The Seven of Swords by Jessa Crispin

Collage by Jen May

The situation has become untenable. Whatever it was that brought you here, whatever came before, whatever memories you might have of when things worked and when this life was good, those feelings of belonging and safety, that has all faded into the past.

Now only one thought remains in your head, and it clangs and bangs: out out out.

There will be things you will have to leave behind. You will only be able to take what you can carry. Sentimentality is your enemy now. Cut away what is dead, what is unnecessary. What is defined as unnecessary: anything that will not save your life.

You leave, for what you don’t know. You’ll have to invent a whole new home, and maybe for a while you’ll be sleeping with one of those swords by your bed. Whatever it takes. It’s time to go.


In the Seven of Swords, we leave the group. A man runs from the town with swords thrown over his shoulder, and what he is running towards is mostly blank space. It’s empty because he hasn’t created what will be there yet. If this is his first departure, he might not know that he’ll have to do this, as he’s become accustomed to someone else creating and maintaining the world for him.

A person on the margins has to live by his or her wits, which is maybe why this card is focused on the trickster element of our hero. When there are no hands extended, you are forced to take what you can get. Mercury, the ruler of pickpockets and smugglers and border crossers. Those who, when the authority says no, do it anyway. Those who know if they wait for a handout, they’ll be here all week.

But what are you going to do with your distance? Will you use your outside perspective to get a good look at the faults and deficiencies of the system and help those left behind who might not even know that they are trapped, or are you going to just plot raids? That taking what you can get thing will only get you so far, and besides, the more you take, the more you become a taker. You fought so hard not to be defined by your surroundings, do you really want to define yourself now by that?


There once was a man who set his wife on fire. Of course this has happened much more than once, but for our purposes, we will only be concerning ourselves with one man — Michael Cleary — and one wife — Bridget Cleary. Bridget had been misbehaving. She was not the dutiful rural wife Michael had been led to believe she would be. She liked hats, she liked flirting. She was headstrong, and she did not defer to the patriarchal structure of rural Ireland.

Her husband did not think: perhaps she is a different person than what she was raised to be. He did not think: perhaps this to is how some wives are, how some women are. He thought: my real wife, the wife I expected, she was abducted by faeries and they left this changeling in her place.

He set her alight.

According to legend, if your child or wife or lover was abducted by faeries, you can retrieve them if you wait at the right spot, at the right time. Perhaps the most chilling part of this story: even after it was explained to him what grave thing he had done, her husband went to wait for his real wife to be returned to him at that spot, at that time.


Everyone who has found themselves clashing against the strictly defined characteristics of their gender, their family, their hometown, their religion; they know about the danger that lies there. They know what they have to give up sometimes to remain in the collective, and also about the dangers of running to the margins. They know all about the Seven of Swords.


Here’s the thing about Seven of Swords. If you had to remove yourself to save yourself, if you had to pull up your roots and walk away from all that was familiar, even if it was done out of necessity, that walking away becomes much too easy to repeat. You find yourself pulling an Exit Stage Left at every opportunity, fleeing lovers, friendships, alliances, all because you’re too finely attuned to that twinge of compromise. For a long time you sacrificed bits of yourself in an attempt to gain acceptance, and now you’ve become strident. Unyielding.

It can all become a bit of a muddle, the line between compromise and defeat, the line between mutability and losing your self. You forget that a river will change its banks and the land will yield, and neither loses its essential self in the process. The wind blows through the trees and those trees will bend to avoid toppling, and yet the oak does not become any less grand.

And so you leave. And you comfort yourself through another round of loneliness, another round of feeling totally lost in the world with, well, at least I have my dignity.


That craned neck backwards is heartbreaking. He’s running away, taking what he can and getting the hell out, but he keeps looking back. He keeps thinking maybe someone will call out at the last second to say, you’re right, we were wrong, please come back to us as you are. He keeps thinking maybe they’ll at least miss him when he’s gone. He keeps thinking if he watches for long enough, he will see some sort of visible reaction, some acknowledgment of his leaving.

No one ever even looks up.


Jessa Crispin is the editor and founder of and She reads tarot cards specifically for writers and artists, meant to unearth creativity and remove blocks. You can contact her at Additional info is here.

Jen May is a Scorpio and artist living in Brooklyn, NY with 3 cats. She keeps a tumblr updated regularly with horoscope images and everything else.