This morning we welcomed the New Moon in Leo, and that means the last weeks of summer and August are here.
Perhaps you're going on a vacation, or maybe you're already back into the school year. The end of summer can feel bitter-sweet, and it's often tinged with regret. I know for myself it's historically been the case that summer is over in a blink of an eye, and I'm left wondering why I didn't go camping, or even to the beach.
For most of us, it’s not easy to relax, even when we’re off the clock. Planning a vacation can be stressful, but even more than that, taking time away from work and other responsibilities can kick up feelings of guilt, anxiety, and fear. Our brains are constantly bombarding us with to-do lists, future worries, and noise.
We know that rest is fundamental for our health, but we can experience anxiety and guilt just for taking a nap. In order to work with our minds' tendency to overload, we can call upon the wisdom of the Four of Swords for support.
As we stretch out into these last weeks of August, and as you set your intentions for this New Moon, I want to share how the Four of Swords card can provide you with a structure to enjoy a guilt-free vacation, a restorative night's sleep, or simply a quiet walk outside.
With some Four of Swords wisdom, you can access the peace of a childhood afternoon, the stillness of a sunset, and the frequency of summer's bliss, any time of year.
I’m excited to talk about the Four of Swords in the context of summer, because in the past I had always considered this a winter card, best explored as a kind of hibernation tool.
One of the greatest parts about working with the Tarot is getting to do ‘field work’ with the cards and expanding my understanding of them. It turns out the Four of Swords is as much a tool for hibernation, as it is for summer vacation. And more.
To share how I got to this understanding, I want to take my story back a bit.
I belong to a business mastermind group that brings together women from all over the world. It’s one of the ways I keep from going crazy while working from home alone. Last summer all the members were complaining about how hot they were, while I was bundled up in sweaters and blankets.
I live in a part of San Francisco that’s socked in by fog from June to August, and though all I had to do to get warm was travel 20 minutes in any direction, I stayed inside working away. By the time September arrived, I’d missed the season completely.
As a reminder to get outside of my neighborhood, I put the word ‘Summer’ in big letters at the top the vision board I created in January 2023.
If you’ve ever made and worked with a vision board, you know that they can often lead to unexpected results and discoveries.
By focusing my attention on the concept of summer, I’ve brought a little summer energy into my life all year. If the weather was nice, I took time to go outside and appreciate it. I also began planning a vacation to the Virgin Islands in June.
The entire time I was planning this vacation I had to reassure myself that, yes, I could afford it. Yes, my business Sea Tarot would be okay for a few weeks without me. And yes, I had value and purpose independent of my work.
Then, what did I spend my first few days of vacation doing? Getting a difficult and advanced SCUBA certification. I felt I needed a merit badge to validate my trip!
After I’d gotten my certification, I finally took a swim with no purpose. It wasn’t until I was waist-deep in clear, bath-warm water, atop the white sand that it hit me. This is the Four of Swords.
In the Smith-Rider Waite, we see a stone body atop a coffin, also known as a Gisant. Three swords are pointing down above the figure’s head, while the third sword lies horizontally below. Also above the figure is a stained glass window. The scene appears to be within a church.
The Fours of the Tarot are all about structure. In the Major Arcana , card IV is The asEmperor, who understands that we need a strong foundation to build a tall structure. You can think of the Fours like a fort, or a stable table with four legs.
Air is the element of the Swords. They represent our thoughts, our intellect, and our intuition. Everything we think see and say must travel through our brains. Our brains are magnificent problem-solving machines, which also makes them problem-seeking machines.
Like the mind, a sword can be both a powerful tool and a painful weapon. No surprise then that when we’re working with the suit of Swords, we’re often dealing with discomfort.
This is what makes the Four of Swords such a potent tool. It allows us to build a structure of rest around our busy minds.
The worries of the world can be raging outside of the church. We can even allow our worries to rest above us for later. For now though, we can simply say “thanks, but not right this second” to the nagging restless task master of our thoughts.
The sword that rests horizontally below the figure is there to symbolize that even when it feels like the daggers’ points of concerns are hanging over us, we can pause, we can nap, we can sleep, and we can even take a vacation.
How to make the Four of Swords your passport to an Endless Summer:
Working with the Four of Swords doesn’t mean beginning a lifelong practice of meditation so that you can achieve Zen. While meditation is fantastic (we explore that in the Two of Swords) the Four of Swords is a lot more practical.
This is a card about bringing structure to rest and ease. The Four of Swords wants you to feel easy and, in my view, meditation isn’t all that easy.
