rather than Kings. I always liked that because it gave elders a place in society and culture, which modern Western culture generally doesn't do. At 43, I'm not such an elder or sage (despite the title over my avatar!), but I can certainly foresee the day when I am, and I don't want to be marginalized by a youth-oriented culture.

This is true of Western culture in general but is even more true, unfortunately, among gay men (I don't know if it's true among lesbians). It's a cult of youth, and it's ridiculous, especially when you consider that there are a lot more gay men who are older (i.e. 40 to whatever) than younger (18 to 40).

I've kept this in mind for the Majors, as well. Several Majors show people over 40. I've also tried to have diversity in body type and in ethnicities. I felt it was important to have as much diversity as possible, especially since we were leaving out a rather large segment of the population (women). I did not want the Young White Buff Gay Male Tarot!

Also, in general I wanted to show men in different jobs to make a political statement, which is that gay people can be found in any profession. There's no reason in the world why an elderly black judge couldn't be gay.

-- Lee


Thank you for your comments, Lee; I laughed out loud at your hypothetical "young white buff gay male tarot;" that collection of attributes is so often taken for granted as the implicit norm. I'm neither an elder nor particularly buff, but characterizing gay culture as a "cult of youth" is pretty accurate, in my opinion. Though doubtless the same could be said for straight "culture" as well.

What are the four court cards in your deck? I've heard mention of the guide and the sage. Is the guide standing in for the page? What did you di with the knight and queen?

I've always thought of the king of swords as a judge, so this card is in no way contrary to my accustomed interpretation. I like the fact that he's black, too, although it for some reason reminded me of Clarence Thomas... perhaps he's the king of swords reversed!

Is the picture on the box showing several men from several different professions around the perimeter of a wheel the illustration from the Wheel of Fortune card?