King of Swords Explained - Upright & Reversed Meanings
Last Updated: December 1, 2022
The King of Swords is the fourteenth card in the Suit of Swords (also known as the suit of blades) and one of the fifty-six suit cards from the minor arcana. In divinatory tarot, the Suit of Swords is associated with thought, intellect, mental strength, and integrity. They can also represent conflict, hardship, and misfortune.
Divination practices such as cartomancy can help us make decisions, offer guidance, and help us tune into our intuition when we are at a crossroads in our lives. Understanding the meanings of each tarot card can help you sharpen your interpretative skills so you can get the most out of your readings.
The King of Swords sticks out as the first in a suit dedicated to intellect and curated power with masculine energy. Coupled with the desire and ability to change one’s world and position, the King of this suit proves an admirable and sometimes formidable one to regard.
In this article, we will discuss the meanings of the King of Swords in various tarot reading contexts as well as the different symbols and nuances that can be found within this court card.
Pictorial Symbolism in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck
The artworks from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck contain deeper esoteric meanings that tarotists love to decipher.
In this illustration, the King of Swords strikes an imperious pose as he sits on his throne to consider those before him. The angle of perspective almost makes it as though the king looks down upon you, placing him slightly above eye-level, which could be a sign of the authority with which he should be held and the better perspective he has with wisdom.
He also wields his sword in a proud display, with the blade pointing to the heavens. This indicates the king’s predisposition to approach problems head-on and is not one to hide behind duplicitous behavior. The sword leans just slightly to the side, which can mean the enormity of the burden tasked to him. Decisiveness is a prized quality.
The king’s light blue robes match the sky behind him, confirming his element is indeed air. Additionally, the fresh color leans close to white, which demonstrates the king’s ability to make pure, unbiased decisions. His garb is otherwise untainted of distractions that would make him stray from his duty.
Other colors adorn the king in subtle ways: a purple cape lined with a red hood and sleeves. The purple hails the king’s innate nobility, while the red serves as a stark reminder that sometimes, unfavorable decisions can be necessary, even if they hurt others in the process. This is all held together by his golden crown, a reminder that he’s not only the wise authority, but he has the wealth and power to carry out decisions.
The symbols on the king’s throne balance the king’s absolutism by highlighting change as a consistent, unavoidable cycle that can be wielded to our benefit. The sickle moons, typically a feminine icon, serve as a subtle reminder that with the carriage of justice that balance is favored over bias, much like Justice’s scales. Fairness and truth are still present in all manners, even if the sword of righteousness takes precedence as seen in the subject of the illustration.
The butterflies below the moons are popular symbols of transformation and metamorphosis. Just as the caterpillar emerges with its regal wings, we might hope to emerge as victorious, and it is the king’s job to see us to that end. The trees, the growth, and the clearing skies promise us similar rewards if we place our trust in this king.
The King of Swords key correspondences
logic, morality, justice, structure, rationale
oppression, irrationality, corruption, abuse of power
|Yes or No|
What does the upright King of Swords mean in the Tarot?
In the upright position, the King of Swords seeks to reassure our wavering confidence that our values and morals are not misplaced. He champions the goodness of the world such as honesty, integrity, fairness and honor, and so we should trust in these qualities to see us through trials, like the inspirational beacon to light the way to our destination.
He is the certainty when insecurity dares to creep through the night, and he remains unafraid to challenge or dismiss though who would threaten his kingdom or the hard work of your endeavors. Cleave to your high standards and others will pay attention. T
his card also values the truth and those who seek it. A calm, rational mind is the preferred path for our king and will see you through any difficult times. Others will take notice of the logic you wield and respect you all the more for it.
When pulled in the upright position, the King of Swords is associated with logic, morality, justice, structure, and rationale.
What does the upright King of Swords mean in a love reading
In a love reading, the King of Swords recognizes maturity between partners. You talk through disagreements and avoid conflict with the way you communicate, methodical and rational.
