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The suit of Swords is associated with the element of Air. The element of thought and abstract ideas. As a corollary, the suit is associated with the "airy" signs of the zodiac, Libra, Aquarius and Gemini. But why is this association anyway, I mean, you wouldn't normally associate the two ideas, right?

Well, it's pretty simple, really.

Swords are light, cutting things. Much like ideas. If made of good steel, a sword will be flexible yet strong. Like an idea, a sword will cut through many things, yet it will usually remain hidden inside its scabbard. Until the time has come to use it. We cannot see an idea but we can see the changes it has brought about. In a similar way, we cannot see the wind and yet we can see it gradually eroding things or shaking the trees.

The sword cards look pretty scary at times, and in fact a lot of people tend to gasp slightly when looking for the first time at the gorier sword cards in Waite, but then you have to remember that

a) The swords are just objects or metaphors, there is nothing intrinsically scary about them.

and that...

b) We are dealing with symbolic representations of ideas and states of mind rather than physical events: that bloke MIGHT have a sword in his back, but it's really a representation of something else :)