Eight of Swords
(The Eight of Swords card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti http://www.ciromarchetti.com/)**
By my calculations, this is the 78th card that we are discussing, which means after this month we have made it all the way through the entire Tarot deck! Congratulations, all of you who have stayed with me through this journey. This month we are going to talk about our final card, the Eight of Swords. As always, here is a bit of basic foundational information about the Eights of the Tarot Minor Arcana, and in particular our Eight of Swords.
A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements (sometimes called “Pips” or “Pip Cards”), with numbers from Ace to 10; the Minors usually deal with day-to-day issues.
The Eight of Swords is a part of the Minor Arcana. We already know that the easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 8, and the suit of Swords, and understanding these two categories of information will give us a good initial take on our card this month.
First, let’s look at the image of the Eight of Swords. The traditional image shows a woman in a red dress with long dark hair who is blindfolded and bound (in some images she is bound loosely with her hands behind her back and in others she is bound tightly but with her hands in front of her body), standing on what appears to be dry ground and puddles of water, or perhaps a bay during low tide, surrounded by 8 Swords acting like a wall. In the background is a castle or a city built on a rocky mountain. Some cards have a clear sky, other show dark clouds, wind, and even wind-driven rain. One interesting image shows a woman holding a sword and looking at her reflection in a full-length mirror; it is her reflection that is bound and surrounded by the Swords. That is interesting!
Let’s look at the number 8 next. I see the number 8 as telling me that I need to consciously act or choose the next step, and that I need to believe the next step I choose will bring some resolution. It is easier to understand the number 8 (which is about deliberately reacting) if we understand the number 7 (which is about the pause that occurs as growth slows and the beginning of degeneration approaches). The number 8 offers the concept of a remedy or a reaction to the pause and approaching degeneration of the 7, traditionally involving a choice of some kind, usually either to stick with what we have, or try for more. This means the energies of the number 8 can bring the opportunity to build, or to destroy. In the Tarot, the number 8 cards are kind of a kick in the pants, telling us we already have the skills we need to make a choice to act, so act already! Just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Eight of Swords is going to be a card of action or manifestation.
The suit of Swords corresponds with the element of Air, the Spades of playing cards, the direction of East and the color of yellow; Swords cards usually tell of some focused intent to consciously bring forth a manifestation, or a struggle and then an outcome. Swords cards are about purposeful and deliberate actions and the thoughts, intentions or beliefs behind them. Swords cards and the effects they describe are sourced from within us; they teach us that we create our own reality from our expectations. The Swords cards give hints as to our mental state, the beliefs we have, and actions we choose to take in response to effects around us. A Sword has two edges, a perfect metaphor for this suit, which can represent attacking or defending, logic or aggression. The Swords cards also represent an opportunity to feel more empowered; self-empowerment happens when we successfully deal with challenges, but self-empowerment can be dangerous if it is not balanced with a bit of humility.
The element of Air corresponds with truth, clarity, and our capacity to analyze or apply logic. Air also represents the intelligence that clears away the fog of ignorance so we can clearly see and understand, and it supports communications and sounds of all kinds. Air allows both expression (out from within us) and hearing (in from outside of us) to happen. This information applies to all the Swords cards in the Minor Arcana, including our Nine of Swords.
Like the other cards of the Tarot, the Eight of Swords has an astrological correspondence. The Eight of Swords represents Jupiter when it is in the astrological sign Gemini.
In Roman mythology, Jupiter is the ruler, guardian and protector of the gods. Similarly, the planet Jupiter is in many ways the ruler of our solar system. Some astronomers believe that Jupiter with its massive gravity actually protects the rest of our solar system by attracting or deflecting comets and asteroids that might otherwise threaten Earth. Like passions and emotions, Jupiter is brightly colored and covered with large and intense storms; the planet is symbolized by a lightning bolt. Astrologically, Jupiter is associated with growth, expansion, prosperity, freedom, exploration, and good fortune. Jupiter is connected to long distance and foreign travel, higher education, religion, all humanitarian pursuits, and the law (and its role as a protector of society). Jupiter is also associated with gambling and merrymaking.
The sign of Gemini is about communication of all kinds, and about collecting information and stimulating the mind. Geminis are a mix of yin and yang, and they can easily see both sides of an issue; they are very practical. They are adaptable and flexible but they can also tend toward being wishy-washy, and they are not always good at following through to the end of a project. Gemini is all about the intellect, the mind, and the thinking process. They think clearly and make use of logic, and they can be real good at seeing the big picture. Gemini rules the nervous system, and calmness is a quality they need to cultivate. They love to play, love to share their fun and their ideas with others, and they love adventures that stimulate the mind.
Jupiter, with its ability to facilitate growth, expansion, freedom, and exploration and travel, mixes in an interest way with Gemini, which is about communication, collecting information, logic, and seeing the big picture. This combination certainly encourages enthusiastic learning of all kinds, however efforts may be more spread out or scattered, rather than focused in one direction. This combination also creates easy communication because of the ability to find the right words in the right language, but overconfidence and a lack of seriousness could also be a problem.
