The Eight of Swords – Freeing the Hostage
Nicknames: Interference, The Test
Astrological Association: Jupiter in Gemini
Drive: Overbundance of air energy in such a way that is binding and blinding
The Eight of Swords is a challenging card. It isn’t a sword through the heart like the three of swords or one in the back like common depictions of the Ten of Swords. It is a prison of swords; mental activity that is punishing. This is often described in the visual depiction as a woman bound, lacerated, blindfolded and surrounded by swords. Her feet are often unbound as is her mouth. Theoretically she can walk and talk yet she remains immobilized and terrified.
Gendered Interpretations and Victim Blaming
Some modern interpretations usually suggest that this bondage is all in the figure (and the client’s) head and is therefore easily dispensed with. The Anna K Tarot depicts an unbound woman looking in the mirror at an image that is bound and blindfolded. Earlier interpretations of the card were more sinister and included actual terror, illness, helplessness and abuse. Any of these situations can be indicated depending on surrounding card and the situation you or your client find yourself in. One thing is almost certain: this is no bondage fun. Whether as a result of inner or external torment, the person this card represents feels helpless and is in need of some serious salve.
The most irksome language I’ve come across discusses something called “victim mentality” which I find troubling. Often this language is specifically gendered and serves to blame or shame someone who might very well be a victim. It is particularly disturbing to me to say this card represents “victim mentality” when the person depicted is a woman bound and blindfolded, often sexualized and surrounded by swords.
Looking More Deeply at Mental Traps
Most Tarot instruction, particularly the wave of intuitive reading, directs the student to look to the card’s imagery for guidance. If your card depicts a woman bound and blindfolded, ask yourself does she look like an actual victim or someone who just thinks she is. Would it really be a reasonable thing to believe she can get herself out of her bind without assistance or an opportunity to gain her composure?
If this card refers to victimization by one’s own thoughts it could represent: anxiety, panic, suicidal thoughts, mixed mania, PTSD, ADHD, fear, isolation, agoraphobia, cyclical depression, OCD and any kind of phobia. These things are not “in the head” in a way that can be easily wriggled out of and deftly maneuvered. In particular, if 8 of Swords continues to appear in your readings like it has recently in mine, it represents a significant hurdle that might take some unwinding. In this case, this could mean a mental endurance test.
The Swords Can Mean Things That Aren’t Thoughts
I will also note that the swords can refer to physical pain, which is a result of the way nerves interpret brain signals. As with the Nine of Swords, the Eight of Swords can signify These things are not controllable. My Eight of Swords synchronicity almost always corresponds with the kind of Fibromyalgia flare that holds me hostage for days on end. I consider this, along a number of other cards to be good indicators along the spectrum of chronic pain and mental illness.
If this card represents an external threat, it is usually a type of mental abuse such shaming, bullying, isolating, gaslighting and sexual degradation, depending on surrounding cards. These are usually situations that require a significant shift in perspective as well as assistance. Even on the face of it, this is a card about isolation. What the person signified needs is an outstretched hand, not a rebuke for the shame of victimhood.
None of that is to say that this card absolutely doesn’t indicate an addiction to suffering or martyrdom. However, I in my experience with the card, it’s not its primary meaning. This possibility might be teased out by surrounding cards. If you are reading for another person and are unsure of the source of the suffering, it is always an option to draw additional cards.
One thing is certain. There is a lot of air energy to deal with. Too many thoughts can benefit only from a reduction of thoughts. The same is true for words, pain, abuse, etc. Amid all of this air, it is necessary to find quiet. Steady the mind against the storm. Intentionally change the chemistry of the brain through meditation, intentional solitude, quiet inner work, grounding in nature for hours or even days without speaking, with as few thoughts as possible. As my favorite yoga nidra says “let thinking become sensing and being.”
Reduce all of those thoughts into one thought and let that form intention – Release! Don’t expect immediate results though, endurance is required.