Tarot cards and, more recently, oracle cards are outstanding tools for psychological and spiritual work. Each year they become more and more a part of the common vernacular and readily available in mass-market venues, especially the online retailer, Amazon. The number of decks available in and out of print is mind-boggling, easily in the thousands, especially if you go do a search for decks on eBay.
Once shrouded in mystery and a “tool of people with questionable character, dark intentions, or acolytes of heathen beliefs”, tarot and oracle cards are enjoying widespread, if still hesitant acceptance. In this article, I will write about one of the most challenging cards to draw, the 8 of Swords.
78 Archetypes to Awareness
When people seek me out for a reading, they will often ask me, “what are tarot cards and how do they work?” Over time I have developed a consistent response, which is, “each tarot card represents a common archetype of the human experience. All 78 cards are happening in your life right now, in one way or another. When you sit down and draw cards for a reading, you are ‘bringing to light or awareness’ specific archetypes for you to think about at the moment.”
Life is a constant ebb and flow of positive and negative experiences, in varying degrees of intensity. The Two of Coins or Two of Pentacles represents daily change, the normal flow of energy moving to make things happen in life. The Death card represents a dramatic transformation through a profound ending, which will create space for a significant new beginning.
The cards of the Minor Arcana represent the processes we experience with our emotions (Cups), our thoughts (Swords), material actions (Coins/Pentacles), and our creative or spiritual actions (Wands). The cards of the Major Arcana represent major life energies and events: The Fool is the experience of life itself, The Magician represents the most significant decisions we make in our life journey, The High Priestess represents the hard lessons we have to go through to grow spiritually, and so on.
The 8 of Swords Card
One of the most difficult cards in the deck is the 8 of Swords, which represents anxiety, depression, and negative thinking that debilitates us. We all face moments of extreme doubt and worry throughout our lives and this card is the archetype for those moments and the “mind trap” we fall into and struggle to get out of. Often the 8 of Swords shows the swords surrounding or blocking the figure inside the card.
Depending on our life circumstances this card shows us a mental block, which may be the result of an external event, but is being kept in place by our own negative thoughts, persisting, and recycling the worry. When the 8 of Swords appears, we must address the issues of anxiety and/or depression in some way. Like all energies in life there a range of expressions and many different degrees of intensity, as well as nuances that help us understand this card and why it shows up.
It is possible that the card represents an acute moment of anxiety or worry. Or, it might represent a chronic depression or recurring anxiety. Having the card appear may be just what is needed to see and begin to break the worrying thought pattern. If the issue is deeper and more persistent, then this card could suggest it is time for a more invested approach, which may include psychological or even psychiatric counseling.
Below are some examples of the 8 of Swords from various decks:
Receiving The 8 of Swords in Your Reading
No two ways around it, this card is not easy to face; most sword cards represent the negative energy that comes from doubtful or anxious thinking. The cycle of the swords reads something like this: idea (1), decision (2), sorrow (3), truce (4), defeat (5), logic (6), futility (7), interference (8), cruelty (9), and ruin (10).
If you receive this card in your reading, do your best to wait to hear and process the interpretation. It is okay to be concerned since this card is about the paralyzing thinking that happens when we are in states of anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, the hard part of the card is knowing it is meant to be a message that is helpful to you in some way now.
Like the Tower, 5 of Wands, and 8 of Cups cards, this card is one that immediately forces you to face not only the negative thinking but the cause of the negative thinking, which could be something immediate or deep in your past. Understanding the origin of negative thinking and realizing there are processes and therapies to help you escape the trap will give you a chance to move in a positive direction.
Reading the 8 of Swords Card for A Client
If you happen to be a professional or practicing reader, who reads cards for others, then you want to train yourself to be ready to address this card in a helpful way for the client. Most people who have just the vaguest of notions about Tarot cards will usually say, “I just don’t want to draw negative cards”. Often, when I am reading in public, I will select a deck that has the essence of the card without images that will overwhelm a first-time client.
Consider the difference between the 8 of Swords from the Whimsical Tarot, which shows Rip Van Winkle sleeping and the one from the Crow’s Magick Tarot which shows the hawk trapped behind the swords. The Whimsical tarot card shows what the mind needs, which is rest. While the Crow’s Magic card shows the state of mind.
If a client tells you that life is currently smooth sailing (Temperance), then you need to ask them where they find they tend to think negatively, about a relationship or some aspect of themselves. Is there a trigger event that happened recently? Or, do they have enough “quiet” in their lives now to explore some long-standing worry or concern with renewed focus to heal?
The 8 of Swords, like any negative card, calls our attention to the significant and serious moments of our lives; and the better and more willing we are to face this card or the others like it, the better we will enjoy and appreciate our life journey.