Your connection with your partner may be steeped in an intellectual attraction, and a discussion of your interests may promote additional emotional intimacy between you and your partner. You like to imagine the future and its limitless possibilities, and while you recognize it’s illogical to prepare for every eventuality, communicating in such an open and honest manner proves a great comfort in your relationship.
There are themes of reservedness with the King of Swords, so ensure that this is balanced fairly and not unnecessarily, as to prevent any damage to your connection together.
What does the upright King of Swords mean in a career reading?
In a career reading, the King of Swords may indicate a boss, professor or other authority figures you may have to interact with. This individual may come across as demanding, but their high expectations of your performance mean well.
They see your value as an employee and as a person and want to see you rewarded for your work ethic. This person could prove fair in a workplace dispute (so be careful if you’re the one at fault!).
While it is important to keep distance between superiors, this person is silently cheering for you from the sidelines and wants you to succeed.
What does the upright King of Swords mean in a health reading?
The King of Swords values rationality and methodical approaches, so in a health reading, the King may be asking you to maintain consistent routines or track and collect information to make informed decisions.
Record the times you go to sleep, keep up with your water intake, if you’re exercising, make a note of how long a workout is and how often you complete them. You may have a doctor visit soon, and the King could represent their authority on this matter.
Therefore, it is important to provide all relevant information to the medical expert to paint a clear picture of your condition. Perhaps you are suffering from a chronic or recurring issue, in which case documenting each instance can demonstrate to the doctor the frequency of the problem.
The key is working with all available information and sometimes, you need to make the information available to you.
The King of Swords as feelings/emotions
If you are asking the tarot how someone feels about you, pulling the King of Swords means they see you as an intelligent and trusted authority figure. The extent of your authority lies within your ability to make logical decisions.
You are someone who does not jump to conclusions, and you may rarely show your emotions. You are the friend they would consult for advice, not only because they trust your advice, but because they also trust you to keep their confidence.
Many consider themselves lucky if they count you among their close friends. When it comes to emotions, it’s important to lay out all of the facts and the data, for you to make a decision in your love life.
The King of Swords as a person
As a personality archetype, the King of Swords represents someone who is methodical and decisive. They do not care for time-wasting distractions; instead, they are focused individuals who can solve most problems with their own wits.
The King is a friendly force but does not compromise their morals and keeps an element of reservedness in their day-to-day. The archetypes I’d suggest for this character are the Ruler, and the Judge.
The King of Swords as advice
If you are asking the tarot for advice regarding a specific situation in your life, pulling the King of Swords means that you should take some time to think through a current or upcoming decision.
Your choice may be a final one, or one that has lasting consequences, so it is imperative that you consider all choices and possibilities fully before you release the sword with your judgment.
Possibly, the King may be reminding you to seek the counsel of those in a higher position or authority than you. Do not be afraid to ask others for help, like a King to his council, particularly in specifically detailed and complex subject matters.
What is the zodiac or astrological sign associated with the King of Swords?
The King of Swords will find a likeness with the first air sign Gemini. While Geminis are infamously renowned for their divisive personalities, their duality is similarly reflected in the King of Swords and his throne.
A balance of logic and empathy, intellect and intuition, is required to make the best of decisions, something every good king knows.
Is the King of Swords a yes or no card?
As with all tarot readings, the nature of a yes or no question will determine the arcana’s meaning. For the most part, the King of Swords takes a neutral stance, wanting to glean information to make the most informed decision.
The desire for patience before proceeding aligns with the nature of logic, as puzzling out conundrums can take some time. However, the king (and you) must eventually make a decision, and the slight angle the king holds his sword informs you of his desire to push forward, leaning towards the affirmative.
Below are some of my interpretations, as an experienced tarot practitioner, based on different types of questions:
- “Will I get the job?” Yes, the King of Swords does like to reward those with similar values of honesty and hard work, but have you gone through the steps to demonstrate you are worthy of this position? Be sure your resume and/or cover letter reflects your strengths and how you are qualified for your potential employer.
