My understanding of the Seven of Swords was always somewhat shallow. The card’s picture in the Waite-Smith deck conveys theft, secrecy, and treachery. Pulling it as a daily card was important, and provided some much appreciated review of associations and concepts behind it.
The association which helped me most is one I read in the Crowley-Harris deck, which states that this card is associated with the Moon in Aquarius. Aquarius is marked by socialization, community, and networking – when combined with the powerfully subconscious body as represented by the Moon, the result can be the small, diluted expression of otherwise unarticulate, subconscious goals, often bubbling across many small actions or even whole chronic patterns of behavior. Shame or pride can drive desires down, especially in those who don’t discriminate in judging thought versus action. Belief that you can be bad for what you involuntarily are drawn to is unkind to the self and disrespectful of our powers of choice and consideration.
In the Crowley deck, it shows one large, powerful sword pointing upwards, towards the Moon which is drawing it into expression. Many smaller swords are slashing at it, the conscious personality, preventing it from manifesting fully. Seeing this, it becomes clearer in the Waite-Smith that the card is trying to show the danger of such expression – the character has become cunning and petty in his actions rather than putting that intelligence to work to draw out and honestly face the self.
Stated another way, the wisdom in the card is that sometimes we respond in dark or manipulative ways without accepting responsibilty for the why, and that in acting those ways we usually frustrate whatever subconscious goals which drive them. We may manipulate, pressure, or harm others hoping to get what we want – We kid ourselves and the ones around us, not facing the reality of why we are doing it, hoping to somehow arrive at an unarticulated goal.
The advice inherent in the card is to shine some light on those hidden drives and allow them healthy expression. In a practical reading, this card can show someone is putting guilt on others or misrepresenting the truth to perpetuate an unstable situation, or otherwise try to draw in something or someone they want dishonestly. People often do this to keep somebody close to them that is for one reason or another inevitably going to go; Rather than enjoying what they have while they have it and moving on, they dig in their heels and try to hang on as long as possible.
Crowley’s name for the seven of swords, Futility, is a strong name for the card – though it is less obvious that it can help guide one to revealing and accepting the self more fully. Its a struggle to allow ourselves to be honest and open with what we want, especially when we see how selfish we sometimes are – Accepting that what we yearn for beneath our choices might be better served in another, more direct way might involve surrender of something we hold dear, but also lets us respect ourselves for what we are and move forward with what we believe to be most important. Besides, our subconscious desires are valid, even if we drive them there because the confuse or challenge us socially.
All of our desires are, after all, helping us do what we are meant to – which is live and love and have fun, making mistakes and learning learning learning the whole way.