Tarot of Prague Cafe Club - Knight of Swords


This is an active knight, and his horse reflects his determination and eagerness to charge into battle. The knight looks like he is posing for a moment, sword raised, a stoic and almost cocky expression on his face. He is confident, almost too confident for his own good. Perhaps he does not know as much as he thinks he does…yet he presents an attitude of cool, rational thought, and we can assume that his successes are many….failure is not an option for him. He may be impatient and intolerant of those who do not follow his lead or adopt his values.

The castle in the background is intriguing…the many pointed towers look like swords themselves, perhaps indicating that he has created his own world, surrounded by those whose intellect and sharp-minded attitude reflect his own. He does not appreciate being questioned or denied what he wants. The Knight of Swords can be cold and calculating toward others; his only concern is to win the argument, or battle of wills, with no consideration of how his actions may affect others.

:) Luna

Bean Feasa

I love the stormy energy in this card - this is one of the darkest skies in the whole deck. Knight of Swords is raring to go - possibly spoiling for a fight. I agree with you Luna that he almost looks like he's posing - I think he's very aware of the figure he's cutting; he's definitely out to impress, to have adventures, and he'll dine out on the stories of his own exploits for years afterwards. His billowing scarlet and pink cloak and mustard and pink plumes make a great contrast to the gunmetal shades of armour and sky. I love the gothicky, high medieval look of the church behind - and I really like your idea that it could represent surrounding himself with sharp intellects - I could well imagine a situation of intrigue and jockeying for power in his world. And again it looks like he's positioned himself here for visual effect rather than for any real spiritual solace or guidance. I don't think this is a knight who will look for guidance from anyone, mortal or divine. He writes his own script and stages his own very dramatic dramas.


This was THE hardest card for us to do. I know I've joked about it before, but honestly, we thought we would never find a suitable Knight of Swords. It was very strange when it suddenly hit me (it was me, in this case, rather than Alex, although in general he found more images than I did) that we had in fact for ages had a totally "right" picture and historical personage, in the form of Duke Wallenstein - brillant, warlike and utterly convinced that everyone should follow him without question. He also expected to be admired - in fact his palace is simply FULL of pictures of himself in various heroic poses.

In the original painting he is driving a chariot and is shown as "Mars". (I'll try to find it, resize and post it). We changed this so that he is riding one of the original horses (we do loads of redrawing - I think anyone who reads this thread has gathered that!). We also of course put him against the background of St Vitus Cathedral (in one sense you are right to describe it as a castle, as it makes up part of the complex that is referred to as "the castle" in Prague). St Vitus is an ODD place - immortalised in Kafka. Again, it is an odd mix of awe-inspiring and frightening. Kafka describes it in quite spine-chilling terms in The Trial.

Here is an extract from a very good site on Kafka and Prague:

The Royal Route culminates within the third courtyard of the Castle at St. Vitus's Cathedral where the monarchs were crowned. One of Europe's more impressive Gothic cathedrals, its delicate arches bear the stamp of the 14th century Swabian architect Peter Parler with successive additions of Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau. St. Vitus's is the most familiar landmark of the Prague skyline. Chapter 9 of Kafka's The Trial is assumed to take place in the Cathedral.

"K. felt a little forlorn as he advanced, a solitary figure between the rows of empty seats, perhaps with the priest's eyes following him; and the size of the Cathedral struck him as bordering on the limit of what human beings could bear...when he heard the priest lifting up his voice. A resonant, well-trained voice. How it rolled through the expectant Cathedral! But it was no congregation the priest was addressing, the words were unambiguous and inescapable, he was calling out: 'Joseph K.!'..."
"'You are Joseph K...You are an accused man...You are held to be guilty.'"


Oh - I just have to add one story about Wallenstein. I may have told it here before but it is weird enough to bear retelling. When we were photographing at the Wallenstein Palace once last year we got talking to one of the elderly men who looks after the place (we now know many of the people who work there, as we go often). He told us that there was an oil painting in one of the rooms closed to the public (only a small number of rooms are open, and those only at the weekend) that showed a very accurate and graphic portrayal of Wallenstein's murder - he was stabbed by a group of soldiers. This picture was commissioned by Wallenstein himself - about a year before his death. In other words, this elderly man claimed that the picture proved that Wallenstein somehow knew in detail exactly what would happen to him. It is said that when his murderers came for him he did not struggle, as he felt his fate had been foretold.

I could go on - but better not - Wallenstein is a fascinating and somewhat frightening figure. A great patron of astrology, his palace has enough symbolism in it to repay a lifetime of study (hence our frequent visits).


Wow! Quite a interesting story for that card! I must admit that, in general, I have a attraction for the knight of swords (the same for the king of swords but we disgress here).

This knight of swords is great to look at. I love the card! Seeing the main character for the first time, I thought of Don Quixote. That knight fit the mental description I always had of Don Quixote. Since then, when I look at this card, I always think of that lovable Spanish character. But the story about Wallenstein, I may change a bit my vision of the card...


I have drawn this Knight as the first card for our new Card of the Week project. He seems like a good omen for our little group, full of energy and ready to charge forth without regard for little distractions like Christmas planning...

I suppose this is an odd response, but what I love most about this card is the sky. The knight on a charger is lovely, but (please don't shoot me) I find him a little hard to take seriously. His horse is having a great time, though! Maybe I should take up riding lessons?

But, oh, that sky! I've been reading up on Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz recently, and he loved to photograph clouds. He was always trying to illustrate musical movement, to find a visual allegory to music in the clouds. His photos sometimes looked like the lowering clouds in this lovely image. (They influenced Georgia too, sometimes she painted clouds as musical movements, very rhythmic and abstract.) The clouds her suggest a storm coming, maybe the adventure this Knight is seeking is going to be a lot messier than he realises!


