Maat Study Group-- Ace of Swords


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."


Swords as Fire

Another justification for the switch to fire for me was the fact that when Pamela Coleman Smith and Arthur Waite were creating the Rider deck it was 1909. The last great wars had been the Civil War and wars in Indian territories. These wars and previous wars would have been read about not experienced, they would have been romanticized and idealized the victors would have spun their ideals into the tales. In our time sometimes called the century of war we know how dangerous FIRE/Swords can be...better that we use our blades as a cooking knife or a plow and our fire for light, warmth and clearing away what is unwanted.
This is what I was thinking when I made these element choices.


When heated, metal usually become more flexible and malleable. I remember in the few classes I took on jewelry making, we used heat to temper the metal and work with it. We had to work fast. Heat is also used to makes metal stronger. With this ace of swords, it is definitively needed. I like the hilt! (-:


I, too, am rather fond of the Swords/Air attribution and have, like someone mentioned in an earlier post, foregone otherwise incredible (to me) decks because I just couldn't get past the Swords/Fire thing. With the Ma'at, I just don't have that issue. The deck's premise and structure are so unusual that I find the associations work just fine for me.....which is a huge relief, because I love, love, love this deck (and can't wait for Julie's next one!!). It's a very intense deck, so I can only work with a few cards at a time. Julie did a reading for me at the Reader's Studio once, and it was almost 50 cards....I don't know how she got through it. :c)


Ha! That's the hidden influence spread that I use for readings. It's very specific because each placement means something. The spread is from Mary Greer's Tarot Reversals book.
I love that spread!