- “Is this new person in my life good for me?” The King of Swords may see a kindred spirit in their morals and integrity and so may reveal himself in such a query. The new person may need to prove themselves to you, so do not hesitate to withhold judgment until you see proof of their true nature.
- “Will I achieve my current goals?” Yes, it is likely you have proven yourself worthy of the King’s judgment, but some patience to see them to fruition would not be misplaced.
- “Should I start my own business?” Yes, because businesses in nature are a long-term investment, so as long as you are willing to prove your worth in this business. You might want to consult others for assistance, maybe in the form of a business partner more experienced than you.
Related Reading: Sword of Truth: Does the King of Swords Say Yes or No?
What does the reversed King of Swords mean in the Tarot?
The reversed King of Swords does not lessen the king’s authority; it merely twists its perception, usually tainting the intellect with irrationality and emotion.
Instead of being open and fair-minded, the reversed King may work in secret, using clandestine methods to acquire goals, perhaps because he understands this is not the most honorable path.
Instead of seeking justice for a perceived wrong, you pursue vengeance and you aren’t sure where the line between the two should be drawn. Perhaps you use your power and influence to the disadvantage of others, satisfying your greed at their suffering.
When pulled in the reversed position, the King of Swords is linked with oppression, irrationality, corruption, and abuse of power.
What does the reversed King of Swords mean in a love reading?
In a love reading, the reverse King of Swords may indicate an individual who recognizes and exploits an imbalance of power in the relationship. It may also indicate a relationship is turbulent, rocky, or one that is ruled entirely by their heart and emotions.
Seek balance in the emotions by attempting calm conversation to clearly communicate needs. Sometimes, an unbiased third party, especially one that’s an expert in the field of social relationships, may be needed to bring the relationship back to its healthy center.
What does the inverted King of Swords mean in a career reading?
The reverse King of Swords in a career reading may warn of an older colleague or supervisor who torments you or someone in the workplace by abusing their power. The supervisor may also not be a decisive and effective leader.
Their lack of control in the workplace bleeds into insufficient productivity or certain employees comfortable flaunting rules and policies. Either way, the workplace suffers from critical leadership.
What does the upside-down King of Swords mean in a health reading?
In a health reading, the reverse King of Swords might indicate that you feel helpless in your current health situation or maybe you do not trust your care provider to give you quality, accurate, and effective care.
This can be a sign to consult with another healthcare provider or a secondary medical team so that your concerns may be heard.
In conclusion, the King of Swords tarot card is a powerful symbol of logic, morality, justice, structure, and rationale. When this card appears in your reading, it is often a sign that now is the time to make decisions with your head rather than your heart. It may also be a sign that you should take a step back and look at the big picture before making any moves. The King of Swords encourages us to focus on justice, rationality, and power in order to achieve our goals.
Despite its association with mysticism and occultism, the tarot has grown to become much more than a simple “fortune-telling” tool. For many tarot practitioners, it is a complex system made of symbolic imagery and psychological considerations (Jungian archetypes for example) that can be used for self-exploration, meditation, and personal transformation.
The 56 lesser arcana cards relate to the day-to-day events of our lives, the more mundane aspects of our existence. Even though that part of the tarot is about the “smaller picture”, it symbolizes the constant choices we make that shape our lives, our characters, and ultimately our destinies.
Have you ever had a reading where the King Of Swords appeared? What was the outcome? What does that card mean to you personally? How do you interpret this card in your own tarot practice?
Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments below.
Additionally, If you want to know more about the different tarot cards, feel free to check out my complete list of all 78 tarot cards and their meanings.
Written by Seluna Drake
Seluna Drake is a southern writer from the US, as well as a teacher, poet, and occasional artist. Her work primarily spans the speculative realm.