Ace of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on June 26, 2019

June 26, 2019

Ace of Swords

Our first conversation on the Ace of Swords began without ritual or prelude, as Phillip and Joel were in the Santa Fe airport waiting to depart from the Sophia Foundation Annual retreat, during which they first presented to a wider audience this whole process, and the Sophia Foundation board meeting, during which Phillip joined the board. Joel had just moved away from his 8-year long home of Plowshare Farm. Phillip had seen his daughter for the first time in 8 months only shortly before—his situation had just begun to turn a corner. We were elated, exhausted, depleted, ready to dive in…

– We don’t know where to begin. 

– The plant forms emerging from the crown feel like bits of an actual plant, not the flower/leaf juxtapositions with which we’d been dealing in the Coins. Those were much more symbolic, these are more realistic and richly detailed.

– On the other hand, what exactly is in the upper right of the image? They almost look like feathers, with a flesh-colored glow, radiating, intermittent. 

Is it a cactus, or some kind of succulent? There is a strong geometry to it, a sharpness. Or else it could be like the tops of wild grass, soft and feathery. Flesh-colored glow.

– Then there is the left-hand plant. This one has a high level of intricate details.

– They are nearly symmetrical color-wise.

– What’s happening doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. (By the way, when it comes to the Suit of Coins, this phrase makes no sense, at least for the numbered Coins. Nothing is “happening” in those images! They are too symbolic, there is no shock like we have here).

Is the crown being held up by the sword? Or is it a part of the sword itself? Is the sword cutting the plants? Where did the hand come from? Is it attached to a human, or…? What are the little flames/sparks?

Something magical is happening—like the keris. Michael Choy had recently shared with the two of us the story of his original acquiring and then re-enlivening of his Balinese Keris, a holy sword that stands on its point when animated through ceremony: 

I first went to Bali in 2001 to visit my friend Matt Wyatt. I have known Matt since Junior High School. He married a Balinese woman, had 2 children, lived in the US for 4.5 years, then moved to Bali.

Matt died 6 months later in January 2002. I got to know Matt’s friends on my first trip, my 2nd trip for Matt’s cremation and purification rites, and my third trip in 2004. In 2004, (through Matt’s good friend Roy Thompson) I met Tony Van Den Hout, Balinese Priest (father is Dutch and mother is Balinese). Tony sold me an ancient Balinese Keris (sacred sword), which was energized and would stand on its tip. I was told to perform rituals on the Keris to keep it enlivened. After 2004, I neglected the Keris and it lost its ability to stand up on its own.

During our pilgrimage in Bali (April 2018) we participated in a ceremony to enliven carved wooden statues. I found this ceremony to be quite powerful and I asked the Village Priest, if there was a way to re-enliven my Keris in California. He said if the Keris was in Bali he could re-enliven it. Later that day, he said that I might be able to enliven the Keris myself. Our Pilgrimage group worked with the Village priest to cleanse and enliven our chakras. After a few days of working with the Village Priest, he felt I would be able to enliven the Keris using my own powers.

On April 29, 2018, I reconnected with Tony and he gave me some sacred oil used in a ceremony with the Master Keris of Bali. On May 29 (full moon), I made an offering of rice and fragrant flowers and oiled the Keris and it re-enlivened and now has the ability to stand on its own. The photo album in the link shows the standing Keris with Terpsichore (Cecille’s dog).

– It certainly creates a powerful impression. A juxtaposition of things you could capture in a phrase, e.g. “Crowning of Sword.” A doubly victorious imagery.

Or removing someone’s crown with a sword?

Or something done to the crown itself. The crown crowned by plants. 

– The red and blue of the sword don’t look metal, they look flexible. 

– Is the hand pulling the sword out of the crown? Like pulling the rabbit out of the hat.

– The vesica piscis shape in the crown itself. A masculine (sword)/feminine (crown) image. This sets the pattern for the remaining numbered swords, which show a vesica piscis formed out of two or more swords, with either a sword or a flower in the middle. 

– The shading inside of the crown indicates a dark/other realm, not white/daylight like the rest of the space. Either the crown has a solid top, or we are seeing through (behind) into another sphere.

The hand is also emerging from another realm (note the shading). Is it attached to a body? It doesn’t particularly seem like it.

The ruffled sleeve? High fashion of the court?

But then again, the hand is so disjointed and on its own, and behind all of this is the spikier portion of the image, the quavering fabric of reality, and within it an opening in the fabric.

