Eight (VIII) of Swords b

The Eight (VIII) of Swords

8 of Swords Upright


Restrictions, Entrapment, Confinement, Caught in a Bind, Fenced In, Restrictions, Stagnation,  Dilemmas, Crisis, Calamity, Drama, Confusion, Un-focused, Misperceptions, Illusions, At a Loss, Hysteria, Imprisonment, Incarceration, Prison, Control, Slave, Unable to Face Problems, Can’t See a Way Out, No Options, Hands are Tied, Backed into a Corner, Blocked, Paralysed, Psychological Problems, Inner Turmoil, Self-Sabotage, Fear, Terror, Pessimism, Depression, Negative Attitudes, Helplessness, Hopeless, Pointless, Powerless,  Breaking Point, Disempowered, Victim, Persecution, Criticism, Condemnation, Insults, Blame, Punishment, Judgement, Lawsuits, Trials, Juries, Condemned, Consequences, Isolation, Censorship, Silencing,



The Eight of Swords is a very powerful Card and when it appears in a Reading. Its message can be very strong.  How strong this message is depends on the surrounding Cards in the Reading, the Querant and the Question.

The Eight of Swords represents restrictions, entrapment and being backed into a corner.  For certain there is a crisis but because we are dealing with a Sword’s Card, it is unsure whether the situation is as serious as it is made out to be and where the real problem lies.

When the Eight of Swords appears in a Reading, there will be a sense of panic about an issue or situation. Negativity, pessimism and doom and gloom will govern.  There is a belief that you have no options and are stuck in a situation you can’t get out of. Depression and fear controls your every thought.  You may feel like the victim or martyr and that no one understands you.  Close friends and family will already have given you good advice and possible solutions to your dilemma but it is doubtful you have listened.  You will have an excuse as to why nothing will work and how pointless it is in trying.  When people try to help and see no response or effort coming from your side, they eventually back off or give up.  This leaves you, the victim, with a sense of isolation and deepening loneliness.  Your mind is then free to turn even more negative, and convince you further, of how futile and hopeless your situation is.  A vicious cycle becomes entrenched and the longer it goes on the more paralysed you become.  You may believe you are doomed and that your fate is sealed.

What we are dealing with here is psychological imbalance or dysfunction.  Narrowed, negative beliefs and attitudes convince you that there is no way out. You are trapped by your circumstances and may feel your problems or the walls closing in around you.  There is a way out for you but at present you are blind to that route to freedom.  You self-sabotage every attempt at making a break for it.  Fear is what grounds you; fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of taking a risk, fear of the consequences, fear of taking responsibility for your situation, fear of not being able to, fear of not having the skills, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not being liked, fear of being judged or criticised, fear of being blamed. The list could go on and on and on but what keeps you imprisoned is fear and the small chaotic world that is your mind.  Whereas those around you possibly see the solution to your situation as ‘quite simple really’, you will be in a tizzy and unable to focus on processing any logical thoughts or plan. You may not be able to understand or follow what is going on around you. Your self-imposed beliefs might see everything as a calamity and major drama, while others would call it a ‘mere troublesome situation’.  You need to calm down, lose the hysteria and drama so that you can look at your situation in a more objective manner.

You are likely overwhelmed by the extent of your problems. You cannot possibly deal with all Eight Swords at the one time for that would be too much for any of us. You need to take one Sword (stress) at a time and attempt to sort it before moving on to the next one.  This will help you feel more in control and that you are taking action instead of sitting on the floor crying. As you tackle your issues one by one, others may fall by the wayside as you go or automatically fall into line because of your actions. As the Swords dissipate, so too will the tightness of the binds that hold you.  The path to freedom will become clearer and you may even see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Action is required of you now and not passivity, submission and resignation.  Stop being a slave to your problems.

