If I had to describe my relationship with the Eight of Swords, it would definitely be on-again, off-again.
Usually, this is a card associated with feeling blocked, stuck, or limited. We see a person who blindfolded and trapped, tied up.
I used to pull this card all the time when I was working at my last office job.
During my five years there, nothing ever felt right. I constantly talked about feeling stuck. My world – my time, my life – became smaller and smaller as every year went on.
I felt creatively stifled in my work, held in place by my colleagues, my energy caught up in the daily grind that didn’t get me any closer to my own hopes or dreams.
Sometimes, you might look at the Eight of Swords and see those swords as bars to a jail cell or cage.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations – whether they are jobs, relationships, mindsets, commitments, or other situations – that imprison us.
But are there ways of looking at the Eight of Swords? In recent years, my relationship with this card has evolved somewhat.
Yes, I still see it as something that holds all of the possibilities mentioned above, but I have also started to see other sides to its story.
In tarot, the suit of swords connects to the element of air. This is the element that connects to our minds: Our thoughts, ideas, imagination, plans and strategies.
Air is the wind that carries the seeds of our intentions to new heights.
Many of the cards in the suit of swords are challenging, or appear to be so. It’s a chilly suit that puts a lot of people on edge.
But isn’t that what our minds do a lot of the time? Our thoughts run wild, leading us to worry, to over-think every step, or to hold onto too many ideas at once.
The latter situation is what first changed my views of the Eight of Swords. I was on vacation with my partner in Salem, MA, when we sat down in a park and pulled out a deck of cards.
“What do I need to be focusing on right now?” I asked.
And there landed the Eight of Swords, followed by the Ace of Swords and Ace of Wands.
“You already have too many ideas,” my partner said. “So many that they are holding you down. You can’t move forward if you try to keep them all. Get rid of some, and space will open up. Focus on the bigger picture, and the bigger possibilities.”
Interesting, I thought.
What if the Eight of Swords isn’t always about being held back by negative circumstances?
What if the Eight of Swords points to a number of opportunities that are in front of us, but that the only way forward is to choose?
So often, when I am reading for others, I hear, “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.” And it’s not for lack of vision or creativity, but for lack of decisiveness.
We can find ourselves paralyzed by choice, or paralyzed by having over-extended ourselves.
Sometimes, we have to remove the blindfold and take a good, long look at what’s in front of us. The plans and ideas we think might be necessary to have in place could actually be getting our way.
It’s not always a bad situation to be in. Remember that we are talking about the Eight of Swords, after all.
The numbers in the Minor Arcana run from the aces to the tens. Progress has been made by the time you are at number eight. These are often cards where deep transformation can take place, if you allow for it.
Since that reading in Salem, I have made some changes to create space for bigger things. And in that process, the Eight of Swords has returned, but now, it speaks to me in a totally different way.
Instead of blockages, I see commitments.
I see a person who has shielded herself away with her plans and ideas. She has built a fortress out of them and is ready to keep herself in place, focused on what she knows she needs to do.
Her eyes are covered as if to say, “I am not looking at anything else right now. I have enough right in front of me, and am not considering new options, opinions, ideas, or distractions.”
Sometimes, the Eight of Swords can speak to what we are happy to hide away with.
When we commit to something, we need to protect our time and energy in order to keep that commitment in place.
And when you know you have all the right pieces in place, it can be a very good thing.
Until next time,
Interested in more tarot interpretations? You might like my book, Going Beyond the Little White Book: A Contemporary Guide to Tarot, available here.