The Blues genre of music is one of the few styles that seek, not only to sing about the subject matter, but to present the music itself in such a way as to mimic the emotions that are sung about. Blues songs are sweeping, slow, and sorrowful, while also inducing a type of healing for those suffering from “the blues”. Listening to a blues song is almost cathartic – by reintroducing that sad feeling, you purge out the poison that you might have covered up or ignored previously. The Six of Swords sings it's own sort of blues song, representing both the reason for the sadness and the passing of that sadness.
In the Six of Swords we have a wide body of water, like a great lake – on the other distant side we see bluish tinted lands. Before us is a boat with three passengers: one cloaked adult, one young child, and a man who pushes the boat through the water with a pole. Within the boat are propped six swords... seemingly the only possessions that this group of people still have. Are they a family? Are they a group of survivors put together by random happenstance? Who can say. All we know is that they share a common goal – to get tot the other side.
This card often represents melancholy and depression, though the depression is often short term rather than long term. This card refers to those points in our lives where we hit something hard, something difficult, something that we need to pass through. That passage, however, won't be easy – it's through the passage that we begin to face these depressive feelings. You might be going through these feelings already, or will be soon – a loved one might also be experiencing these emotions, and you are a witness to it.
This card can also refer to recovering from sadness. Seeing as you must pass through the “Valley of the Shadows” in order to get to the other side of your sadness, this means that by simply moving through it, shouldering the burden, and dealing with all the depression that comes, you are indeed proceeding towards healing and recovery.
Lastly, this card can mean that you are (or whomever is affected by this melancholy) attempting to move forward. You're working to turn your head from the past and look to the future. You will notice, when looking at those who are riding the boat, that none of them are looking behind them – only forward. They focus on what is to come and save their energy for the effort they will have to make in order to get to those blue lands across the water – this card advises you to do the same.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when pulling this card. Are you affected by depression, short or long term? Can you put what caused you to suffer behind you? Can you only live in the present and work towards the future rather than have your mind in the past? Can you recognize that “this too shall pass”? How can you help yourself, right now, to put your sadness to rest?
The melancholy of the six of swords can be found in several other cards – the two best examples are the Eight of Cups and the Nine of Swords. The Eight of Cups not only shares a melancholic mood with the Six of Swords, but also shares the action of moving on from the past and heading towards the future. The Nine of Swords shares that sadness with the Six of Swords: though it predominately speaks of fear and worry, the sadness is still present.