If the majority of Cards surrounding this Eight are Pentacles (especially reversed) then you may be backed into a corner under a mountain of bills and debts with no money to pay them. If Cups are dominant (especially reversed) you might feel trapped in a loveless marriage or controlling relationship. Several Wands may suggest being in a bind in work or in trouble after a course of action taken. Several Swords brings severe stress and psychological issues which may need professional help.

With the Eight of Swords, there is often failure to take responsibility for your situation.  You will not act or take control.  Instead you wait for others to come to your rescue but what if no one actually knows the trouble you are in? Pride may prevent you from seeking help in the right places.  You may prefer to see yourself as a damsel in distress waiting for her Knight in Shining Armour to come and save the day.  The only one who can save you from this situation is yourself. If you can show some effort you will gain the respect and help of others in return.

The Eight of Swords in the majority of cases suggests that the problem you are in is more than likely of your own making.  Yes, we do get into binds or get caught in traps created by other people, but then allow ourselves or give permission to be taken prisoner.  Instead of walking away, we stay and get involved. We then become obliged or duty-bound to get even further involved.  Before we know it we have had enough and want to get out but by that stage we can find very few or possibly no window of opportunity to escape. You may be fenced in by obstacles or opposition.  Trapped by your circumstances, the situation can become very limiting. You need to call on your inner-strength for it is there within and can help you find a way out.

The Eight of Swords can also suggest that you are the victim of persecution.  There may be those set against you who are making your life a misery.   You could be at the receiving end of insulting comments, criticism and verbal abuse. You may be ‘in the dark’ as to goings on around you or are perfectly aware of why it is happening. You might have fallen from grace or lost your reputation.

This Card is not that hard to interpret and when it appears in a Reading, the Querant will instantly react and identify with it. The sense of entrapment or being hemmed in can be related to anything; career, relationship, home or finances.  You can feel stuck and unable to make a decision or make a move. You may think you have no options but you do. It is time to stop feeling so helpless. You more than likely got yourself into this mess and with a bit of effort and self belief on your part can get yourself out too.  If you are waiting for someone else to rescue you from this situation you could find yourself waiting a long time. However, once you start to help yourself, doors will open and you will be supported. You just have to make the first move.  Think clearly and lose the victim mentality. Solutions to your problems are there if you are prepared to seek them out.

We must also look at the possibility that someone you know is in a bind and needs help. You may be aware of the situation but have not made a move.  Because of circumstances or those involved, you may feel that your hands are tied in this matter and so look the other way. You may be in a situation where you have been silenced and forbidden to speak about an incident or person.  This censorship may be on a personal or public level.

On a darker note, we must also accept that the situation being represented by The Eight of Swords may be very serious indeed.  Surrounding Cards will give you further insight, but if you see several other Sword Cards, either Upright or Reversed, Reversed Court Cards (especially Swords or Cups) or should The Devil of The Major Arcana appear or The Tower, then we may be very concerned for the Querant.  The person represented by the Eight of Swords may be close to a state of mental overwhelm or breakdown.  Their mind may be so tied up and dysfunctional that there is danger of them losing it altogether. They could be very low and see their situation as pointless and hopeless.  The see no way out of their problems and mentally have surrendered to them.  Listless and low in energy they will have no fight left in them.  The person suggested by this Eight of Swords may no longer be able to help themself and might be in grave danger. If they can see no way out of their predicament or their mental torture they may entertain thoughts of finding another way to be free of their suffering.  Clinical depression may be evident and the need for professional help such as counsellors or psychotherapists.

