How can I own my choices and their consequences? That's the question asked by the KING OF SWORDS / MENTOR OF FEATHERS / FATHER OF SWORDS IN THE SOUTH / RA cards. What follows is a comparison of the imagery and interpretation of the Rider-Waite, The Haindl, and the Collective Tarot decks' respective King of the air suit cards.
Smith Rider-Waite's king sits on a throne carved with clouds and butterflies- airy symbols of change and beauty. The butterfly is not a creature of the sky for its entire life- it transforms into a being in flight. This king, too, has transformed - he has not always been a king, he has not always been so thoughtful. On the edge of a cliff's prominence he sits, a symbol of the narrow choices that such a leader has to protect himself in a position of power. His sword in hand, he gazes out intently over the lands. Behind him trees and distant mountains climb, but he does not give them heed. He is undistracted, his full attention is forward, and he is in full command of his seat. Although, he does seem to be off-center, with his sword tilted. Rachel Pollack in her book The New Tarot Handbook says "the need to make decisions and take action means that he cannot maintain the sense of purity found in the detached Queen. Her sword points straight up...his tilts to the side...he thinks constantly of the consequences of his decisions."
Haindl selected the ancient Egyptian god Ra as the embodiment of the Father of Swords, a god represented by the sun, which we see as a large red ball, encircled by a snake, above Ra's falcon head. He carries a scepter, a symbol of active power and penetrative energy. The sun is not passive, it generates and shines always, and draws to itself all things in our solar system with its massive gravity and electromagnetism. Ra was god of the sun in a nation where the sun is as life sustaining as it is life-threatening, and as such had the potential to give life as much as he had power to take it. Like the Collective Tarot, the falcon head is a masterful bird, one which in Ra's mythology at one point cuts himself to form two entities: Sia (perception) and Hu (command). This powerful combination is the mastery of the swords' airy energy: when we combine our perception of what needs to be done with our command of decision to take action, we have risen to our minds' full potential.
Collective Tarot shows a raven speaking a story to intent listeners, bringing the images of other birds to life with its words. The edges of the card are dark, but all around the raven there is radiant red and white light. The story takes on a color of its own, as though the images belong to a different world. This raven transports its audience and enlightens the space in which it tells its story with its craft. The Collective's feathers-suit guidebook writer and artist Clio Sady says of this raven's abilities that it is "a magical conversion, the process by which we transform horrible misfortune or horrifying trauma into an allegory or humorous story...this card is about owning your knowledge, taking authorship, and being the wise bird you are." The stories we tell ourselves are the truth that we live- and we have the power of choice over what our story is, and how we choose to tell it. Making that choice is not easy, but it is only ours to make.
Thanks to @inthe78cards and @thetruthinstory for hosting this month's awesome challenge on Instagram!