Minor Arcana cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Eights correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Hod. Hod (or Glory) is the eighth sephira on the Tree, the third on the Pillar of Form/Restriction, and represents science, teaching and the intellect. Hod corresponds with Mercury, the planet that receives the most light from our Sun, and working with Hod can stimulate the workings of the mind and provide illumination, but this kind of work presents dangers, too, especially if the process of shining light in the dark corners exposes any shadow issues. If you think about it, the Eights represent some kind of conscious use of the intellect rather than feelings or emotions, often in order to maintain control or harmony.
Let’s sum up what we have found. The number 8 tells of deliberate action or remediation or response to a slowdown that could be bringing some kind of discomfort. The suit of Swords tells of using our intellect and our truth to analyze and apply logic in order to bring forth a deliberate manifestation. The image on the card shows someone who at first glance appears imprisoned but upon further examination, it appears this person might be able to escape with just a bit of effort. Jupiter speaks of growth and good fortune, and Gemini tells of the ability to see both sides of a story but also a lack of focus and staying power. The sephira of Hod tells of the intellect and of knowing why something works.
The Eight of Swords in the Shadowsapes Tarot shows an image that is painful to see: a beautiful white swan trapped and entangled in brambles with sweet fruit and huge thorns, with her head raised and her beak open as if she is crying for help, surrounded by swords that appear as thorny as the brambles. Above her is a hummingbird, able to flit effortlessly between the tangle of brambles; below her are skulls of past swans who have attempted unsuccessfully to pass through. Anyone who has been caught in a sticker bush knows that pure might and abusive power end up shedding more blood than necessary. Like the delicate hummingbird, we need to calm ourselves. Then, the thorns will cease to cut us and we will be able to gently ease the branches out of our way. The message: don’t allow ourselves to freeze up in a crisis or feel trapped by circumstances; instead of wasting energy with frantic actions, take a breath and pause to reassess.
The Llewellyn Welsh Eight of Swords shows a blindfolded and bound woman, her long hair blowing in the wind, standing in a rough surf with a dark and overcast sky, surrounded by eight swords. This card tells of (and shows) the powerless feeling of being at the mercy of outside forces, and not being able to protect ourselves from those forces. This card can also indicate being used or misunderstood, or ending up as a pawn or scapegoat.
The Thoth Tarot Eight of Swords is called “Interference,” and to Crowley it signifies that “the Will is constantly thwarted by accidental interference.” The card represents being restricted or imprisoned, being petty, applying too much force to petty things, or too much attention to detail at the expense of the big picture or overall goal.
The key phrase for the Eight of Swords in the Naked Tarot is “Trapped in an Unlocked Cage.” The overview for this card talks about a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation that results in learned helplessness. This card represents those who repeatedly tell themselves a disempowering story when faced with a setback, rather than making an attempt to escape. If you think to yourself, “What’s the use in trying, they never listen anyway,” you’ve lost the battle before even getting out of bed.
The Eight of Swords from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot shows a bound and blindfolded woman trapped in the center of a spider’s web with 8 Swords pointed at her from every direction. Any attempt to struggle seems to tighten the ties that bind her, yet it is not safe to stay put either, for the spider is ready to attack. The sky behind her is dark and threatening; peaking out of the darkness and lighting the sky is Jupiter. Perhaps it is her own thoughts that bind her, for Jupiter is an optimistic planet but it is behind her; all she can see is eight Swords pointed right at her. This card tells of feeling stuck, of bad news, and of experiencing severe limitation, possibly self-created, and not knowing how you got into the situation.
The Eight of swords can represent situations that seem to be beyond our control, like a run of bad luck. You might feel trapped, and you might even see the trouble heading right for you but be unable to avoid it or prevent it from happening. The solution is to stay calm! Remember, the suit of Swords represents the intellect, and it gives us a hint for finding a solution to this problem: use your brain. There might be help available to you, if you just swallow your pride and ask for it. There might be a solution created by someone else who has been in the same situation; you just need to do a bit of research and use your mind to solve the problem.
Being too humble (and not acknowledging your own skills and talents) or closing your eyes and refusing to see what is right in front of your nose may restrict your ability to act in your own interest. The opposite is true as well, for if we rely too much on our intellect and our ability to logically analyze a situation without including outside input, we become the victim of our own preconceptions.
The best remedy for the situations presented within the Eight of Swords is to stop thinking in terms of limitations, and start thinking in terms of possibilities. We can do this, we can succeed!
That completes our exploration of the individual Tarot cards. Next month, we will begin a new process of comparing two cards in order to understand each of them with more depth and texture.
Be safe, and wash your hands.
About the Author:
Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher. Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog, DancingSparkles.blogspot.com, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.