In meditation we observe the mind in order to release its control over our being. Conversely, with the Four of Swords, we can simply use the brain’s desire to protect us, within it’s tendency to point spears at our heads, to achieve a state of peace.
Step 1: Recognize your brain in on over-drive
Any time you recognize that your brain is overstimulated with thoughts and concerns, you can call in the Four of Swords.
Step 2: Acknowledge that you’d like to enjoy a temporary break from the busy mind.
This can be a little tricky. Brain chemistry is no joke, and we can get hooked on a feeling of stress. In order to rest on that horizontal sword, you’ll need invite the possibility that a nap, 8 hours of sleep, an afternoon stroll, or a two week vacation would also be enjoyable and beneficial.
Step 3: List out the vertical swords
The brain can behave like an abuser. What do abusers want? They want you alone. The mind says, ''Don’t share that fear with others, don’t say that concern aloud, don’t write your worries on paper."
Making a to-do list is easy, but writing an I’m afraid of/worried about list takes courage. The list of concerns might feel so numerous that they could never be counted, but when we put pen to paper, they loose their sharp edges.
I’ll use my pre-vacation worries as an example:
In my head it feels like a big jumble of nos. I can’t afford it, what if something bad happens, it’s irresponsible. My worries aren’t very articulate in my mind, but they affect me in my gut. When I slow down to list them, they take shape.
A) I am self-employed, therefore I have no ‘paid time off’
I have a running fear that I’ll wake up and all the work I’ve done will have vanished and I wont have an employer’s paycheck to protect me. If I’m always available and always working on something, my concern, stress, and attention will make me worthy enough to avoid annihilation.
= My root fear starts with money, but goes as deep as annihilation.
B) What will people think?
If I go on a vacation, people might think that I’m wealthy, and therefore a crook. People might judge me for being successful, or not successful enough. How others perceive my finances might negatively impact my real income. What if people see that I’ve taken a vacation and think my rates are too high? What if people think I can’t afford a vacation and am therefore not a credible source on manifestation and ritual?
= I fear that other people’s judgements of me pose a real threat to my safety.
C) What if someone needs me and I’m not there?
I have an earnest desire to contribute to the world with my work. I think it is important and helpful to others. I’m already concerned that people will think of me as flaky because saying I’m a ‘tarot reader’ feels woo-woo to me.
I’m 100% of Sea Tarot, so I know I am indispensable to my business, and I’d like to think that my clients see me as a reliable and dependable resource for support. If I’m not available to see clients and I don’t communicate via the newsletter, I might disappoint someone, or worse, be forgotten.
= I fear that if I’m not indispensable, I will be dispensed of and forgotten.
Through the act of writing these fears, they’re instantly minimized. Before we examine our fears, they can drive us as if they were indisputable facts, when in fact they are unexamined beliefs.
Beliefs are a little like facts and a little like feelings. When we slow the thinking mind down and use its facility for logic, we can identify which beliefs ring true, and which are simply smoke-screens of fear.
It’s true that spending money I don’t have would be irresponsible and potentially threatening to my long-term safety and well-being, but it’s not true that I’m only safe if my work is indispensable.
Though it can be an especially sticky fear-based belief, the judgements and opinions of others don’t pose a real threat.
Step 4: Lay down atop the truth and rest in those beliefs, in spite of worry, thoughts, and fear.
Now that the three swords have been listed and defined, we don’t need to argue with them or remove them, we can simply allow them to be while we snuggle up in the truth of what will really protect us.
The truth is that good work is not rewarded by rest. Rest precedes good work.
My belief is that don’t need to earn rest through sacrifice.
The truth is I can logistically afford a vacation!
I would love to tell you that I’d know and practiced working with the Four of Swords in this way before I went to St. John, but as I mentioned, it wasn’t until day 5 or 6, while I’d been mentally composing what my next article would be about that it hit me. This peaceful moment is the Four of Swords.
Since my return, I’ve really stretched out into what guilt-free rest means to me. I’ve been practicing it with sleep, with my writing, and basically enjoying an exploration of the idea of ‘summer’.
I’m happy to say that this guilt-free break has allowed me to come back to my work with more energy, clarity, and purpose.
As the last weeks of August and Leo season stretch out ahead of us, I want to invite you to borrow the practice of rest with the Four of Swords.
In case it helps you envision your own guilt-free vacation, did you know that many folks in Europe take the entire month of August off?! Many folks in my mastermind are doing just that.
But you don’t need to go to the Caribbean for two weeks, and you don’t need a ten-day meditation retreat. Whenever your brain sends you an invitation to guilt, fear, or overdrive, you can pick up this Four of Swords practice. Use it as your passport to rest anytime, year-round, and enjoy an endless summer.