Reflections on The Nine of Swords

Q: Lately it seems as though I’ve been going through more frequent mood swings. Some mornings I wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and eager to face the day; other days, I wake up feeling defeated and depressed and having no desire to engage with the world whatsoever. Today I am experiencing one of the latter days, though I can’t explain why I should feel any.worse (or better) than I did yesterday. Why does this happen?

A: Because you are blind to the reality of your existence.

IX

One thing that is interesting about working with Swords is the literal “lack of vision” that is to be found within the suit as it is depicted in the Waite deck. If we line up the pip cards that contain human representations, we see figures who are asleep, blindfolded, deceased, or looking backwards,  downwards, or away from us, but never looking forward with eyes open, or looking directly at us. Screen shot 2015-07-27 at 11.16.59 AM

What’s more, in the cards where more than one person is depicted (the Five and Six), no one in the cards is interacting with each other. Compare and contrast with these cards from the other suits:Screen shot 2015-07-27 at 11.32.11 AMThese cards speak to us of the importance of teamwork and cooperation in accomplishing important goals and realizing loving relationships. By contrast, the suit of Swords—the formative world of ego—would have us believe that “every man is an island” and that we can all achieve whatever we will entirely on our own, with no help or assistance from others. This can only be done, as a rule, by adopting an excessively rigid, and at times quite destructive, view of the world that exacts over time a frightening toll on our psyches. Isolating ourselves from others, and alienating others from us, is difficult work that we were never meant to do, and it is why so many of the images in the suit of Swords seem so cruel and malicious: They simply mirror the antisocial thoughts that we emanate when we convince ourselves that we are somehow “separate” from the whole of humankind; or that others, being “apart” from us, are unworthy of our care and concern. The abasement of “the other” is nothing but an abasement of the Self, and the inability or unwillingness to confront this reality is the source of  a great many of our most crippling neuroses.

The astrological assignment to the Nine of Swords is the Moon in Gemini, so we can see this card embodying the opaque “dark side” of that celestial body, and of those threatening and unseen forces that dwell within each of us, which, left unexamined, can lead to spontaneous outbursts of ego-madness. In an unconscious state, we refer to these outbursts as nightmares; waking, we manifest them whenever we think of ourselves as morally superior beings whose cruelty and indifference to the suffering of others is a radiant reflection of some inerrant Divine law.

There is a potential “upside” to this card, however, and it is to be found in the figure of the dreamer sitting upright in bed; having awoken from her nightmare, she can now “shake off the cobwebs” and prepare herself for the dawn of a new day, clearing her head of confusion and her heart of sadness—or she can simply “go back to sleep” and remain an unconscious servant to the sick desires of a greedy and jealous ego. This is a choice we all must make eventually, and it is one that the Nine of Swords would have us ponder whenever it appears in a reading.

Dante DiMatteo

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