As a reminder, the suit of swords is driven by masculine energy and channels the power of the intellect and mind, including all the concepts, knowledge, and beliefs that it holds. Scholars and academics have connected the suit of swords to the classical element of air, and most of the cards from that suit embody the symbolic attributes of this element, one way or another.
Seven of Swords card: Traditional meanings
If the seven of swords were an animal, it would be a fox. Imbued with an energy of cunning, stealth, and underhanded tactics, the meaning of this minor arcana card definitely stands within a morally gray area. As a consequence, when drawing this card within a tarot spread or reading, it is rather important to determine whether the Querent or subject of the tarot reading will be the active element of this cunning deceitful plan… or it’s victim!
Upright: Cunning, theft, betrayal, deception, dishonesty, and stealth.
Reversed: Getting caught, keeping secrets, and being outwitted.
Upright Seven of Swords card
The main character in the Seven of Swords tarot card illustration (in the Rider-Waite deck and most derivative tarot decks) is represented sneaking away rather hurriedly from a camp with five swords in his hand. Two more swords are planted on the ground next to him.
The man is obviously stealing these swords from the nearby camp, looking over his shoulder to check whether he has been seen. Is usual in the suit of Swords, to have the man in clothes of a commoner, but wears a round and flat had like a fez (which is indeed often painted red in colored versions of the RWS tarot deck illustration).
The core meaning of the seven of swords is not necessarily negative, though it should probably be considered amoral. Like the main character displayed on the minor arcana card, the subject of the reading is probably doing or about to do something sneaky and underhanded, like stealing, or spying, or lying, and probably get away with it.
That person might also be about to betray their colleagues or friends quite unexpectedly. This is not necessarily negative, as it could be motivated by the greater good (in a “the end justifies the means” kind of mindset) or be something without a lot of value and aiming to teach a lesson more than anything else, like in the legends of Anansi or Br’er Rabbit.
A more neutral and less morally ambiguous reading of the seven of swords might be that of making plans to overcome adversity through cunning instead of brute force or military might, using mind over matter to overcome unfavorable odds.
Reversed Seven of Swords card
A reversed seven of swords in a tarot reading tends to deal with the consequences of the kind of actions covered by the core meaning of this minor arcana, especially for someone caught in the act.
It is both a warning and a lesson in humility, when the biter is bit, and when a cunning plan fails because the other party has outwitted the perpetrator.
On a more personal level, a reversed seven of swords could represent someone deliberately keeping secrets from someone they care for, usually with subsequent negative consequences for that person.
If the act of thievery (or any other action that might break the law) was literal, drawing a reversed seven of swords might represent getting caught by the authorities and having to deal with the (usually unpleasant) consequences.
Seven of Swords and love
The Seven of Swords is the kind of minor arcana you might prefer not to see drawn in any reading or spread specifically dealing with love or romantic life. Indeed, for a couple, it is a sign of deceit and lies within the context of that relationship, with one or the other person not being true and hiding things to the other.
The most commonly obfuscated lie would be an affair, obviously, but the seven of swords also covers a much wider range of dishonesty and lies towards a loved one.
When a third party is involved, a seven of swords in a love reading might also represent a deliberate effort to sow the seeds of discord within that relationship by spreading lies and falsehoods about one of them to the other one.