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The Eight of Swords in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

The Eight of Swords indicates that you're in a difficult situation, but if you change your perspective things might not be as perilous as you think.

The Eight of Swords indicates that you're in a difficult situation, but if you change your perspective things might not be as perilous as you think.

The Eight of Swords

The numbered cards in the Suit of Swords just keep getting more serious and terrible until you end with the Ten of Swords, which is almost on par with Death. This isn't the happiest suit, in my opinion. Perhaps the suit is a warning that you'll corner yourself into oblivion if you rely purely on thoughts and logic. It might be a reminder that you need to balance things out with your emotions, desires, and physical needs. You can't purely live as a brain—otherwise you wouldn't have a body, which would be miserable.

The Eight of Swords depicts a woman who is shackled and blindfolded. She is in a long, red cloak and standing among eight tall swords. Her situation isn't as perilous as she thinks.

Card Alignments

Upright

Restriction, limitations, self-imposed blocks, negative thoughts, prisoner, blinded, victim mentality, stuck, trapped, isolated, self-doubt, lack of faith, fear, self-manipulation.

Reversed

Self-limiting beliefs, inner critic, open to new perspectives, releasing negative thoughts, coming out of the darkness, cutting off shackles, leaving prison.

The Eight of Swords shows a woman who is tied up and has a blindfold over her eyes. If she doesn't try to escape bad things could happen, but if she makes the wrong move she could get hurt by one of the swords.

The Eight of Swords shows a woman who is tied up and has a blindfold over her eyes. If she doesn't try to escape bad things could happen, but if she makes the wrong move she could get hurt by one of the swords.

Card Description

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the Eight of Swords features a woman in a red cloak. I've already covered the swords and blindfold. But look closely: there is water on the ground.

The woman needs to use her mind to connect to her emotions to get out of her dangerous situation. She needs to use her intuition in conjunction with her free will. Her situation isn't hopeless, but if she thinks it is hopeless and holds onto her false belief. . . she won't try to escape.

Card Explanation

The woman who is tied and blindfolded is essentially in a cage of swords. This symbolizes that you can't stay in this kind of situation forever. But if you try to move, it could be fatal. You have to rely on wisdom and your intuition to get yourself out of bad situations. The card is similar to the Two of Swords, except it has more power and pain to it due to its higher number.

The things that bind you could be your own fears. However, you could use the swords intelligently to cut off your ropes and set yourself free.

The act of cutting your ropes shows your mastery of intelligence. The longer you stay, the more advantage you're giving to your enemies. Don't hide forever and don't allow yourself to be tied up in knots. Don't be your own worst enemy.

There is a tall castle and kingdom behind this woman, and she is dressed like a rich person. She is away from home, but not too far away. She was likely captured on the road.

It might be scary and overwhelming to move toward the light, but ultimately, you can't stay in the darkness forever.

The Second Estate

The Suit of Swords is special compared to the other three suits. The Swords relate to the Second Estate, one of the hierarchy tiers in Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe.

The tiers went as follows:

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The First Estate: Monarchy, kings and queens, high clergy

The Second Estate: Nobles and knights

The Third Estate: Peasants and bourgeoise

The numbered cards of the other suits belong with the Third Estate. It's important when looking at Swords cards to remember they're about nobles and knights.

In the Eight of Swords, a woman in a long, red cloak has been captured. She is someone who is important or is married to someone important who is important. She could be used as collateral. Perhaps her captors won't give her back to her family until a ransom has been paid.

She may have been captured while walking alone, and the people who saw her knew she was made of money. The woman isn't too far from civilization. There is a good chance her people know about her whereabouts and can find her. She might be afraid that if she tries to cut the ropes with the swords she might also cut her clothes. She may have to sacrifice her clothes for her survival.

The woman isn't in traveling clothes. She is in the attire of someone elite. She isn't part of the monarchy, but she likely does have connections with royals.

Tarot Suits

CategoryWandsPentaclesSwordsCups

Element

Fire

Earth

Air

Water

Elementals

Salamanders

Gnomes

Sylphs

Undines

Represents

Free will

The Body (Physical Manifestation)

Thoughts

Emotions

Colors

Red

Green

Yellow

Blue

Animals

Land Mammals

Reptiles

Birds

Fish

Music

Percussion

Brass

Woodwinds

Strings

Numbers

1, 5, 9

2, 6, 10

3, 7, 11

4, 8, 12

Four Humors

Yellow Bile

Black Bile

Blood

Phlegm

Body Representations

Head, Heart, Thighs

Throat/Neck, Chest, Legs/Shins

Arms & Shoulders, Belly, Ankles

Hands, Root Chakra (Spine Base), Feet

Ruling Planets

Mars, Sun, Jupiter

Mercury, Venus, Saturn

Mercury, Venus, Uranus

Pluto, Moon, Neptune

Seasons

Summer

Spring

Winter

Fall

Western Astrology

Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Chinese Zodiac

Dragon, Monkey, Rat

Snake, Rooster, Ox

Horse, Dog, Tiger

Sheep, Pig, Rabbit

Yin and Yang

Yang

Yin

Yang

Yin

Court Cards

Knights

Pages

Kings

Queens

Poker Equivalents

Clubs

Diamonds

Spades

Hearts

The Eight of Swords indicates an indecisive situation. The situation must be solved in a timely manner or else something bad could happen.

The Eight of Swords indicates an indecisive situation. The situation must be solved in a timely manner or else something bad could happen.

Upright Eight of Swords

This card indicates you likely feel trapped and uncertain about how to get out of your circumstances. Perhaps you don't feel like you have any momentum in life and as if things have ground to a halt.

You might feel like you're in a relationship that isn't going anywhere, your job is unfulfilling, or you have a serious amount of debt and can't make progress on it. Your situation seems impossible, but it's likely more malleable than you think. You need to reframe your perspective. Don't be too stubborn: there are other options.

Fearing Change

The woman on the card needs to get the blindfold off her eyes. She needs to stop fearing the daylight and take a good hard look at her present circumstances. Sometimes we blind ourselves because we fear change. It's scary to create a new normal because that means you'll have to confront different expectations and demands.

Apply Self-Compassion

Something in your thinking is no longer serving you. Maybe you have self-limiting beliefs. If so, you need to get to the core of that. Sometimes in adulthood, we have leftover memories and situations from childhood that need to be processed. You may have experienced some kind of emotional neglect that's caused you to be insecure. In order to unravel your thoughts and move forward, you need to have self-compassion. Stop treating yourself with callous indignation.

As you change your thoughts, you'll better be able to navigate your reality. Thoughts are what give you momentum and direction. If you feel trapped, look directly at your thought patterns and try to change them.

Think of alternatives. There are always more solutions. Limiting yourself IS the problem.

Lost Your Power

Perhaps you've surrendered your agency or power to an external entity. If you've put that power on the shelf, you need to find a way to claim it back. You need your fire, and your survival depends on it. Get active and bust down doors—a trap always has at least one exit.

Don't wait for someone to come rescue you. They may not realize you're in danger. It's imperative that you're accountable to yourself and willing to be your own friend. You've got to claim a good relationship with yourself.

Experiencing Indecision

The card may indicate you're uncertain whether to stay or go. You're looking for signs and clues to push you forward. It is wise to weigh your options, just make sure you do so in a timely manner.

Work harder to trust yourself. You need to embrace light and love. Stop picking on yourself needlessly and don't be your own worst enemy or critic.

Eight weapons show the magnitude of one's power. This is power that cannot be easily dismissed.

Eight weapons show the magnitude of one's power. This is power that cannot be easily dismissed.

Reversed Eight of Swords

The reversed Eight of Swords indicates you're in a dire situation. You're engulfed in negative thoughts. You need to call yourself out because you're being mean to yourself. You're telling yourself nasty things like you don't deserve love, you're not good enough for money, or you're ugly.

Don't make false conclusions about yourself and start nitpicking every little thing you do or see in yourself. The only thing that's getting in your way is your inner critic. You're turning your soul into a sword and attacking yourself senselessly.

Those who have been asked to carry a sword have a heavy burden. Intelligence is a beautiful and magical thing, but it's not always easy to carry. When it comes to yourself, don't use that sword to cut into yourself. Use it as a shield to deflect negative thoughts.

Catch yourself when you're in a negative cycle and put a spin on it. Make yourself laugh instead. Think of funny characters with mustaches riding ponies into a purple desert. Do something that gives you catharsis and relief. Let your heart do some of the heavy lifting instead of your negative thoughts.

Put the inner critic on mute. Don't let that time-waster get in your head and make you feel like you can't. Stop replaying memories where you experienced rejection and use that as evidence that you can't do something in the present. Follow your heart and instincts. Certain things in life do have to wait for the right time window. There isn't something fundamentally wrong with you: you're just emotionally hungry. You're not feeling the assurance you need whether from others or yourself.

Let Go of Things That No Longer Serve You

You need to get the skeletons out of your closet, so you can put in new clothes. Don't let wasteful memories drag you down and take up space. Unburden yourself and forgive yourself. It's okay to let go and be free.

Removing the Blindfold

In a positive reading, the Eight of Swords reversed may appear because you are releasing yourself from your self-limiting beliefs. You're about to make a comeback or you're about to adjust what you need to in order to succeed.

You can get through this difficult patch! Don't just reflect on what didn't work: concentrate on what did work in the past. Guide yourself with positive memories, and once you feel like you're embellishing too much and thinking too highly of yourself, get humble. Be a servant more than an uppity knight or noble.

Love Reading

The Eight of Swords isn't a great card to see in a love reading. It implies indecision and feeling trapped. Something is definitely not working the way it should be. Either you like someone and it's not going somewhere, or you're in a relationship and you and your partner have no flow.

The card indicates a blockage or trap. Maybe you're not feeling momentum in your relationship because it isn't fulfilling. You and the other person could be at an impasse. With communication and understanding, you might be able to bridge the gaps. You both need some enlightenment on the situation to move forward.

If you're doing a love reading about a specific suitor and this card turns up, it means nothing is going to move forward at the moment. The person is too caught up in other things to have a meaningful relationship. The person could be interested in you, but they literally can't do anything about it.

Should you wait for the suitor? Probably not. You could be waiting for a long time before they finally have a breakthrough. I would keep your options open and if someone clicks with you and is prepared for a relationship, go with that person. Waiting on someone who is stuck could prove fruitless. (This advice is for those of you who aren't in a relationship and are pining over someone.)

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence

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