Fast, wild and stormy — if the Knight of Swords is drawn in a tarot reading, there are some surprises in store!
In the traditional Rider-Waite and Crowley Tarot decks, Swords are seen in a negative light. The Knight of Swords (called the Prince of Swords in Crowley's deck) is among the least-loved court cards, especially in the Rider-Waite Tarot. Hardly any other card evokes such differing interpretations among the various Tarot decks. Let's begin with...
Rider-Waite: At first glance, the Rider-Waite Knight appears too overbearing: too fast and above all, too aggressive. This aggression is often referred to in readings, with the Knight as a bringer of strife and turmoil: somebody to best be avoided.
But is it really so? Aggression unto itself is not negative, but rather an essential part of being human. It is, in its most basic form, the will to live, and counts as one of the basic survival instincts. It is rather the way in which this capability is often abused that has brought the Knight and aggression into disrepute.
Aggression does not always mean struggle and injuries: The Knight directs all of his energy externally — concentrated on a goal — and is often, through speed, wildness and resolve, successful in attaining his desires.
The things he wishes to achieve or conquer are often attained through the element of surprise. In love, he "knocks you off your feet." In the workplace, his arguments and quick wit often take the wind out of the opponent's sails.
He is brave and adroit, believes in himself, and in a Tarot reading is the ideal card, if it is important that a point of view be fully understood and followed through.
In terms of success, he is important as a basis for all things that require courage and goal-directedness to achieve a breakthrough. His lack of maturity can often lead to his overestimating his own abilities in comparison to those of his opponents — he doesn't know his own limits. But whether the Knight is interpreted positively or negatively depends strongly upon the placement in the Tarot reading.
Crowley: The primary symbolism of the Rider-Waite Knight of Swords is not to be found in the Crowley Knight of Swords, which is actually closer to the Rider-Waite King of Swords, but rather in the Crowley Prince of Swords. The Crowley-Harris Prince is more multifaceted than the rather one-dimensional Rider-Waite Knight.
As with all court cards in the Crowley deck, so too is the Prince of Swords aligned with the Zodiac, and is assigned the birth range of 21 degrees Capricorn to 20 degrees Aquarius. He is seen as the ruler of the mythological Sylphs, the spirits of the air. The representation is of the Prince riding a chariot with his sword raised high about to strike, with golden wings inside of golden circles, representing air.
The Tarot card is arranged in geometric form, according to Crowley the result of the logical mental processes of the Prince. "This chariot is drawn by winged children, looking and leaping irresponsibly in any direction that takes their fancy; they are not reined, but perfectly Capricious.
The chariot consequently is easy enough to move, but quite unable to progress in any definite direction except by accident. This is a perfect picture of the Mind." So writes Crowley in the Book of Thoth.