Four of Swords Meaning

Four of Swords Meaning: Upright and Reversed

Latest posts by Amber Brinnier (see all)

The Four of Swords card represents a sacred pause – the deep breath before we jump into action, the moment we check our work before turning it in, re-centering ourselves and our mental state before we start a new project, or after we have experienced hardship.

When the Four of Swords appears in a reading, you are being asked to pause. Stop working on whatever it is you are working on. Meditate. Get out in nature. Take a deep breath. Turn off your phone, and sit in contemplation for a while. So much of our lives in today’s society are powered by the impulse to constantly be productive and on the move, with little time built-in for quiet contemplation and relaxation.

Self-care means many different things to different people, and the Four of Swords asks you to find what that means for you. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Let’s take a closer work at the Four of Swords meaning and all the ways we can interpret the Four of Swords when it shows up in a tarot reading.

Fours in Tarot Numerology

In the numerology of the tarot, Fours represent structure and balance. Aligned with the Emperor and Death in the Major Arcana, Fours in the Minor Arcana represent bringing an issue back into balance, depending on the suit present.

The Fours are an anchor and ask you to anchor yourself into the lesson taught by the card you have received. Fours bring dimension to ideas. Look at the objects around you and you’ll find that most things have a base of four corners.

In the Swords suit, the Four of Swords represents mental stability – what you can do to bring your mental health back into balance.

Four of Swords Imagery and Symbolism

In the Rider Waite Smith deck, the Four of Swords card depicts a knight in full armor reclining inside a chapel or tomb. In some depictions, the knight appears to be a separate entity lying on top of the slab, and in some, the knight is a carving – suggesting a recumbent effigy on top of a coffin containing a real body within.

There is a sword lying with the knight, while three more swords are poised above, pointing down. A colorful stained glass window above the knight depicts a woman reaching out to a kneeling child.

Upright Four of Swords Meaning

The Four of Swords signals that it is time to rest. Worries and stresses of the world have taken their toll, and you will not be ready for what is to come without taking the time out to pause and consider the situation and your next steps.

You may already know what you are going to do next, but if the Four of Swords is showing up for you, now is not the time to forge ahead with that plan. You aren’t yet ready to wade into those deeper waters.

Take a deep breath and pause before proceeding. Whether that means taking a large chunk of time off of work to focus on your mental health or just taking one moment to breathe before sending a text or submitting a proposal, the Four of Swords asks you to bring your mind back to center.

Four of Swords Upright Keywords

  • Rest
  • Rejuvenation
  • Peace
  • Meditation
  • Seclusion
  • Recuperation
  • Relaxation
  • Contemplation
  • Sanctuary
  • Regrouping
  • Solitude

Four of Swords Upright in a Love Reading

If the Four of Swords shows up in a love reading, it may be time to take a step outside of your relationship. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is time to dissolve the relationship, but you may have become codependent on your partner unknowingly, and the edges between where they end and you begin have become blurred.

In order to bring your relationship back into balance, take some time to yourself. You can use this time in any way you want – reexamining the relationship isn’t always necessary. You’ll know what is being asked depending on the situation and any supporting cards. If you are single, now is not the time to jump into a new relationship.

Enjoy this time to yourself. Romance yourself the way you would if you did have a partner. Practice self-care, whatever that looks like to you. Your future relationships will be all the richer for you having taught yourself interdependence.

Four of Swords Upright in a Career/Finance Reading

In a career reading, the Four of Swords can be an indication that you are working too hard or under too much pressure at your job, and it is time to take a step outside of the realm of your career for a moment to focus on your mental health. If you feel that you are financially unable to do this, just remember that if you cannot make space in your life to do this consciously, your body may do it unconsciously for you in the form of illness.

Even if you can’t plan a vacation, make sure you are incorporating moments of stillness into your daily routine. Financially, the Four of Swords indicates struggle and doubt seeping into and causing stress. You may be experiencing an overwhelming amount of pressure on your finances. Before this leads to a breaking point, try to quiet your mind so that you can actually come up with solutions aside from anxiety.

Four of Swords Upright in a Family Reading

In a family reading, the Four of Swords may be telling you that it is time to take a break from your family dynamic for the time being, as you could be beginning to become overwhelmed with stress in this area. Ask your family to give you some time every day to be alone, or take a solo vacation if you are able to.

Find interests outside of your family that you can connect with on a solo level. Taking this time out for yourself will allow you to be the best version of yourself within the family unit overall.

Four of Swords Upright in a Health Reading

If you turn up the Four of Swords in a health-specific reading, you are likely internalizing pressures of the outside world to a point that is becoming unsustainable for your health. As a Swords card, it is most likely pointing to mental health in the upright position. Try meditation, or counseling, or therapy if you need to step outside of the situation for a healthier mental perspective.

Reversed Four of Swords Meaning

As always, a reversed card can be an indication of a lessening of the energies involved with the upright version of the card, but it can also be an indication that these energies have reached an unsustainable point and need to be addressed and paid attention to before things become too dire.

