Before we discuss the Ace of Swords, let's first review Aces and Swords. Aces are the cards that indicate new beginnings, and Swords correspond to the element of Air. Swords are symbolic of intellect, rationality, reason, wit, problem solving, and challenges. They can also signify medical care, ill health, betrayal, and sadness.
Because I like to get bad news out of the way first, let's begin with Barbara G. Walker's Ace of Swords, titled, as you can see, "Doom."
Interestingly, I notice, right now, that the swirling spirits look like sperm fertilizing an egg! This, to me, symbolizes that sorrow and strife can be used to create something new.
Since Ace of Swords signifies new beginnings, if it appears in a negative reading or if you feel a warning vibe from it, take it as something that may be preventable. After all, the sorceress isn't stabbing at the viewer; she's simply eyeing him warily. The questioner might be able to use his problem solving skills to nip this in the bud.
In an interpersonal reading, the Ace of Swords may indicate that the person the questioner is curious about is very intellectual and competent. It may also be a little heads-up that this person may be more comfortable in her head than she is anywhere else in her body. This person may be emotionally cold. On the other hand, this person might be witty, well-traveled, and fascinating.
The ankh and a bull's head glyph are etched into the sword's handle. The ankh is a symbol of life, luck, and love, something we cannot have without intelligence. The Bull's Head symbolizes the bulls of Egypt who represented Ptah, the god of crafts and inventor of the Word. Word is thought made visible, which is a fitting paradigm for Air!
The beautiful Mary Guinan art used to illustrate Julian De Burgh's Celtic Ace of Swords shows the sword softly glowing, and vines growing out of and around the stone of the window. The brightness of a passionate intellect shines, and sometimes bursts, forth from the brow of its owner. Athena, an intellectual, Air-y goddess (Raven Kaldera chose her as the patron goddess of the Sun in Aquarius), was born from the brow of Zeus, the ultimate idea. Her birth came with pain for Zeus--the worst migraine times 100--reminding us that Air is the element of pain and discomfort. Some ideas are breech births, or involve a difficult gestation. Like the ivy on the card, sometimes ideas must push through a layers of difficulty to shine forth.
Here, the sword is in a block of stone, an altar. Remember The Sword In the Stone, and Arthur having to pull the sword out of the stone to prove himself worthy to be king? The Ace of Swords may present a challenge that calls for the questioner to prove herself, either to the world or to herself. Perhaps there is a job interview or the questioner is returning to school. The open window behind the altar shows the road to adventure, and perhaps success.
Robin Wood's Ace of Swords is, like all her cards, rich with symbolism. What stands out to me is the location of the Sword--instead of planted, it is floating in its element, surrounded by a "brain storm" of clouds. Or, perhaps the clouds, which form a tunnel around a flash of light, are muddled, everyday thoughts, and the light is inspiration. Inspiration means, literally, breathing in, as well as messages from the Muses. Again, very fitting thought for Air. The Ace of Swords can tell the questioner of coming "divine inspiration, total disillusion" just as KMFDM sang of in their song "Light."
The blue stone at the center of the hilt is deep blue of clarity and calm. It is hard to tell whether the sun is glinting off the blade, or if the light comes from within the blade itself. Either way, the intellect is anointed--it is even crowned with laurel and white roses. The twining plants are similar to the Greek caduceus, the symbol of healing and medicine. The element of Air heals through invention, through finding cures.
The sword, while it inflicts pain, and can kill, also slices through illusion, like Kali's knife. It hacks through the brambles that form a barrier around the Edens of our dreams. It cuts a clear, clean swath, and lets in the sunlight and fresh air. It may bleed us, but, as Rumi says, "The Wound is the place where the Light comes in," where we learn love and gratitude, the greatest knowledge there is.