The Six of Swords is the sixth tarot card in the Minor Arcana suit of Swords and depicts a moment of transition as a ferryman guides a family to a new destination by sea. This card speaks to life transitions and to the feeling of hopeful anticipation that accompanies being in between the known and the unknown.

The Six of Swords is associated with the element of air, the second decan of the astrological zodiac sign Aquarius, and is ruled by the planet Mercury. In Ancient Greek mythology, Mercury was known as a psychopomp or a messenger who could travel to the underworld to retrieve and deliver messages to the living. His role as a guide is echoed here as the one who navigates the boat to its intended destination.

Where the key meanings of the Major Arcana focus on life’s overarching themes and events, Minor Arcana cards like the Six of Swords explore and reveal the more subtle changes impacting one’s day-to-day life and near future. The Six of Swords also bears similarities with its sibling cards the Six of Cups, Six of Pentacles, and Six of Wands, in that all four deal with the existence of or search for safety, stability, and security.

Six of Swords Keywords

Upright Keywords

Reversed Keywords

transition, change, hope, peaceful resolution, liminality

resistance to change, unresolved matters, feeling stuck, not seeing clearly

Description of the Six of Swords Tarot Card

Following the Five of Swords, which depicted the winner and the losers of a battle, the card description for the Six of Swords seems to suggest that those who have lost something—perhaps their home or their sense of belonging—now have no choice but to seek new pastures. With no belongings except the clothes on their backs, they set off in search of a new home.

In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, a mother and child huddle together with their heads down, suggesting that they’ve been exiled or are running away from their homeland in search of better circumstances. The gray sky and muted tones evoke a sense of mourning, but the land in the distance suggests the possibility of hope, renewal, and a better future ahead. The sail toward a calmer body of water, indicating a safe passage to the new land.

Six swords stand upright inside the boat and are positioned on either side of the mother and child, forming a kind of threshold around them. This threshold evokes the theme of liminality as they sail away from their former home and toward the new land, existing neither here nor there but in a state of in-betweenness.

The swords pierce the boat in order to stand upright, which lends the scene a quality of tension, as the boat could flood with water if one were to be dislodged from its position. This symbolizes the need to keep the mind steadily trained on the destination ahead with an unwavering focus or else risk being overwhelmed by emotions and fears about the present state of precarity.

Six of Swords Upright Meaning

In a tarot card reading, the Six of Swords upright suggests a time of transition as you leave behind a former aspect of your life and set sail toward a new destination. This transition may be accompanied by a sense of grief, loss, or anxiety as you reflect on what you’re leaving behind, but this card is a reminder that these changes are for the better.

Being in periods of transition can feel destabilizing as the mind races for certainty and projects imagined scenarios into the future. This card suggests that this period of transition is an important part of the journey and that learning to surrender to the changes taking place can help to support a sense of inner peace amidst the instability. Keeping the mind focused on the present moment will support you in staying on course.

The upright Six of Swords suggests that you are making positive changes that will support the development of your life and create opportunities for yourself going forward. This temporary period of slow healing and discomfort is a necessary sacrifice for the creation of greater stability in the future. Distance from your past will give you an important perspective on where you want to go next.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

A tarot spread with the Six of Swords upright indicates that you are making progress within your relationship toward calmer waters. If you have recently experienced conflict, stress, or sparring with your partner, this card comes as a symbol of positive change and peaceful resolution. If you can keep your focus on where you want the relationship to go, you can use calm rationality and patience to guide you there.

The upright Six of Swords can also indicate that you’ve recently left a partnership and are in a period of transition as you regain your independence or enter a new relationship. While you may be mourning what has been lost, this card suggests keeping your gaze on what’s to come, for the past is behind you now, and there is a brighter future ripe with possibilities.

Love/relationships upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

progress towards calmer waters, positive change, rationality and patience, leaving a relationship

period of transition, changing careers, relocating, reconsidering priorities

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

In a career reading, the Six of Swords upright suggests that you’ve recently made changes in your work or career and are in a period of transition as you move away from something familiar and move toward something new or unknown. Perhaps you have left a job, are relocating for work, or are pursuing a new endeavor. This card signals that these changes are positive and will lead you to opportunities for growth and success in the future.

The tarot meanings of the Six of Swords can suggest that you are reconsidering your priorities and are making changes that prioritize your future happiness. You may decide to change careers, go back to school, or move to a different location where there are more opportunities. In this time of transition, it is important to stay focused on the present moment and not allow the fear of change to overwhelm you or throw you off course.

Six of Swords Reversed Meaning

In the reversed position, the Six of Swords meaning can indicate that you are in a period of transition or change but are resisting it by fixating on the past. You may be clinging to an old aspect of your life or an old way of thinking, which is slowing the momentum of the necessary clearing that is taking place. This process may feel easier if you can shift your perspective to see the opportunities for growth that these changes can bring you.

You may feel stuck or stagnant in some aspect of your life when this card appears reversed. You may feel torn between wanting to broaden your horizons and wanting the safety and comfort of the known. While it is natural to want to avoid discomfort, this card asks if you are doing so at the expense of your growth. You may be playing small by avoiding taking an important step forward.

If you have unfinished business or unresolved conflict, the Six of Swords may indicate that this needs to be addressed before you can move forward. You may feel stalled in a period of transition and would benefit from returning to a previously unresolved issue to recover an important lesson or create a sense of closure that allows you to forge ahead unimpeded.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

The reversed Six of Swords can indicate that there’s an unresolved issue within your love life that is preventing you from moving forward. You may feel stuck in a repeating pattern and stalled from making the progress you desire. You may benefit from having an open and honest conversation to untangle the knots within your relationship and make way for clarity, understanding, and progress.

In a love tarot reading, the reversed Six of Swords can also indicate that you are resisting making changes that you know are important to make within a relationship. You may know that you need to walk away from an unfulfilling relationship but are avoiding taking action. This card suggests that there are opportunities for growth, expansion, and new beginnings when you find the courage to make difficult decisions and accept heartbreak.

Love/relationships reversed keywords

Career/finance reversed keywords

unresolved issues, stuck in a pattern, stalled progress, avoiding difficult decisions

resisting making changes, fear of taking a risk, feeling stuck, return to the drawing board

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

The reversed Six of Swords suggests that you’re resisting making important changes that would further your growth and development within your work. You may be scared to take a risk and explore a new idea or career path and are feeling stuck as a result. This card encourages you to trust that taking a leap into the unknown will generate forward momentum that can carry you toward new opportunities.

When the Six of Swords appears reversed, you may have the sense that you can’t see your way forward clearly. This card asks you to consider what you are using as your navigational tool and if you might benefit from returning to the drawing board before proceeding. You may need to course-correct, tweak a logistical aspect of your plan, or think outside the box for a new solution.