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 9 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 does tarot 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 9 of Swords Card
One of the most difficult cards in the deck is the 9 of Swords, which represents cruelty; either cruelty done to you or that you have done to someone else. There is often no escape from being a cause and a recipient of all positive and negative energies in life. Unfortunately, when I see this card, I know exactly which moments were my acts or words of cruelty to another person, sometimes intended and sometimes not.
Depending on our life circumstances we may be asked to face the cruelty as the perpetrator or the victim. Either way, when the 9 of Swords appears, we must address the issue of cruelty 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.
One such nuance can be the phrase, “cruel to be kind”. If we are in positions of greater power or knowledge, sometimes we may find it necessary to act in a way that will feel cruel to the receiver, and to us as the perpetrator, but we may also know it is necessary. Denying a child a treat or preventing him or her from doing something they want to do may be cruel to them, but also necessary for their health and safety.
But Cruelty in its “pure” form is malicious harm intended to inflict emotional suffering, which means this card reveals our vulnerability and how we can be or have been exploited.
Receiving The 9 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 fearful since you know that you have been on the receiving end of cruel actions or words and delivered cruelty as well. But 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 take notice and address whatever it represents or could represent in your life journey. The more Cruelty moments you face and navigate, the better you can become at dealing with the future ones that will inevitably show up.
Reading the 9 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 9 of Swords from the Whimsical Tarot, which shows Rapunzel with her long hair cut and the one from the Rohrig Tarot which shows the face crying a tear with blood and swords on the face. Early in my reading career I learned a valuable lesson about using the Rohrig deck in public when a client drew this card, I turned it over, she read the keyword and burst into tears in the middle of a summer fair event.
If a client tells you that life is currently smooth sailing (Temperance), then you need to ask them what the cruelty is they can now address because they are in a safe space to do so. Is there something they need to forgive themselves for doing? Is there something they have been carrying that now is the time to release and let go? You cannot prevent cruelty, but you can have strategies in place to help you lessen the impact and increase your compassion.
The 9 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.