Six of Swords Symbols

Six of Swords Meaning |

Suit: Suit of Swords
Card Type: Minor Arcana

In this article Six of Swords Symbols, I refer to the Six of Swords card from the Rider Waite Tarot deck, also known as the Waite-Smith, or Rider-Waite-Smith, or Rider tarot deck. The esoteric name for this card is Lord of Earned Success. The Thoth Tarot name is Science.

The symbolism found on this card is primarily drawn from Greek mythology, philosophy, metaphysics and western occultism.

Six of Swords: Key Symbols

Ferryman, upright swords, boat, sea, trees

Best Book For Learning Tarot I Karina Collins

“A ferryman carrying passengers in his punt to the furthest shore. The course is smooth, and seeing that the freight is light, it may be noted that the work is not beyond his strength.”

A.E. Waite
The Original Rider Waite Pictorial Key To The Tarot

6 of Swords Imagery: Discover the symbol meanings, metaphors and allegory

Complete A-Z List: Tarot Card Symbols

What Does The Ferryman Symbolize in The Six of Swords?

Who is the ferryman, is he a metaphor for something? As the dominant figure in this Tarot card, the ferryman is certainly our key messenger.

The ferryman in Tarot acts as a symbol, he represents a mythical bridge between the ordinary sensory world and spiritual awakening. He is the spirit guide or guardian angel who directs your journey. When the ferryman appears in a Tarot reading, it means higher powers are watching over and protecting you, as you transition from one state or stage of life, to the next.

This Tarot card feels supernatural, as though we are witnessing the passage of souls from the earthly world to the astral plane.

Picture of ferryman 6 of Swords |
Charon takes a coin from the mouth of Psyche by John Roddam Spencer (1883)

The ferryman in the Six of Swords may also be a reference to the mythological Charon (Kharon), the Ferryman of the Dead, an underworld spirit (daimon). He ferried the dead to the afterlife in the realm of Haides. His fee was a single obolos coin placed in the mouth of the corpse, and if you failed to pay the fee, the deceased was doomed to roam the earth forever as a ghost.

The implied message is that one must be prepared to pay the price for a better life. The price could, for example, mean moving out of your comfort zone, or accepting some unpleasant event as a force for change. As the author A.E. Waite says, “it may be noted that the work is not beyond his strength.” In other words, you have what you need to overcome any issue or challenge.

Charon also appear here: Death Card Symbols

Leaving Worries Behind

The ferryman is carrying a woman and child in his boat, there is no sign of luggage. The passengers are not carrying any ‘baggage’, indicating that they are ready to leave practical possessions, and emotional woes behind.


There is also a reference here to spiritual enlightenment and self-realization. In Bob Marley’s words, “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”

Money sells us the life of our dreams, while the people in our life often seem to stand in the way of those dreams. The children, parents, friends or partner who make demands on our time. While our culture tells us that we ‘deserve’ a better house, car or iPhone. We don’t ‘deserve’ anything, we just want it.

We are reminded in the Six of Swords that possessions are not the secret to happiness. One should be aware of the danger of always wanting More. Practice mindfulness and gratefulness for what you have now, and be thankful for every blessing in your life.

“Blessed was Midas, thrice-blessed was Kinyras: but what man went to Haides with more than one penny piece (obolos)?”

Greek lyric, c.100 AD

The Gift of Premonition and Prophecy

The Six of Swords, can also signify the emergence of spiritual gifts, resulting from a spiritual awakening.

It is worth noting, that President Abraham Lincoln, who was deeply mystical and prone to premonitions, had a recurring dream which preceded great events in his life. Author John Nicolay writes in his book a Short Life of Abraham Lincoln, “He seemed to be, he said, in a singular and indescribable vessel, but always the same, moving with great rapidity toward a dark and indefinite shore; he had had this dream before Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg.” 

What is The Meaning of The Boat and Sea in The Six of Swords?

Boat Symbolism

Boats and ships in Tarot represent a situation or events ‘moving on’ for the reader.

At a higher level, boats transport us, and allow us to make a journey across life. Therefore a boat or ship can also represent a journey of education, faith, business or personal development.

Boats and ships also appear here: Three of Wands Symbols, King of Cups Symbols and Two of Pentacles Symbols

Sea Symbolism

The sea in the of 6 of Swords represents eternity and the unity of everything in the Universe.

The ripples to the right of the boat reflect recent troubles, and the open expanse of calm sea ahead, predicts better days are coming.

Why Are The Swords Stored Upright in The Boat?

Symbol of Spiritual Protection

Six swords stand upright in the boat, forming a semi-cage around the passengers and obscuring their view.

The ferryman is very much in charge of this journey, as he stands behind the woman and child, forming a complete circle of protection. Perhaps he fears a passenger will ‘chicken out’ and leap out of the boat before they reach their destination.

The key symbolism here, is that even if times are tough, don’t falter in your faith. Trust that you are protected and brighter days lie ahead if you stay the path, and don’t jump ship too soon.

Psychic Blindfold

The swords act as a symbolic barrier, preventing you from seeing ahead or predicting your future at this time. If you are psychic, it will feel like you are blindfolded and your clairvoyance is temporarily dormant. Your faith is being tested and (hopefully) growing. A similar theme is found in the 8 of Cups, where the spiritual traveler is asked to climb the mountains without knowing what lies on the other side.

Psychic Note: Some Tarot cards refuse to offer predictions, but rather guide you to trust your instincts and learn to listen to the whisper within – the voice of your spirit guide or angel.

A barrier also appears here: Eight of Cups Symbols

What do Trees Symbolize in The Six of Swords?

The meaning of trees in Tarot is taken primarily from mythology and religious text. We know of the tree in the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life in Kabbalah. Trees are used to symbolize growth and prosperity. 

The more trees in a Tarot card, the more ‘life’ and ‘prosperity’ is indicated. The Six of Swords depicts several trees, suggesting an exciting new venture or phase ahead. The trees and land appear to be shrouded in a grey mist, another reference to an unforeseeable future. All will be revealed when you make land.

Trees appear in 23 cards, including: 2 of Wands, Lovers, Strength, The Chariot and The Star

What Sphere Does The Six of Swords Represent in Qabalah?

Qabalah or Kabbalah is a system of Jewish mysticism which attempts to explain the nature of the Universe. It embraces God, angels, devils, letters of the alphabet and numbers or numerology.

Kabbalah originated long before it was associated with Tarot, but it has since been tied by Western occultism to the cards.

According to Kabbalah, God (Ein Sof) made manifestations. Each manifestation is called a Sephirah (plural, Sephirot). Sixes in Tarot connect to the sixth Sephirah, called Tiphareth, translated as beauty.

According to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Raphael is the archangel who resides over the sphere. The order of angels that reside in the sphere are the Malakim; and the God who presides over the sphere is Tetragrammaton Eloah Va Daath.

Share This Article

Previous Card: Five of Swords Symbols |
Next Tarot Card: Seven of Swords Symbols

Complete List: Tarot Card Symbolism

Karina, author of Tarot in 5 Minutes.

The Ultimate Guide to Six of Swords Symbols

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap