Eight of Swords


A woman, bound and blindfolded, stands alone in a muddy field flanked by eight swords. In the distance is a castle perched on the top of a high mountain.

In the Talmud we read that we are born against our will—that the precious soul that is chosen for us by God in heaven doesn’t want to merge with the sperm of man, and has to be forced by an angel to enter the womb. Thus we come into the world, and this is why the images in the suit of Swords become increasingly degraded the father down the Tree (i.e., the higher up the suit) we progress: Because we are about to be wrenched from the safety and security of the womb, and enter into the material world of Pentacles. We will enjoy the felicities, and mourn the travails, of that existence in our time, but we lose all conscious memory of our truest Selves that existed before we were born. A “piece of our soul” is abandoned at childbirth, in other words, and retrieving it is one of the underlying missions of esoteric and religious studies.    

This is Hod, primordial intellect, in Yetzirah, the world of formation, in the collective conscious of man—in this case, our intellectual ability to deceive ourselves, and of the fear that self-deception engenders. The woman in this image may be bound at the arms, but not at the legs, so she is free to walk out of the muck and seek help whenever she wishes. Instead, she prefers to be a “stick in the mud” who lets opportunities for discovery—to have her eyes opened—pass her by. Believing herself helpless, she lives in a prison of her own making. This is the “split mind” at work: the ego constricting and paralyzing the psyche. When we convince ourselves, as in the Seven, that all of our efforts are futile, we provide ourselves with the rationalization to do nothing, which only blinds us to our true potential.

Meanings in a reading can include: Deception, unwarranted fears, lack of self-esteem, belief in the unreal, emotional imprisonment, agoraphobia, or self-debasement; but also acknowledgement of error, acts of atonement, the belief in things unseen, or walking in faith. Sometimes in life we need to “fly on instruments,” taking a risk on some personal endeavor without knowing whether it will succeed or fail, or even knowing where we are going. But the only way we can ever learn from our mistakes is to allow ourselves the freedom to make them. If we “unbind our minds,” a world of wonder can open up to us. If not, we invite more misery into our lives, as we will see tomorrow.

Dante DiMatteo

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