Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Closer Look: Eight of Swords

Key words and concepts

  • Feeling trapped
  • Helplessness
  • Fear of change
  • Obstacles
  • Restriction

Sometimes, the meaning of tarot cards is elusive, and not immediately clear from their illustrations.

Then you have the eight of swords.

All kidding aside, this is some pretty straight-forward imagery.  The woman is literally bound and blindfolded, and the encircling blades are evocative of the bars on a jail cell. Restriction and helplessness practically drip off of this card.

But even if this is the first time you've seen this card, you've probably already noticed that the circle of swords doesn't completely surround her, and those bindings haven't immobilized her feet and legs. You're thinking, "If I were stuck like that, I could just hop around a bit and get out of it!" And you're probably right! The key to the eight of swords is that, very often when we feel stuck, it's because we haven't actually considered all of our options.

Now, this isn't to put all the blame on our heroine here. She has been tied up; there are eight weapons literally blocking some of her paths. Some people read this card as signifying that your obstacles are of your own making, but that doesn't ring true to me; we've all had times in our lives where we just could not, for one reason or another, figure out how to get un-stuck.  Sometimes it is because we are creating problems that we otherwise wouldn't have, but sometimes it's because we are facing truly daunting issues.

When I see the eight of swords, I tell myself not that I am the cause of all my problems, but that I have become stuck in my perspective.  Sometimes, we know what decision we need to make, but we don't want to admit it to ourselves because we are anxious about the consequences of that decision. The eight of swords asks us to think about what is more important: Avoiding the consequences of that decision, or getting yourself un-stuck?  That's not a glib question; sometimes, we have to stay stuck awhile before we find the right path forward. Sometimes, we have to find small changes we can make for ourselves. Maybe we can't knock down all of those swords, but are there ways you can loosen the blindfold?

The eight of swords calls on us to truly evaluate all possible options, even if they are frightening or distasteful. It's not blaming us for our set-backs; it's asking us if they are really as dire as they seem. Reading with compassion, the eight of swords is a gentle inquiry about what we are empowered to do, despite the other restrictions in our lives.

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