You could be approaching a level of burnout in the Four of Swords reversed that will push you to a precipice you may have a hard time coming back from if these things aren’t taken care of in a timely manner. You may have ignored your body or mind’s pleas to take time out to take care of yourself, and now things have gotten to the point where you cannot continue.

Alternatively, you could be experiencing a period of renewal and a new perspective on life after a time of isolation. You could be ready to re-enter society, full of new ideas and energy. The specific situation and surrounding cards will clarify which iteration of reversal this is.

Four of Swords Reversed Keywords

  • Restlessness
  • Burnout
  • Ignoring needs
  • Re-entering society
  • Recovery
  • Stagnation
  • Exhaustion

Four of Swords Reversed in a Love Reading

In a love reading, the Four of Swords reversed is all about perspective. You may be recovering from a difficult time in your relationship and ready to recommit yourself, or you may have reached a breaking point where it is time to end the relationship or at least consider a trial separation. If you are single, you may be ready to enter into a new relationship again, or you could be feeling as though you will never find love and thus retreating further into yourself.

Four of Swords Reversed in a Career/ Finance Reading

Career-wise, the Four of Swords in reverse can signal that it is time to get back to work after a period of rest, or that you have achieved a level of burnout that is no longer able to be ignored, and you must take care to remedy the situation before you have passed the point of no return. It could be time to start looking for a new job.

Financially you could either be coming out of a difficult financial period or have reached a point where you need to start looking into financial alternatives and asking for help. It all depends on how you choose to read reversals or what the situation at hand is.

Four of Swords Reversed in a Family Reading

In a family-centered reading, the Four of Swords reversed can indicate that you are feeling burnt out on your familial duties and could be about to snap. If that’s not the case, a reversed card means that you are slowly integrating yourself back into the family unit after a period of rest.

Four of Swords Reversed in a Health Reading

If you have received the Four of Swords reversed in a health reading, you may have ignored signs to rest and take care of your mental health too long, and now your body is at a point where it’s burnt out and is going to force you to stop and take care of yourself.

Ask yourself whether your productivity is more important than your physical and mental health, or whether you are able to step away from the work for a moment to rest.

Four of Swords Remediation

Few cards of the tarot call for direct action, but the Four of Swords is one of them. When this card comes up it is asking you to take a step back from the trajectory you have been on, to rest, recuperate, and reframe.

Some ways to do this are literally just by taking the time out of your day to meditate, taking a mental health day from work and responsibilities, going out in nature, or just finding somewhere to be peaceful and quiet away from your duties.

If you can find even just 10-20 minutes a day to do this to start, you will be on your way. Use this time to refine and reframe your goals, but also to take notice of the world around you outside of those goals.


The Four of Swords has a simple, straightforward meaning in most cases, and most likely when it comes up, you will know why. Take this as your signal to pause and contemplate the direction you are heading in, and whether that is working for you now, or whether it is leading you to burnout and more stress. This card is an invitation to breathe. The rest can come later.


Question: Is Four of Swords a Yes or No Card?

Generally, the Four of Swords is a ‘yes’ card. Its medicine brings peace and clarity. However, if the question involves some sort of immediate action, while not a firm ‘No’, the Four of Swords instead may be taken to mean ‘Not right now.’

Question: What Zodiac Sign is Four of Swords Associated With?

As Swords are represented by Air, any Sword card can represent the 3 Air signs: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. In particular, the Four of Swords is associated with the 3rd decan of Libra, bringing balance to your mental health before moving on to the next task.

Question: How can I Embody the Four of Swords in Real Life?

Meditation is the most straightforward practice called for by the Four of Swords, but that doesn’t have to look like sitting still and calming your thoughts. You can take a nap, read, or do some form of embodied work that doesn’t require you to think too much about your responsibilities – like knitting, drawing, or playing music. Take a hike in the woods or some green space, and find a place to rest and sit in quiet contemplation of the nature around you. Whatever you can do to block out the outside world and the stresses of life is an embodiment of the Four of Swords.

It is not possible for me to take time off, but I have pulled the Four of Swords. What can I do? If taking whole days off isn’t an option, or you have many obligations at home that prevent you from taking time out, first ask yourself whether those things are actually true. If you can’t find at least 10 minutes to take a quiet breath to yourself during the day, the Four of Swords is likely telling you that you need to make space for this, for the good of your own health.

Remember that if you don’t make this time, your body eventually will, in the form of burnout or physical illness, so you might as well take control while you still have the ability. Clearing your schedule for at least one day will not cause things to fall off the rails without you. You deserve intentional rest, relaxation, and self-care.

Question: How is the Four of Swords Linked to the Emperor and Death Cards?

All of these cards represent Four in tarot numerology (Death is 13, and 1 + 3 = 4) and Four cards are about structure and balance. The Emperor relates to Four of Swords by asking you to look at where you can build structures in your life that allow you to rest, and bring your mental health back into balance.

The Death card relates by representing the pause between one action and another. Although the Death card is more of an intense pause, it comes in the middle of the Major Arcana and thus hasn’t closed the cycle completely, and the same is true with Four of Swords. The contraction of the Five comes next, so you should take a moment for some downtime before moving ahead.

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