“Fabric” of reality vs “fabric” of clothing/sleeve

Prior to this point in the Arcana, sleeves are anything but ornamental. Very plain. We have seen this kind of image in the alchemical wood prints of Paracelsus (see here:,;; 

There is something watery/cloud-like about the billows around the arm. Like a thundercloud. Or a sea creature, an amoeba. 

– Hold on…let’s move the image backwards in our mind’s eye. How did this come about? Perhaps we can connect the “amoeba” to the “plants” at the base of the crown. We have one united figure. Then there is a separation: the “plants” are cut from the “amoeba.” A hand and a sword emerge. Fire sparks result.

Hm…this original shape or form prior to the severing…turn it on its side…wouldn’t it be coin like? Like the Ace of Coins?

The ring of spikes around a ring of rounder forms:  this is what surrounds the hand holding the sword, and also what adorns the center of the Ace of Coins.

What happens when we look behind the Ace of Coins, just as we originally yearned to do in our earliest conversations on the Minor Arcana? We had never thought of the Ace of Coins as a kind of plug, a man-hole cover. Plants growing over the sidewalk. 

But that is a bird’s eye view of the Ace of Coins, with the “plugged hole” below. What happens when the hole is above as in the Ace of Swords? What does this imply?

It is more like our perspective in the Ace of Coins is that we are trapped in the manhole, down in the cellar. The Ace becomes like a trapdoor above us. We pull it off to escape, to find the surface.

This gives the image a dual gesture of investigating the underbelly (opening up the sewer) and of escaping from it into the fresh air. 

– This seems like a strong Ace-Ace correspondence, with the Ace of Swords “cutting” the Ace of Coins open. Will this continue with Two-Two, Three-Three? This is exactly what Tomberg indicates at the end of the Letter-Meditation on The World—one must proceed “sephirothically” through the Coins, cutting them in the order in which they were created (Ace through Ten). (See page 656)

– Is the symbol of the Coin/Sun in the center of the rim of the crown? The remainder as an alternation of circular coin shape and the diamond—which could be seen as akin to the vesica piscis shape that dominates the Swords. 

– All of this has a strong association with birth. The mucous plug, the bag of waters, the placenta. Birth. The Sword is what is being born, the midwife is pulling it out. 

The plants are reminiscent of Antlers, Eustachian tubes, the Uterus. The crown could be either the vagina (if uterus/birth) or a larynx (if eustachian tubes/speech). These associations imprint so strongly and immediately on us, that we have a hard time seeing something else. 

Image result for antlers

If we go back nine months, rewind this image backwards in our minds, the crown is not just “plugged,” but the plants and sword would be different sizes and shapes. A gestational period of 10 lunar months = 10 numbered coins??

This makes the Ace of Coins and Ace of Swords two halves of one whole.

– Also—is this even a crown? Red and blue flowers around the brim don’t look metallic, they look like real flowers. Interesting that we even bother to call it a crown, when all we see is larynx, vagina, eye (representing sense organs in general), or a wound—specifically of Christ. The wounds of Christ are also larynx, birth canal, sense organ, and wound simultaneously. 

– When seen as an eye, it is quite imposing, almost psychedelic or trippy. Is the eye being poked with the sword? Or is this the ray of sight, the light that emerges from the eye so that it can see? Perhaps we are seeing the process of seeing

– None of this imagery, though, has anything to do with cutting although our greatest association with the image “sword” is cutting. For that matter, until we brought up the association with the “eye,” the sword wasn’t even doing anything, it was becoming. A result of speech or birth. The sword comes into being from a vesica piscis, simultaneously the Eye is receiving…something…

And then the little sparks are like…tears? The plants as optic nerves?

The solid blue sword, the solid yellow crown. Light (percept) meets eye (sense organ), flowers above are the inner life, the mental image, memory, imagination, concept. The tears are the outer life, of feeling and will, the result. 

– The crown is still a Coin, just turned a bit sideways. The Sword transforms the Coin. All the plants and tears are only potential in the seed of the Coin, and the Sword explodes it into manifestation. 

– Two very different interactions leading from Ace to Ace. One is a birth, where the Sword emerges from the Coin, and the other is an activity of consciousness, where the Sword is already separate and comes to meet the Crown to activate a process. 

Both involve the will, one might say? More will exists in the role of Sword as “jabbing” as “activating” the coin from without. On the other hand, there is more grace, more instinct (whether biological or divine) with the birthing/speaking of the sword into existence. The will itself is being born in this case. 

The fracturing of the “little” identity that leads to a kind of inner death. The reconstitution of this identity from what feels like nothing, results in humility. Humility is the will as gestated and generated by Grace, in distinction to the will of “I intend, plan, out of my personal drive and forming.”

…time to board…to be continued…