The Eight of Swords is a problematic card that will likely evoke feelings of unease and anxiety. The image shows a blindfolded woman in a red dress; she is bound with a rope and standing in the mud surrounded by eight swords that pierce the ground. The sky is grey and empty, and a castle stands atop the hill in the background watching over the swamp; silence reigns in this truly bleak and heavy scene.
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Eight of Swords Symbolism
The Eight of Swords is considered a sign of victim mentality and self-imposed restrictions; in part, that is true. The card might imply that the seeker has planted some of these swords (limitations and negative thoughts) themselves and cut a path to their downfall.
But how about those cases when the blame falls upon the victim, and they feel guilt and shame for all the wrong things that happened to them? Unable to fathom the nature and cause of their trauma, they end up believing it is their own fault.
In this spirit, the card talks about very sensitive matters, about oppression and helplessness, isolation and blindness. The lady in red, blindfolded and constrained, has been abandoned in the middle of a swamp. Trapped and defenseless, how could this be her fault? She resembles a witch at the stake, waiting to receive the sentence and punishment of the angry mob…
Her legs are not bound, suggesting she could leave at any moment, though it would require tremendous strength and power of will. After all, it is fear that keeps her in place. Can she manage to break free all alone? Tied hands mean there are no options here; she’s got no choice and needs all the help she can get.
One of the card’s messages is that isolation is never the answer. Only together and side by side can we find hope and the courage to bring the struggle to an end. Indeed, when troubled person is left alone, their thoughts turn against them and form a perfect trap, a ceaseless feedback loop of anxiety. Imaginary limiting beliefs manifest real-life obstacles, feelings cannot be communicated, and emotional breakdowns are only a matter of time. If we want to see directly and help both ourselves and others, we should examine and identify the root of the problem.
There are so many levels to the Eight of Swords; from the uncertainty and grime of the shifting mudflats to the rigid structure of towers on top of the steep hill, we can find more ways to interpret the card. Is the woman a temptress punished for her sins or a hapless victim suffering from depression? One could even see an activist taking a stand against man’s envy and greed, interfering with the unjust and malicious plans of the oppressor.
The castle in the background (replacing the encampment of the Seven of Swords) is the inconspicuous detail, yet obvious to those who have eyes to see, that presents the key to this case. A symbol of central authority, it is the unmistakable catalyst of timeless oppression and a source of many woes.
To make it clear: throughout all ages in the history of humankind there is a definitive causal relationship between the common man’s plight and the sovereign’s private interests. So what is the benefit of pinning the blame on a person whose hands are tied and who was brought to their wits’ end due to external sociopolitical circumstances, or just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? That is sympathizing with vultures and monsters, invalidating the experience of the traumatized victim; a common practice in the patriarchy of powerful and heartless men.
But let’s not get all political here. The human world and its ways are thus, and we may not be able to change them fundamentally, not in a thousand years.
What we can do, however, is wield compassion, dignity, and the intellect as weapons against cruelty; to open our eyes and stand against darkness, even if we got nothing to win; to help those in need, but also keep in mind that some people are not ready or do not care to be saved. There’s a twist to the popular fairy tale in the Eight of Swords; the princess is far away from her tower, and perhaps she never asked for a handsome young lad to rescue her.
As Franz Kafka wrote in his masterpiece “The Castle”: If a man has his eyes bound, you can encourage him as much as you like to stare through the bandage, but he’ll never see anything.
What does the Eight of Swords Tarot Card mean?
The Eight of Swords means you feel trapped and oppressed, stuck between a rock and a hard place. You are confused and disoriented, riddled with negative thoughts, but at least you have some idea about what’s going on. Trust your intuition and you will eventually find the way out.
It may feel like your freedom of mind has been taken away from you, like you got no choice and all options seem equally bad; the more you think about it, the less sense it makes, and intrusive thoughts are making you restless.
It may be difficult to see right now, but things will get better in time. It is important to stop bad thoughts the moment they appear; simply do not let them in, and do not indulge in a perpetual analysis of what could and did go wrong. Also, do not blame and punish yourself for things out of your control.
Seek help if you must, but remember that nobody can really understand what you are going through. Even if they sympathize, people will not avoid rationalizing and explaining it away; they don’t know what it’s like to walk a mile in your shoes.
Immobility, weakness, isolation, confusion; the Eight of Swords is never a pleasant sight, and dealing with it is much easier said than done. Whether you have been a victim of cruelty or just got used to blaming yourself, try to overcome the thoughts that drag you down, reach out to a friend, and acknowledge the source of your discomfort; you can start by saying out loud, “this is not my fault…”
Eight of Swords Keywords
- Victim mentality
- Intrusive negative thoughts
- Feeling helpless and trapped
- Self-inflicted punishment
What does the Eight of Swords Reversed mean?
The reversed Eight of Swords means that you have found the way out of an unpleasant situation. You are starting to recognize the patterns and thoughts that generate “bad karma” and seeing life differently. Additionally, the card in reverse is about that annoying voice in our head that criticizes everything we do.
When the Eight of Swords appears reversed, its meaning is likewise reversed; you have been through a lot, and though it’s not all over yet, you are starting to feel more positive and are motivated to get better. That might be something seemingly trivial, like the decision to stop listening to genres of music that make you feel sad, or it could open the way to major life changes. The key is in realizing the emotional and behavioral patterns that always lead to undesirable outcomes and awkward conflicts.
Finally, the card might represent the inner critic and your self-limiting beliefs. It is that voice telling you that you are not good, intelligent, or beautiful enough and that you won’t make it no matter how hard you try. What good can come of this? Such thoughts have built a cage around you; it is time to release them and break free from the fear of failure.
You might sometimes feel like there is nowhere to go and that you are truly helpless, but you must realize it is all in your head; you were conditioned to believe you are weak. While you should accept your limitations, the extent of your abilities, and your place in the world, you must also recognize how limiting beliefs, whether made-up or forced upon you, are preventing you from living the life you desire and achieving your goals.
Eight of Swords Reversed Keywords
- Fresh perspective
- Releasing negativity
- Limiting beliefs
- Inner critic
Is the Eight of Swords Tarot Card a Yes or No?
Due to its bleak and oppressive connotations, the Eight of Swords will always mean “No” in a Yes or No question; the outcome will be pretty bad if you do not heed this warning. The only exception might be the possibility of assisting someone who is in dire need of help.
Unless the matter at hand involves seeking help or offering it to a distraught person, the Eight of Swords provides a negative answer to simple questions. The way is blocked, you are not in a healthy state of mind right now, or forces beyond your control will prevent you from getting what you want. You might be missing vital information about the subject in question, or the way you view the situation is biased and not in accord with reality.