8 of Swords

Mar. 6th, 2017 09:41 am
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
This is a card that has come up a lot for me in readings on unrelated subjects. Now, I'm fairly confident that I shuffled well enough to assure that the deck (Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg) was well and truly randomized between readings, so I want to take a moment to pay attention to this card and see if I'm missing anything.

The 8 of Swords typically features a captive figure (usually a woman) who is bound, blindfolded, and surrounded by swords, often some distance outside of a village, town, or other indication of civilization. Here is the Waite-Smith image that serves as the basis for many decks today:

In the Thoth deck, this card is titled "Interference"; in the OGD it was also known as "The Lord of Shortened Force." I think this is one of my favorite of Harris's cards; something about the colors and the background geometry and the placement of the swords all works together to invoke a sense of static-y disruption. For whatever reason, it's a card that I have no problem responding to an on instinctual level -- maybe even easier than I do with the Waite-Smith version.

One thing that comes up often with the 8 of Swords is that it represents a self-imposed bondage: one that is a result of overthinking, or in refusing to accept some obvious reality, rather than outside forces conspiring to keep you in your place.

In her companion book to the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg, Giles highlights the differences in representations between the Russian Tarot and the Waite-Smith and other Waite-Smith inspired decks available at the time. Here, the captive figure's eyes are closed, instead of blindfolded, which highlights the self-imposed nature of the interference. Giles also points out the ambiguity of the floating sword: is it coming to cut through the binding ropes? will it simply settle into the ground with the other 7 swords? Is it, like the floating fourth cup in the 4 of Cups, potentially something unreal or imagined in nature? Overall, Giles concludes that the Russian Tarot's 8 of Swords is a little more hopeful than the Waite-Smith version.

My favorite name for this card is the OGD's "Lord of Shortened Force." I don't have ADHD myself, but I get that kind of vibe from the card: constant distractions, unable to focus, getting nothing done as a result. (Or having to do a lot of extra work just to tread water.) I admit to feeling like that a lot, recently. Seeing this in the outcome feels a lot more like "results unclear, try again later" than "no bueno." I'll have to lay out another reading later, when I'm less harried, and see if anything changes.
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
I admit to having a fascination with the number 3 and its multiples. That's why I tend to look at the minor arcana in sets of three: Ace-2-3, 4-5-6, and 7-8-9. Some systems see 9 as completion and 10 as "too much"/degradation; other systems see 9 as incomplete and unstable and 10 as perfection. Over the years I've developed a slight preference for the former approach. In my scheme, the 10s are something like the mirror versions of the Aces. (The stark contrast between the "natural conclusions" of the Cups and Pentacles suits [overwhelmingly positive] and the Wands and Swords suits [unpleasant to say the least] is interesting and speaks to the nature of will, but I'll come to that another day. Or never!)

I have, at the moment, no literature to back up my intuitions. I haven't started digging yet. But I present: a pictorial defense. I mean that, if you look at the 3s, 6s, and 9s of each suit, they are among the clearest and strongest images (or at least within the RWS tradition) outside of the Aces. They all seem to embody something specific and distinct about their element. The previous two cards, to my intuition, lead up to "ah-hah" moment or triumph (or failure) in the final card of each triad.

The Swords. )

You can create similar stories for the rest of the suits and they all seem to follow a similar rhythm. You can use your own deck and see how well this miniature narratives stack up, but the images I had in mind were Colman-Smith's art; I don't know if this narrative model works well with, say, the Thoth deck.


Emotions/sensitivity -> love -> joyous union/celebration

Disillusionment -> total loss -> redemption through (re)union, sharing, nostalgia

Delusions and daydreams -> left behind in the process of maturity -> a deeper, self-sufficient joy


Inspiration -> planning -> implementation

Success stability -> the struggle to maintain success and stability -> victory

Defending one's "establishment" -> fighting every possible battle -> Pyrrhic victory


Windfall/seed money -> juggling different investments -> proper discipline and success along a specific track

Greedy success -> downfall and lesson to be learned -> redemption and generous success

Expanding plans -> developing those plans to the next level -> the next level

Note that in all of the narratives, the 7s are a bit weird. They don't feel like natural introductions but rather in media res beginnings. I think this says something about the chaotic and confusing nature of all of the 7 cards. Likewise, the conflict or transmutation provided in all of the miniature stories by the 2s, 5s, and 8s showcases their combative nature. (Even with the 2 of Cups, there is an element of "combat": the dance of getting to know another person, flirtation, and attraction.)

That said, I don't think this triad model works at all in the majors. Aside from a few logical categories that have a lot of overlap, I mostly see each trump as a category and story/biography unto itself.


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