Let’s start our exploration of Aquarius in the tarot with a dip into the Minor Arcana. In the astrological correspondence system that I follow, Aquarius is linked to the Five, Six and Seven of Swords (for more information on this system, I recommend Elizabeth Hazel’s Tarot Decoded, published by Weiser, 2004). Today I’m going to look at the Five of Swords, which corresponds to Venus in Aquarius – as well as the first ten days of Aquarius (20th to the 29th January).
Aquarius is the fixed Air sign, so we’re looking at maintaining lines of communications, and establishing ideas and concepts – but not just any old idea. This is the sign of the unconventional and the unorthodox, the reformer and revolutionary. When we add Venus, the ‘principle of attraction’, to this we have a sign that expresses itself freely, perhaps flirtatiously – but very likely in an experimental way. Aquarius can be detached and impersonal, so that flirtation might be very superficial and could impede the development of intimate relationships. There’s a strong need for active socializing, for establishing groups based around a common cause, but this will be influenced by beliefs in individual freedom and expression, which could lead to conflict if not managed.
So how might this play out in the Five of Swords? Let start with a relatively ‘traditional’ depiction of the Five of Swords, such as that of the Sharman-Caselli deck. Here we see a figure standing in a triumphant pose, holding three swords aloft while the other two lie at his feet. Two figures behind him are creeping away in defeat, heading towards choppy waters and a stormy-looking sky. Juliet Sharman-Burke, in her accompanying book to this deck, writes of needing to ‘accept the limits of both victory and defeat’. The limits come through the fixed-ness of Aquarius, I feel – needing to recognize that there are limits to what we want to achieve, what we’re attracted to (the Venusian quality). Not that we have to give up, necessarily, but to accept a ‘temporary defeat’ or setback by objectively (Aquarius again) assessing how strong we are, be it as an individual or group, in relation to our opponent, be that another individual or community, and being able to step back from a battle that can’t be won. A battle – not the ‘war’. By knowing when to walk away from a situation or relationship, whatever it might be, we live to fight another day for what we believe in, what we’re pulled towards – the attraction principle, again.
In the Shadowscapes and Thoth decks, the emphasis is the same, although the images are very different. Things are out of balance due to the tension or conflict between ideologies, say (represented by the birds and clouds, symbols of Air) – the harmony that we normally associate with Venus has been lost.
Aquarius looks towards the future though – it’s the forward-thinking sign. The challenge is to stay objective, to be able to look at the situation clearly and to assess the options open to us, rather than succumbing to the loss of hope – the Venusian/Aquarian ideal.
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Sharman-Caselli Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by US Games Systems, Inc.