4 of Swords: Tarot Card Meaning

By Lauren Williams
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4 of Swords Keywords


  • Rest
  • Contemplation
  • Quiet
  • Peace
  • Meditation
  • Recovery
  • Solitude


  • Restlessness
  • Burnout
  • Lack of progress
  • Stress
  • Isolation
  • Impatience
  • Stagnation

4 of Swords Essential Meanings Snapshot


The upright 4 of Swords symbolizes rest, recovery, and contemplation. This card represents a time to retreat and restore one’s mental and physical health. Just like a soldier taking respite from a battle, it denotes a period of peace necessary to regain energy and strategize future tactics. It’s an indication for seeking solace and inner tranquility to rejuvenate and strengthen one’s resolve.


In the reversed position, the 4 of Swords refers to restlessness, burnout, and stasis. It’s a sign of forced isolation or recovery after a rushed or stressful period. This card warns against neglecting mental well-being and indicates a constant struggle to calm a chaotic mind. It could denote a lack of progress due to unprocessed feelings or a period where it’s becoming increasingly hard to find a pause, reflection, or recuperation.

4 of Swords Description

Upon viewing the 4 of Swords, you’ll see a peaceful scene of a knight lying on a tomb with his hands clasped in prayer, deep in reverie or perhaps sleeping.

Three swords are hung over him on the wall, pointing downwards — symbolic of the emotional burdens he’s put aside. A fourth sword lies beneath him, its tip pointing towards his head, waiting to be noticed and dealt with in due time. Stained glass windows shed soft light on him, signifying tranquility and divine guidance.

A figure lying down with swords above as the four of swords tarot card.

The knight is clad in armor, indicating he’s a battle-hardened warrior now in a state of repose. A cushioned bed hints towards comfort and a much-needed period of relaxation. His closed eyes and calm features reveal a state of deep introspection or meditation — a complete disconnection from worries and strife.

The simplistic and serene imagery of the 4 of Swords card represents a necessary pause in life’s journey, a time to retreat, reflect, and rejuvenate.

Beyond the Surface: Symbolic Meanings

In the world of tarot, each card holds profound symbolic meanings that reach beyond their surface story. The 4 of Swords is no exception. Let’s explore the hidden meanings behind each symbolic element of this card.

  • The Number Four: In Tarot, the number four often symbolizes stability and structure. For the 4 of Swords, this brings a sense of necessary stillness, a pause for respite and preparation, a time to consolidate strength.
  • The Swords: The swords represent the realm of thought and intellect. When four swords are present in a card, it signifies a deep introspection, a time to think before acting.
  • The Tomb: Many versions of the 4 of Swords depict an individual laying on a tomb. This intimidating symbol actually represents a place of safety and quiet, a symbolic death of the old self to facilitate rebirth.
  • The Stained-Glass Window: Often observed in the background, the stained-glass window signifies the presence of spiritual forces. It shows that divine guidance is available should we choose to awaken from our slumber and seek it out.
  • The Figure in Repose: The individual depicted in repose on the 4 of Swords signifies a period of rest, recovery and contemplation, highlighting the need to take care of one’s mental wellness.

Each of these elements paints a vivid picture of what the 4 of Swords represents – a call to inner exploration, rest and recovery from life’s struggles.

Dual Perspectives: Upright & Reversed

Upright 4 of Swords

The Upright 4 of Swords typically reflects a need for rest and recovery. Often, it resonates with messages of withdrawal and retreat, symbolizing a period to recharge and replenish your energy. The focus here is on inner peace and tranquility. It encourages the individual to take a break, silent their mind and draw upon the wisdom within. It’s often a call to rest, symbolizing health recuperation and quiet introspection.

Reversed 4 of Swords

In sharp contrast, a reversed 4 of Swords suggests that you may be pushed into a situation where rest is not an option. The time for respite has vanished, replaced by urgency and chaos around you. This card can indicate that you’re taking too much rest and it’s time to get back into the real world. Alternatively, it signifies an individual’s resistance to relaxation, building levels of stress and aggression. It can serve as a prompt to seek balance between activity and withdrawal, realizing that both are necessary for holistic growth.

Ultimately, whether upright or reversed, 4 of Swords urges you to pay attention to your internal state, suggesting critical turning points in your spiritual journey.

4 of Swords in Life Scenarios

The 4 of Swords in tarot can reflect various aspects of an individual’s life. It’s important not to interpret it in isolation, but rather to consider it in relation to other drawn cards or factors. The card can carry meanings about your inner world, career, relationships, and life decisions.

Growth & Self-Discovery

The 4 of Swords can signify a quiet period of introspection and solitude. It encourages one to take a break from the chaos of life to contemplate, reflect, and rejuvenate. This card might be reflecting that it’s time for you to rest, meditate, or seek therapy if needed. You may be going through a personal spiritual awakening, discovery, or growth that requires you to be alone in silence.

Career and Creativity

In terms of career and creativity, the 4 of Swords could indicate a need for pause and reflection. If you feel overwhelmed or under pressure, it might be suggesting that you should take a step back to replenish your energy. Don’t rush into making decisions. Instead, pause and reflect on your career goals. Maybe you need a sabbatical to recharge your creative spirit.