We also have a possible scenario where the person represented by the Eight of Swords is literally trapped in a bad situation.  Their movements may be severely restricted or monitored. They may have little control over what happens to them on a day-to-day basis.  They might be living in a nightmare and fear for their life should they try to escape or let anyone know what is happening.  Those responsible will exert a tight and vicious control over their victim and will use psychological manipulation and conditioning to ensure obedience and submission.  The victim will be led to believe that they have to stay where they are and do as they are told because terrible things will happen to them if they don’t.  This may all sound dramatic  but we are not necessarily talking about kidnap or incarceration in a dungeon or tower.  The person this Eight of Swords represents may be your work colleague, friend, neighbour, sibling or student.  They may keep up a facade or front in public yet live in fear behind closed doors.  They may also be the victim of bullying and this can occur absolutely anywhere.  Their mental strength has been deliberately eroded by another and are no longer in charge of their life.  There may be no locked doors in their homes, giving the impression they are free to come and go, but in their mind each exit is barred. Surrounding Cards will need to support this theory and very often the Querant will show a very strong reaction to the Eight of Swords.

The Eight of Swords can also suggest punishment or having to face the consequences of action taken.  The Swords deal with Justice and the Law, so if you have been involved in any underhand dealings or criminal activity this Card can suggest having to pay for your crimes. If involved in legal dealings, arrests or court cases you may be found guilty and sentenced or have to face trial. Law suits and judgements may go against you. The Eight of Swords can also suggest being tied up in legal issues and contracts that are hard to get out of or that go on indefinitely.

With regards to relationships, the presence of The Eight of Swords does not bode well.  This card speaks of feeling trapped in a relationship and not knowing what to do about it.  You may feel you want to leave but that there are too many restrictions or obstacles standing in your way.  Deep unhappiness comes with this Card and a feeling of being totally stifled.  There may be children to consider, finances and a roof over your head.  Especially during this time of recession, there are many couples who are stuck in unhappy marriages or relationships but cannot afford to separate or divorce.  Should you leave, you may have nowhere to go, not enough money to survive on and your property may be in negative equity.  You are probably stuck where you are for the moment and will just have to get on with it. There are no doors locked and barring your escape so if you really want out that bad, then you do have the freedom to go even if you have to leave everything behind.

If there has been an affair or unfaithfulness, the Eight of Swords can suggest that it has been discovered and is out in the open or publicly known.  You now have to face the consequences of your actions. Friends and family may shun you. You may feel condemnation and insults coming from all sides. People may be judging you without all the facts. Alienated and isolated you might feel alone and in the dark with no support.

Unfortunately, The Eight of Swords can highlight a controlling, violent and abusive relationship. Feeling trapped and terrified,  you may not be able to find the strength or courage to get out. Your partner’s threats may be a harsh reality leaving you powerless and isolated. You stay out of fear and have been conditioned to believe that you have no options. Your self-esteem, self-belief and self-confidence have been smashed.  You must find the strength to leave.  There is help available should you do; refuge centres, organisations and counselling, but you need to make the first contact with them. You can no longer live like this.

The Eight of Swords can also suggest a partner who is suffering from severe depression.

In relation to career, the Eight of Swords would suggest entrapment in your chosen career or job. There may be so many demands on you at present that you just can’t think straight. The pressures of work could become overwhelming and physical or nervous breakdowns may result. You could feel trapped in a profession that was forced upon you or expected of you because of family tradition. You will have to find the strength to sort this situation out before it breaks you. If you have been involved in any shady or dubious business you may now be facing the consequences of your actions.

Your business may be in extreme difficulty and you feel at a loss as to what to do next. You may not know which direction to take it and have lost your focus. You could feel overwhelmed by building debts and pressures. You do not know which way to turn and cannot see a way forward.  You really need to seek some outside help to gain clarity and perspective.  You do have options but are in too much of a panic to realise.


