Collecting oneself in the midst of a mental maelstrom can be vital to eventually facing our challenges with confidence and focus. In this way, the Four of Swords is sort of the eye of the storm, allowing Ash Gravedust a moment of reprieve from the demons that torment him. We find him slumbering as soundly as one can in hell, protected by a ring of salt and four swords. One of the many haunted houses of his underworld journey looms ominously over him, reminding us that his respite is not a permanent solution. At some point, he will have to exit that protective salt circle and face the nightmare once again.
Ash’s Salt Sanctuary
Naturally, the trauma and emotional exhaustion of the Three of Swords has found Ash needing a period of recuperation which is what the Four of Swords is about. Many religious tales recount the purifying qualities of salt which Ash has used to form the protective ring that almost acts like a bubble, guarding him from the harshness of the underworld for the night. Here he finds the time to properly reflect on his encounters with Zombie Red and the lesbian love spectres and potentially begin to formulate a course of action. The salt ring is further reinforced by swords; one of which is his own.
Defective Komainu Just Beyond the Border
It can be difficult to find moments of stillness and silence amidst a particularly chaotic and confusing moment in our lives but it is in that stillness that we find the focus and inspiration to move forward. As Ash rests his body and mind, the chaos waits just beyond the salt circle. To present the chaos, I used a series of symbols that are themes throughout my entire Suit of Swords. While this is the second appearance of the defective komainu (or foo dogs), this is the first encounter with real prominence. The komainu statues were actually believed in Asian cultures to have the power to guard a domicile from evil spirits. Typically, one komainu statue has an open mouth while the other has a closed mouth. This is meant to convey one komainu speaking the first letter of the alphabet in Sanskrit while the second komainu is speaking the final letter as a representation of the alpha and omega. One mouth opens to catch the spirit, the other closes to contain the spirit. However, both of these komainu are frozen with mouths wide open, allowing free passage for the dark spectres of the underworld.
The Cracked and Penetrated Sanctity of a Haunted House
As with every house in my Suit of Swords, the ominously looming house in the Four of Swords is deeply haunted. The home is often a symbol of sanctity for people. For many of us, it is the place where we can most easily relax into our true selves. It’s a salvation from the harsh winds. A haunted house, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. For me, the haunted house became the best representation of a disturbed mind. These houses are haunted by phantoms of doubt, confusion, fear, regret and even guilt. All of the thoughts that make you lose sleep at night haunt the houses of my Swords Suit. However, in the Four of Swords, Ash has a moment’s reprieve from their grotesque harassment. The lightning bolt is worked into the design of this haunted house (as with many in my Suit of Swords) to re-establish illumination of the truth and themes of destruction in the name of creation.
An Important Reoccurrence of the Hurricane Sword
Another sword is introduced in my Four of Swords illustration. This sword has a simple grip, a black crystal pommel, and a guard that is actually fashioned from the blade itself to resemble a primitive vulture skull, once again recalling the symbolism of the carrion bird. This sword’s symbolism is not directly tied to the Four of Swords but is more applicable to the suit as a whole. However, the hurricane sword that made its first appearance in the Three of Swords has no stronger relation than to the Four of Swords due to the “eye” of the storm; observing a situation from a momentary respite.
The borders feature simple masks similar to those seen in the Two of Swords although the masks in the Four of Swords have their mouths covered as opposed to their eyes. This is a reminder of the need for silence in this time. However, the truths processed in that silence may be painful so the masks are once again shedding tears. In the corners, swords join together to contain a hurricane with a literal eye staring forth from its center, observing and processing before the harsh winds return.