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The Meaning of
the "Eight of Swords" Tarot Card

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What is the inverted meaning of
the "Eight of Swords"?

The Meaning of the "Eight of Swords"
Tarot Card

The Symbolism of the Eight of Swords

On the Eight of Swords card we see a woman who is bound and blindfolded. She stands in a figurative "jail cell" made of eight vertically placed swords.

Beneath the woman's feet runs a shallow stream of water, suggesting that the woman is as much a prisoner of her own emotions as she is a prisoner of the swords which surround her.

In the distance we see an inaccessible village perched high on a rocky crag. The distance of her "jail cell" from the nearest signs of civiliation suggests that she is on her own; Her solitude represents a metaphorical exile to a place of mental imprisonment.

If she's going to escape and return to the village, she will likely have to save herself.

NOTE: Like the Two of Swords, the Eight of Swords card features a blindfolded woman. In both cards, the blindfolds suggest that the conflict depicted is not one that we can see. Nothing surrounding the woman in the Eight of Swords represents a real challenge to overcome; She could easily walk through the bars of her "cell". Her real bonds are those which cannot be seen. As with the Two of Swords, the true conflict lies within.

NOTE: If you look closely, you'll see a hidden Roman numeral "VIII" spelled in the woman's ropes and blindfold.

How to Interpret the Eight of Swords

The Eight of Swords tarot card reminds us that many of the limitations which tie us down and restrict our movements, exist only in our own minds.

If we feel there are things we cannot accomplish, or we feel stuck in a job, or we feel trapped in a bad habit, or a bad relationship — these restrictions are often merely restrictive mindsets rather than true restrictions.

... it typically represents a restriction that is at least partially psychological.

When the Eight of Swords appears in a reading it typically represents a restriction that is at least partially psychological.

Another possible interpretation of the Eight of Swords is that someone is too isolated and not asserting themselves enough. Hiding within our safe-zones is as much a self-imposed exile as the one depicted on the card.

The card may also be suggesting that someone's group of peers, friends or family members is creating social restrictions or keeping them down.

The most important lesson of the Eight of Swords is that we are all limitless. More often than not we allow our minds and those around us to create restrictions which aren't really there.

For a better indication of who or what is creating these limits, the surrounding cards in the tarot spread may offer clues. If not, a clarifying card may also help.

Step outside the box.

NOTE: Some tarot scholars, but not all, suggest that the Eight of Swords carries a reference to the ancient Masonic tradition known as a Hoodwink. (Which has 8 letters). According to Masonic tradition, initiates are bound and blindfolded as part of their ritual spiritual awakening. Since Arthur Waite, co-creator the "Rider Waite Tarot", was a dedicated student of Masonic mysticism, the possibility of this additional reference can't be ignored. Does the Eight of Swords carry overtones of Masonic initiation and spiritual awakening? The inclusion of that additional meaning is up to you.

The Eight of Swords Inverted

The reversed Eight of Swords suggests the removal of some kind of psychological restriction or mental block.

One minute we're locked in a psychological cage of our own making, and the next minute we suddenly have perspective.

We've all experienced this kind of mental breakthrough; when suddenly everything seems crystal clear. One minute we're locked in a psychological cage of our own making, and the next minute we suddenly have perspective.

The inverted Eight of Swords references that concept of personal walls coming down and mental blocks being removed. When spiritual and emotional weights are lifted, we can experience a sudden rush of empowerment, freedom and capability.

When the Eight of Swords appears in the reversed position, it may also indicate a change of job, a change of friendships, a change in a relationship or a simple change of outlook.

The important aspect of the reversed Eight of Swords is recognizing that this change may or may not be permanent. In some cases it may reference only a short period of time whenmental clarity was attained.

When we do experience these moments of perspective and psychological liberation it's important to remember them; study them; store them. There may come another time when we'll want to tap into the empowerment that comes with throwing off chains.

Common Symbols Found On the Eight of Swords Card

Tarot cards often use a a common symbology to communicate information about how each card should be read. The Eight of Swords makes use of at least three well-known, repeating Tarot symbols. Each of these common symbols can add additional levels of interpretation to the card.

The symbols which appear on the Eight of Swords card are:

  • Water

    Water symbolism appears on the Eight of Swords card:

    In Tarot, water appears in many forms — ranging from rain, to secluded pools, to meandering rivers and streams, to expansive seas and oceans. Although each one of these representations of water may imply a more specified meaning, water in general terms represents nourishment, emotion and intuition. Interestingly, water is more commonly found in the Minor Arcana, and is very often (but not always) found in the Suit of Cups.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Water" in Tarot  

  • Rivers and Streams

    Rivers and streams symbolism appears on the Eight of Swords card:

    Water in a broad sense indicates emotion. A brook or stream traversing a landscape often suggests a dimension of emotional overtones or a spiritual significance to the scene. A river may also suggest that emotions are a vital part of the scene or issue unfolding.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Rivers and Streams" in Tarot  

  • Mountains

    Mountains symbolism appears on the Eight of Swords card:

    Mountains on the horizon are one of the most common symbols which appear in Tarot imagery. In most cases, mountains mean trials which must be passed, and hardships which must be overcome. Depending on the Tarot card where mountains appear, these challenges may either reference future issues which wait along the current path, or they may remind us of past trials and hardships which have already been encountered before arriving at this time.

    Read more about the symbolism of "Mountains" in Tarot  

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