|CBD Tarot, Ben-Dov 2010|
Just what does the Seven of Swords mean? One fantastic thing about pips-only decks is that they make you consider many ways of interpreting card meaning.
Eteilla's key word for 7 of Swords is 'esperance' -- it means expectancy, hope, or conviction.
The Golden Dawn meaning is the more familiar to most tarotists -- taking risks, being partly successful/partly unsuccessful, deceit, betrayal, theft, or just being cunning. We see some of these ideas in the Rider Waite Smith image.
Some people have a seemingly different take on the 7 of Swords and see studying and learning, such as in the Druidcraft Tarot or the Gaian Tarot.
Numerologically, seven signifies challenges or tests, using skills and courage, mastery, projection, putting forth an effort, getting things done, a push; proving oneself, taking chances, perhaps even confrontations. Maybe uncertainty, mystery, or misgivings. It is a number of reflection and assessment.
In the guidebook to the Pathfinders Tarot, David Fontana suggests that 7 is most frequently occurring in connection with profundities -- 7 heavens, 7 pillars of wisdom, 7 chakras, 7 days in a week, 7 ruling planets, 7 notes on the tonic scale, 7 cardinal virtues, 7 deadly sins, 7 wonders of the world, etc. He says 7 is concerned with the imagination, dreams, and openness to the hidden realities behind appearances.
If a 7 is a challenge and the suit of swords is thought, then Seven of Swords could be 'challenging thoughts'. Perhaps this is why the Golden Dawn named this card 'Lord of Unstable Effort'. Things could go either way. The card, then, calls for a thorough examination of both the situation and one's motives for taking various actions. Of course, pondering this could lead to Pamela Coleman Smith's Rider Waite figure tiptoeing away with the apparently stolen swords (what was his motive? did it seem right in his eyes?) OR the scholar at his desk in Druidcraft (perhaps he's making a list of pros and cons, or writing a treatise from both points of view). Either way, we see an artist's conception of examining motives.
Maybe the Seven of Swords could represent a crisis point -- a point at which we must decide whether we are going to do something, or just leave it. Time to make up your mind. Press on, or turn back. I can think of several areas in my life where I could apply this. The thing is, the tarot can only point in a direction. It's up to you to do or not do -- and in that way, maybe every reading is like a Seven of Swords.