Relationships & Bonds

When it comes to relationships, the 4 of Swords can indicate a period of hiatus. A time might come when you or your partner will need some space to think things over. This card could also indicate recuperation after an argument or heartbreak. It can signify the need to heal from past wounds before you can engage in a healthier relationship.

To read more about the 4 of Swords in the context of feelings, read our 4 of Swords as Feelings article.

Choices & Life Decisions

In the context of life decisions, the 4 of Swords suggests taking time off to reflect before making any major choices. Whether it’s related to your personal life, career or relationships, don’t rush. You may need a mental break to clear your head and gain a fresh perspective. This card advises patience, deep contemplation, and careful thought before acting.

To read more about the 4 of Swords when making decisions, read our 4 of Swords: Yes or No article.

4 of Swords from Past to Present

The 4 of Swords tarot card has journeyed through profound visual and thematic transformations as time and interpretation have played their parts. Historically, this card, much like the other cards in the Tarot deck, first appeared during the mid-15th century in Italy and was part of a game known as “Triumphs”.

In the earliest deck, the depicted image was quite macabre and portrayed a coffin containing a body with three swords hanging above it and one below. The inherent symbolism revolved around themes of murder or martyrdom, reflecting a strong sentiment of sacrifice.

With time, the card evolved. Tarot decks designed during the Renaissance showcased the 4 of Swords as a knight in prayer, lying on a tomb, with stalactites resembling swords hanging precariously above him. These adaptations pointed to greater emphasis on contemplation, solitude, and spiritual recovery, a theme more attuned to non-violence and regaining strength.

Modern decks have continued this trend towards positive symbolism. In the widely used Rider-Waite tarot deck, the figure on the card lies in a church, symbolizing findings peace, solitude or sanctuary to heal and rejuvenate.

While the visuals have changed, the core themes of retreat, recuperation, and contemplation remain. The past narrative of this card underscores the evolving nature of tarot interpretation and the capacity of each card to tell a unique story across time.

Synergistic Card Combinations

In the world of tarot, interactions of cards play a major role as it enhances the depth of the readings. The 4 of Swords has its own intrinsic meanings but when combined with other cards, its implications can be amplified, modified, or given a specific direction. Let’s dive into some synergistic card combinations of the 4 of Swords with other Tarot cards.

4 of Swords and The Hermit

When the 4 of Swords appears with The Hermit, it enhances the energy of introspection and withdrawal. Both cards symbolize a period of solitude and pause. Seeing them in combination underscores a deep need for relaxation and self-reflection to achieve clarity and wisdom.

4 of Swords and 9 of Pentacles

The 4 of Swords combined with the 9 of Pentacles adds a dimension of tranquility in the material world. It indicates a time to enjoy the fruits of your labors and take a break from constant striving. It’s a reminder to pause, maybe take a holiday, and revel in the success already achieved.

4 of Swords and The Death

The fusion of the 4 of Swords with The Death card takes on a bit of a deeper, transformative tone. It’s not as morbid as it sounds, it simply represents a time for deep recuperation and healing before a major change or transformation. It’s about letting go of the old to make way for rebirth.

4 of Swords and The Tower

Contrary to the calm nature of 4 of Swords, The Tower represents sudden upheaval. When these two cards appear together, it implies the need for a cool-down period after a dramatic life event. It’s a signal to rest and recover after a period of high stress or trauma.

By skimming the surface of synergies, we can see that the context of the 4 of Swords shifts and refines in combination with different tarot cards. It brings forth the nuanced art that’s tarot reading, and how various interpretations arise from combined card meanings.

Introspection & Meditation

Engaging with the energy of the 4 of Swords through contemplative practices centers one in a space of calm and restoration. It is a card that prompts internal reflection and invites us to seek solace within the quiet corners of our mind.

A Meditative Practice for Rest and Renewal

To capitalize on the healing, serene energy of this card, try incorporating a Four of Swords-inspired meditation into your daily routine. Find a quiet, peaceful environment and settle into a comfortable position, holding a mental image of the 4 of Swords in your mind. As you breathe in, envision a white light of healing energy infusing your body. As you exhale, imagine any stress or tension leaving your body, allowing serenity and tranquility to take its place.

Introspective Journaling with the 4 of Swords

Journaling can be another powerful tool for unravelling the inner wisdom of the 4 of Swords. It can help bring clarity and perspective to your thoughts. Try answering these prompts: What areas of your life do you feel a need to retreat from? What words or images spring to mind when you contemplate the 4 of Swords? How can you find peace in the midst of turmoil? What does rest and recovery mean to you?

The practice of meditation and introspective journaling aligned with the 4 of Swords provides a pathway for tranquility, recovery, and self-discovery. They are ways to step back, disengage from the world’s turbulence, and cultivate inner peace, which is the heart of the 4 of Swords.


The 4 of Swords Tarot card delivers a message of rest, recuperation, and introspection. It represents a time to retreat and restore one’s mental and physical health. In the reversed position, the 4 of Swords refers to restlessness, burnout, and stasis.

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Lauren Williams
Lauren merges ancient wisdom with modern insights, offering a fresh perspective on life's mysteries. She's passionate about guiding individuals through the world of astrology, lunar cycles, numerology, and tarot. When she's not charting the stars or reading tarot, she enjoys getting out in nature, hikes and yoga.