Some evocative bits that might add...

Ah, but do take him seriously - he took himself VERY seriously, in fact in some ways his presence still hangs over Prague.

We took this image from a picture of Wallenstein (1583 - 1632) as Mars - driving a chariot. So we (no, Alex) did a lot of redrawing to put him on the horse. We love the horse - armoured and with iron shoes of course.

But you're right, Wallenstein would never let something stand in his way. When he built his palace (from where we took his image) he simply demolished 23 (some say 27) other houses to make way for it - quite an extreme "Knight of Swords" act.

If you want to see more, including many images that we used in other cards, this is a great site:


Wallenstein was a wonderful general - still idolised in some circles - and again typically for this Knight, a fantastic leader but implacable enemy.


Here is a little piece (http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Kepler.html - but if you search you will find LOTS more) on his relationship with Kepler.

Wallenstein, like the emperor Rudolf, expected Kepler to give him advice based on astrology. Kepler naturally had to obey, but repeatedly points out that he does not believe precise predictions can be made. Like most people of the time, Kepler accepted the principle of astrology, that heavenly bodies could influence what happened on Earth (the clearest examples being the Sun causing the seasons and the Moon the tides) but as a Copernican he did not believe in the physical reality of the constellations. His astrology was based only on the angles between the positions of heavenly bodies ('astrological aspects'). He expresses utter contempt for the complicated systems of conventional astrology.


The sky in this card is more or less "as was" - we were out photographing when there was a very threatening sky. The cathedral is the incredible St Vitus (see above for Kafka's description). The moat that can just be seen, between the horseman and the cathedral is the "Stag Moat" - where the Emperors and Kings of Prague would go hunting.

The whole card was intended to be full of energy and inspiration, very attractive but with an underlying layer of the threat of violence - the General, the reference to Mars (God of War of course) the coming storm, the strange cathedral (more strange than I can say here), and the memories of hunting...

The Knight is a perilous character, but at times an exhilarating if demanding one. Unless there is a real crisis, it's important not to let him totally take command - because he will usually try to do just that.


baba-prague said:
The Knight is a perilous character, but at times an exhilarating if demanding one. Unless there is a real crisis, it's important not to let him totally take command - because he will usually try to do just that.

The Knight of Swords, as a tarot character, always struck me as one of those characters I love to see on television (Zorro!) but would be very tiresome in everyday life, likely to be argumentative and drive too fast, unless you need someone to fly a helicopter to make a sea or mountain rescue, or lead a fireman's charge into a burning building.

That orange horse and orange hair in the Duke Wallenstein picture - very fiery: now, I've never seen the Knight of Swords as fiery before: I reserved that epithet for the Knight of Wands. So the Prague deck is re-evalutating my view of Knight of Swords, whom I always thought of as a cool character, a bit like James Bond.

Does that fact that Wallenstein was a pretty amoral character, all things considered, have any bearing on the significance of the card? I am a bit uncomfortable with that. The Knight of Swords, like all swords, are related to Justice - and in the Knight we have the active element of Justice, the fighter for Justice (Justice, not necessarily Law) - folk heroes like Robin Hood, Roland, the Three Musketeers, or the modern-day James Bond, but also Zola, Steve Biko and John Pilger. I'm not sure where Wallenstein fits into that pantheon. I see him as a tragi-comic character, half-villain half-hero, depending on which part of his life is looked at.


Its the horse that has most affected me in recent days. That he rears up is significant imo. I know people like this, they rear up or react without always thinking about the repercussions. Does this Knight speak before he engages his brain? A kind of impulsive energy. He appears arrogant, haughty even insolent too!

I think of swashbuckling muskateers and cavaliers and yes Zorro! That billowing cape in orange shows so much movement and its a confident colour. The cape almost pairs up with the sky which appears billowing as well. Is the wind getting up? Are we in for a stormy ride? With this Knight - quite possibly.

Another thought which comes to mind and I don't know why, is the film 'sleepy hollow' which has a gothic type feel to it and the headless horseman rampages around the eerie countryside chopping off heads left right and centre. Its that cavalier attitude.

This is a card that I have hardly ever looked at since having the deck. I am glad though that it was pulled because it made me think about it a little more. It has jumped into my thoughts so many times and each time I am IN the card stood on the cobbled street and both he and his horse are awesome with their presence. Very intimidating. I might think twice before I argue with him as he doesn't look like he would accept defeat easily.


Jewel-ry said:
Another thought which comes to mind and I don't know why, is the film 'sleepy hollow' which has a gothic type feel to it and the headless horseman rampages around the eerie countryside chopping off heads left right and centre. Its that cavalier attitude.

Yes, I relate to this more than to people like Robin Hood or John Pilger for this card (in answer to Helvetica). It may simply be that we read this knight differently - and I respect your interpretation Helvetica. We see him as logical, strong - very - in his opinion, and a great leader, but I also see him as ruthless and utterly cavalier at times. So to me, this would not fit with someone like John Pilger, who I think is far from ruthless (strong, determined, yes, but in the end very ethical, which I don't think the Knight of Swords always is).

Wallenstein as comic? Yes, I can see this perhaps, but it isn't the aspect of him that we want to portray in this card. He was a genuinely frightening person in many ways - a brilliant general, hugely successful and also - and rather wierdly - someone whose intellectual interests tended to focus on questions of life and death. His palace is ENTIRELY devoted to various depictions of death, transformation, war and fate. I think the comic fades away when you are familiar with his palace - it's a somewhat awesome and in some ways melancholy place.