Back into the suit of Swords this week with a doozy, the Eight of Swords imagery often disturbs people new to Tarot. It shows a woman, bound and blindfolded on a jail of Swords. She stands in puddles of water. Behind her is a castle on rocks, rising above the shoreline. What does it all mean?
Let's first talk about the Swords again. The suit of Air, the Swords rule communication, justice and most importantly for this card, Logic, Rationale and PERCEPTION. I boldface and capitalize Perception because the Sword challenge cards deal so often about perception vs. reality. Tarot, so beautifully elegant in its symbology, reminds us that it is often our own perception that is our biggest obstacle. We imprison ourselves, as this card tells us. Often people hear Swords as a suit of Logic, the Mind, Rational Thought, and think that is a victory in and of itself. But the Swords often have this strong meta-text that it is precisely this thing--the Mind--into which we put so much trust and faith that betrays us. Or rather betrays our Highest Good.
This is no more evident than in the Eight. No other people appear on the Eight. There is no prison guard, no torturer. This is us, struggling against our perceptions, struggling against our materialism (by materialism, I mean our attachment to things, ideas, and people rather than our spiritual center.) The latter is symbolized by the red dress, which is often the symbol in Tarot of material gain.
Now, let's talk of the Eight. Eight, numerologically, is about balance, but a far different balance than others, because this is about the balance of power and success. (I talked some about Eights in this post) This card is about the restriction of power. Obviously you can see she is restricted. But it is far more sinister than that, because we can see the jail in which she is imprisoned is actually a theoretical cell. She could walk out if she would like. Her binds are loosely on her, her blindfold is also loose. She is in this wet muddy sand, a literal quagmire. Her indecision pulls her down, keeps her stuck in this virtual prison. It reminds me of the Matrix. What is the prison? What is real? What we deduce from this imprisoned woman is that this bondage is one of her own making. She has entrapped herself, blinded herself from her own power. This is the KEY to this card. This is a suffering of one's own making, a self-imposed crisis, so to speak.
Further, the Eight of Swords is a card of isolation. This feeling of being trapped and stuck is one that exists in the dark corners of the mind. We are as sick as our secrets, as they say. And this stuck feeling is one that often isn't given a voice. Shame, guilt, and vulnerability often surround the person in this position. They know others think they can escape easily, but they don't see it as simply as all that. (This is often a result of the third eye blockage going on. I talk more about that below.) Sure, it seems obvious they should leave their abusive marriage, but the kids, or the money, or the house, or the partner--no one really understands. The person in this card cuts themselves off from the people around them, because their entrapment is serving a need. I see this card as a card of co-dependency too, as the Devil is a card of addiction, this one is a card of addiction to others. Not to save us, though that is certainly part of the interpretation of this card, as I will talk about later, but the ways in which we need people to remind us that we are not stuck. That we have a choice in our life at every turn. Spirit happily volunteers to do this in Tarot readings, reminding you that this stuckedness is of your own making, even when it seems like it isn't.
When this card comes, often the Seeker is feeling trapped--in their job, marriage, friendships, home, situation, or caretaking role. Or maybe a combination of those things. And as a reader, it is important not to belittle that entrapment or that feeling of being stuck. It is very real. I often pulled this card for myself when I was caretaking for my father when he lived three hours away. Every weekend, I would drive three hours each way to do his laundry, take him to lunch, pay his bills, then drive three hours back home. Sunday was spent doing my own cleaning, laundry, etc. I was so exhausted. I felt stuck. Unable to break out of this routine. I imposed those rules on myself. What would happen if I did not go? No one else had put this pressure on me, certainly not my father. I was trying to make my father's illness okay by showing up. I felt I was the only one to do all this running and cleaning and caring. My father wanted me happy, and he wanted me to care for myself too. Taking a weekend to breathe and practice self-care was important, but I refused to see it. Rather I talked about how busy and maxed out I was. How hard my life was. How much I needed a break.
Because this card overexaggerates the power of the individual's restriction of power, this card comes when we are in martyr roles, or in roles where we expect or wait for someone to save us. When it is the latter, you might see some Knight cards in surrounding environment cards, or in obstacle cards, or in the reversed position. Though this card often indicates a perception, Spirit sometimes validates being actually trapped with this card (which makes this slightly awkward for the Reader). Are you actually trapped, or do you have a choice here? Lacking money or job can bring those feelings of being trapped, but changing those situations isn't just about changing one's mind. In those cases, look around at the other cards to offer hope, love, support, and solutions.
I read Tarot for chakra blockages and body work. When talking about chakras, the Eight of Swords blocks her solar plexus, sacral, and third eye. The solar plexus houses our power and will. Our creativity and fire resides in the Sacral chakra. So you might pull this card with someone who, because of their feelings of entrapment, feels the blahs--unable to be passionate about even freeing herself. She has resigned to live half a life, trapped and bound. The Seeker might not be able to see her situation clearly. The blockage in the third eye also feels like a Spiritual abandonment. Or they may be experiencing analysis paralysis, meaning the person is stuck in all the possibilities and thinking everything through, rather than action oriented decisions. Also her hand nadis, the one that bring healing and compassion to others, is blocked. Those chakras connect with others through touching and feeling. The Seeker may be recoiling from receiving help or connecting with others. As a Reiki practitioner and crystal healer, I would work on these chakras to open them. A great stone to bridge the Solar Plexus and Third Eye is Pietersite, which would be a great stone for someone consistently pulling this card.
What do you think of the Eight of Swords? How do you interpret it? What part of this interpretation did you resonate with or not resonate with? Tell me in the comments. I love connecting with my readers, so feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.