As a reminder, the suit of swords is driven by masculine energy and channels the power of the intellect and mind, including all the concepts, knowledge, and beliefs that it holds. Scholars and academics have connected the suit of swords to the classical element of air, and most of the cards from that suit embody the symbolic attributes of this element, one way or another.
Eight of Swords card: Traditional meanings
Another bad and negative card overall, when the Eight of Swords appears in a reading it usually points to a particularly bad or perilous situation, that will only further how dangerous it is by convincing anyone falling into that situation that they won’t possibly be able to find a way out. The best way to ensure that someone will never succeed in a specific endeavor is to convince them that it is so helpless that it is not even worth it to simply give it a try, thus fulfilling their own prophecy since the only way a problem can be genuinely impossible is when you don’t even try to solve it.
Upright: Helplessness, trapped environment, complex problems, and limited options.
Reversed: Self-depreciation, giving up, inventing imaginary complications and holding them to be true.
Upright Eight of Swords card
The main character that can be seen in the eight of swords (in the RWS tarot deck) is a woman wearing a long flowing dress, but tightly bound and blindfolded like a soldier on the receiving end of a firing squad. There are eight swords planted on the ground around. A hill with a few human constructions can be seen in the background, behind the swords.
The woman’s legs and feet do not seem bound in any way, and yet she does not seem to be moving or making any attempt to escape her current predicament. We can guess that she knows about the presence of the large, sharp, planted sword all around her, and thus knows she risks getting seriously hurt if she tries to escape and cuts herself deep on one of these blades.
Again, there are not many positive things to be found in the eight of swords, which is kind of a recurring theme in the numbered cards from the suit of Swords. Here, the core meaning of the card is the feeling of helplessness that can paralyze you when you receive a series of bad news or are thrown right in the middle of a serious crisis with limited options.
The Eight of Swords of the minor arcana highlights the presence of serious and complex problems, and like the woman surrounded by swords in the picture, the subject of the Eight of Swords in a reading can feel trapped in his or her current situation.
On a more personal level, the eight of swords could also refer to a driving need for isolation, when the subject sees most of the outside world as a potential threat or problem, or at the very least as a distraction, and needs a self-imposed time out to meditate or think about the problem at hand without being disturbed.
Reversed Eight of Swords card
The meaning of the reversed Eight of Swords in a reading further develops the negative feelings and situations developed above, by creating even more problems, or perception of problems. Here, the subject of the reading imagines themselves to be surrounded with “swords” they cannot see, and restrict their own actions and possibilities for no other reason than these perceived and invisible threats.
As such, this card from the Minor Arcana, when the reversed Eight of Swords shows up in a reading, might be a sign that the subject is about to give up something important for them due to some perceived and often only imaginary threat.
Eight of Swords and love
In a tarot spread or reading dealing with romantic interests and love, drawing the Eight of Swords is usually a bad sign for the subject of the reading. On the regular side, it could represent a series of people, or even fate itself, actively opposing any attempt to get closer to the person he or she is interested in.
A reversed Eight of Swords would be even worse, in a way, the reflection of the all too common modern plague of being convinced that they have no chance at all with the person they are interested in, and being the architect of their own failures for lack of genuine opportunities to bond (by avoiding the other person) or self-depreciation (there are few things that are more effective at breaking any sense of charisma and sex-appeal than being so confident about their own worthlessness that these feelings start to be communicative.