I’m finally about to have a few days of rest coming my way- and as the winter solstice meets us, it would be a shame to waste the chance to take this moment and tune in.

I’ve been hitting a block with my shadow work and too long after I just now realize that the blockage begins in my dreamspace, where the work is supposed to start. How can I actualize in the physical realm, if my spirit cannot access the knowledge in the first place?!


The Four of Swords is probably one of the most well-received cards in the Swords’ suit. While all the other cards seem to be cutting at some internal battle raging inside you, this card is unique in that it asks you to step back from the battle, take shelter and recover. In the past, this card and I have always had a positive relationship. After intense periods of personal growth and overcoming, seeing this card always felt like a reward. A sigh of relief and an allowance of guilt-free rest. I was always happy to take the time to soften the edges that had grown sharp and reflect on work well done without worrying just then about the next steps that needed to be taken.

However, there’s a reason that this card belongs in the Swords suit.

Rest is a struggle. So much so that our body will force us to take it even when our minds resist it- fellow insomniacs recognize (and often welcome) that breaking point when your body overpowers your mind and you crash into oblivion. Fellow insomniacs will also recognize the feeling when you wake from a sleep like that- groggy, even more exhausted than before you crashed. Your body went to sleep, but your mind and spirit never consented to it.

Rest is a struggle. And if you’re like me and you’ve been ducking your shadow work? Rest feels like a swinging pendulum over your neck. The gut twisting fear that if you do take that moment- you will find those answers you were looking for on the other side and there goes blissful ignorance, and all semblance of rest for that matter.

But whatever it brings has to feel better than the twisted tension ignoring it causes. There’s no bliss here.

I decided to work a spread that would help me begin the check-in and provide a focus going into dream work. I want to note that the positions in this spread are mirrors of each other, not opposites. For example, this spread expects you to grapple with your nightmares as your dreams’ shadow mirror. In fact the line between nightmare and dream is only blurrier when dream space is so fraught a space to be in.

So let’s enter dream work with four simple questions, one for each sword.

  1. What is your sleeping path? At the root of the issue; what needs to be dealt with.
  2. What is your nightmare? Your worst case scenario. Both what you see as the worst that could happen as well as the worst that could happen should you not deal with position 1.
  3. What is your dream? Your best case scenario. Both what you see as the best that could happen as well as the result of working through 1&2 to gain more insight. As such this position won’t always feel so good, but sit with that discomfort of what happens when your dream feels nightmarish.
  4. What is your waking path? The growth to be sought; the rooted seed in position 1 bears a shoot. Again, might not always feel so good at first, but trust that it is progress.

Here’s how this worked out for me:


  1. What is your sleeping path? TWO OF PENTACLES – In the sleeping path position immediately responded to that locked up, knotted muscle feeling I’ve been carrying and showed it to me in color. I’ve wrapped around my treasure so tight that I’ve kept that knowledge constrained, unable to grow from it. I’m afraid to bring it to the light, but I also won’t let it go for fear of…
  2. What is your nightmare? SIX OF SWORDS shows me just what the source of fear is. Scorched earth lies beyond a stagnant pond with the swords the only remnant of the battle that took place. I tasted metal, the swords slowly but surely poisoning the water. Joan Bunning has this great quote that encapsulates the dangerous stagnancy the Six of Swords warns against: “…many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions…settle in this place” and fester in the still water. In the traditional RWS image, you see the fool responding to this warning- if the water won’t move, then they will have to move over it and find a new space.
  3. What is your dream? The WHEEL OF THE YEAR card shows me that I have a choice here. Do I draw the swords out, deal with each of them? It has not passed my notice that it is three swords in the water. So if the water represents my emotions as it usually does, then the work of the Three of Swords card is summoned here. Ouch. Moreover, there are three swords on the land as well. What the heart carries, so will the body. I don’t think the option to travel over the water as the traveler in the Six of Swords usually does is open to me. I’m taking a dunk. Also, while there are no Wands in this reading, the dynamic energy of the Wands suit has hidden itself in the Wheel where movement is the passing of time. And what is the one thing that heals a broken heart?
  4. What is your waking path? NINE OF CUPS is a promise. Okay Disney, if a dream really is a wish your heart makes, then the Nine of Cups is confirmation that the heart must have its due here. Those swords need to come up out of that water, out of my heart, before anything new and nourishing can take their place.

Now if you’ll excuse us, me and this tender heart of mine are going to reach for some Hawthorne and Lavender for this solstice and take a moment with each other.

Blessings to your solstice journey.

four-of-swords-spreadHow do you feel about the Four of Swords? Or did you try the Four of Swords spread for yourself? How did it work out for you? Let me know, I’d love to chat!