That Bitch – Being the Queen of Swords

Recently I was at Club Ost in Berlin, checking out the footwork DJs, and met a young DIY punk who suggested I should go upstairs and check out the noise punk on the second stage. Punk is not my jam, but this punk seemed to know what was up, so I went up. The singer was a young woman whose fierce vocalizations were full of direct energy. Listening to her voice, which was harsh and unrelenting, I felt as if a rejected part of my soul was being dignified. Clear blue light refracted around the vocalist’s throat, and I felt myself breathing easier. What a paradox that such intensely aggressive music could make me feel so calm.

When the set finished, the audience cheered, but the singer dismissed the enthusiasm of the crowd with a scowl. I turned to the punk and said “Wow. I wonder what she’s feeling right now?”

“Oh,” he said, “She’s incredible. I know her from the scene in Hungary, where we have a dictator and real problems. She hates all of you bourgeois contemporary art scene hipsters.” I laughed, accepting my designation. “It’s a good gig, though,” he smiled. “So what do you do?” he asked politely.

“I’m a Tarot reader,” I said.

“Oh!” he said. “Lately I keep picking the Queen of Swords. What’s your interpretation?”

“That is her,” I said, pointing to the singer who was now dismantling her equipment with weary impatience. Then I pointed at myself, “and that is me.”

When I was a kid, we played a card game sometimes called Old Maid. The game involves bluffing, a skill I have never been great at, so I would often end up holding the Queen of Spades. It’s odd to remember how, as a child, even though I loved to play, I always shrugged off being the loser. My brother was much more competitive and he was usually the winner of all the games.

This morning I woke up and noticed that my beard hair – I have one – had grown out. I plucked it and saw that it had turned white. I’m thirty five years old, never married, and nobody’s girlfriend. I look in the mirror and I can see the early signs of age on my face now. I have drastically scaled back my makeup routine, as part of my recent efforts to reconcile myself with myself. This has in no way reduced my vanity. To be honest, I now see a certain defiant beauty in my face as it is.

As an adult, The Queen of Swords is definitely the face card I have been dealt. She rules air, the element of thought – an invisible but powerful force. Holding her sword, she is a piercing presence. Lore says she is the only unmarried queen in the deck. She’s not an easy woman. However she is fiercely independent and intelligent, and a resolute realist. In Tarot shop talk, she is sometimes jokingly referred to as “The Bitch Card”.

Why me? So often I have wished that I could be less like her. If only I could be more charismatic, like the Queen of Wands, or gentler, like the Queen of Hearts, or steadier, like the Queen of Pentacles.

Instead I have characteristic Queen of Swords problems. Impatience!!! Especially when other people are being dishonest or indecisive. A terrible habit of being brutally blunt. Plus, I actually seem to get a kick out of fighting – even when I lose! Every time I get triggered, out comes the sword.  My combative energy drives people away from me. Then I find myself alone again, as usual, wondering what the hell is wrong with me. How can I stop being like this?

Air and fire are considered masculine elements – they have that projectile energy, so the queens in the suits associated with those elements get a bad reputation due to sexism. For instance, the fiery Queen of Wands is considered to be a Diva and her demanding high standards are often perceived as being unattractive. The kings of the feminine elements of earth and water don’t have these kinds of pejorative labels attached to them. So considering that prejudice is pre-judgement and therefore not based on evidence, can we reclaim bitch as a neutral adjective?

Yes, the Queen is impatient – this is because she is decisive! She doesn’t procrastinate. She gets to the point. She is honest even when it’s tough because she has excellent integrity. To her thinking, it is a crime to waste time and prolong pain by maintaining illusions. Why wrap a problem up in pretty white lies and pretend it isn’t there? To the Queen it is more considerate to rip that band-aid off quickly, and let the ugly wound breathe so it can heal faster.

She loves an intellectual debate because it clarifies the truth. Fighting, done with vigour and honour, forces opponents to test their ideas and prove their worth. And the Queen of Swords doesn’t cheat. I’m a Libra, and some of my favourite arguments have been with fellow Aquarius and Gemini air signs. I don’t even care if I win – because if I’m wrong, I’d rather know, so I can know better. I’d rather have the facts than a trophy. Being a graceful loser is one of the Queen’s best qualities. This old maid accepts the sacred role of the villainous underdog with dignity.

Yes her combative spirit will sometimes push others away, however our air Queen enjoys her breathing room. Anger establishes boundaries and cuts out the crap. There’s no point in having lots of people around if you have to dull your edge to keep everyone comfortable. The Queen of Swords prefers people she can trust with a weapon, even if that limits her circle to just a few.

In Tarot, when you have a face card that you identify with closely, it’s called a significator. During a reading, I always offer the querent the opportunity to choose a card themselves if they have a specific question. Often it will be a face card suggesting the traits needed to resolve their question. I’ll describe the personality of the significator and often the querent will say “that’s me! But I’m trying to be less like that!” even if the card is a crowd pleaser, like the Queen of Hearts. After all, trying to keep everyone happy has its own set of problems.

Well, the Tarot is reminding you – you have to play the card you’re dealt. All of your worst qualities are just the shadow side of your best qualities. Like how the moon is sometimes full and sometimes new, but it’s still the same moon. I find that the Tarot is always encouraging us to be more like ourselves.

I did wonder, when I began my spiritual journey, if I would be able to somehow become… a nicer lady? Real talk, I was shocked to discover the exact opposite occurred. Being even more like myself, I got even sharper and less compromising. When I was going through the shadow work of clearing my karma, I’ve never been bitchier in my entire life, and I know everyone around me during that time would agree.

After that, once I faced facts, removed the judgement from my heart, and experienced awakening, I find myself having equanimity towards my inner bitch. Whenever I fall into a shadow and feel fearful, my ego grabs the hilt and it’s rough times. That’s how it works for everyone. Now that I’m developing greater awareness, I’m getting better at catching myself before I do too much damage, but I’ll never be perfect. Cutting remarks are always going to be what I typically have to apologize for. And I’m truly sorry, every time I hurt someone with my words.

Being awakened doesn’t change who you are, instead it helps you to know who you are, and intimacy creates affection. When she’s in her brightest spirits, the Queen of Swords is the best bitch. She’s got a quick wit, impeccable timing and you can count on her to give it to you straight. She’s an honest, articulate and insightful communicator. I love that, and I’m grateful that I’m not the only one who does.

That’s the real me. I’m not ideal, but I deal.

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