8 of Swords Reversed


Freedom, Escape, Breaking Free, Release, Difficulties Overcome, Pressure Off,  Options, Solutions, Possibilities, Opportunities, Doors Opening, A Way Forward, Facing Fears, Facing The Truth, Facing Facts, Coming Clean, Standing Up to Opposition/Criticism/Abuse, Seeking Help, Counsellors, Psychiatrists,  Coming In Out of The Cold, Optimism, Positive Outlook, Openness, New Attitudes, Mental Healing, Mental Effort, Logic, Reasoning, Clarity of Mind, Perception, Perspective, Objective,  Self-Belief, Mental Strength,  Release from Prison, Jury Rules Favourably, Acquittal, Severe Depression, Victim, Persecution, Resigned, Given Up, Surrendered,  Total Paralyses, Denial, Immobility, Stagnation, Sacrifice, Punishment, Oppression, Coercion,

When the Eight of Swords Reverses, it can suggest two different scenarios.  There will be a release from your oppressive, restricting and limiting situation or a worsening of it. In general the emphasis is put on the release aspect but if the surrounding Cards do not support this interpretation you will need to look at the other option.  Conferring with your Querant is essential as the worsening of the Eight of Swords Reversed can cause great concern for all involved.

When the Eight of Swords Reverses, the force of gravity loosens the Sword’s anchorage in the ground and they fall out and tumble onto the ground.  This suggests that all the stresses and worries of the Upright Eight begin to weaken their hold on you and lose strength.  Suddenly, you see a way out of your situation.   The pathway has been cleared and an opening has appeared.  Without the threat of all the Swords (worries) falling in on top of you, you can now rise above the panic and let your mind calm.  You now have options available to you.  You have been released from a restricting situation and new understanding replaces old beliefs and attitudes.

Along with all the Swords falling out of harm’s way, so too goes the blindfold and bonds around the body and arms.  You can now see your situation for what it is, and for the first time in a long time, are able to take action. What was once considered irreparable, hopeless or beyond help is now viewed in a new light.  Negative mind thoughts and attitudes are replaced by positive ones. You think ‘I can’ instead of ‘I can’t’. You say ‘I will’ instead of ‘I won’t’. You feel it is possible instead of doomed.  You can now take back control of your life and perhaps the responsibility of it for the first time.  You no longer wait for others to sort your problems out and prefer to get things done yourself. There is a wonderful satisfaction to be gained in saving yourself as it gives a tremendous boost to self-confidence and self-esteem. To know that you have sorted your own mess out means that really you can do a lot more.  It will give you the courage to take on any future challenges that come your way.

In the Reversed Aspect of the Eight, your situation becomes worse and escape less likely. You may have no one to turn to and nowhere to run.  Options and opportunities diminish as restrictions increase.  You may indeed by powerless to change your situation. You can’t see a way out of your crisis because there may not be one. Fears increase and magnify creating paralyses and immobility.  Your situation has ground to halt and you are stuck with it for the moment.  You may not have the skills or ability to sort this one out. You may also be too proud to ask for help.

The Eight of Swords Reversed brings relief to anyone struggling in a very difficult and limited scenario.  Depending on the surrounding Cards, it will highlight which area of your life that burdens are being lifted and gateways unlocked. If you have been in a financial bind with debts and bills mounting then the Reversal of this Card can suggest finding solutions or beginning at last to balance the books.  If you have been stuck in a bad relationship then you may well have found a way to break free, or through communication or counselling, attempts are made to repair the damage.  If work has been tying you up in knots of worry and stress, then the pressure is lifted as deadlines are met and projects completed.  Should you have been consumed with troubles and fear in your personal life or health-wise, then they will begin to resolve, allowing peace of mind to return. All in all, the worst is now behind you when the Eight of Swords appears Reversed.

In the Extreme Reversed Aspect of the Eight of Swords there will be a worsening of the above. Financial burdens increase with no means of solving them, relationships become more claustrophobic and stifling making you feel more trapped than ever. Pressures of work can become unbearable and there may be a deterioration in mental health due to worries, stress and various neurosis.

Recovery from your bind or dilemma will not happen overnight or out of the blue if there are psychological issues driving it.  On the contrary, the Reversed Eight of Swords indicates the slow recovery from mental stress or your situation.  Personal freedom will come in stages as the damage done from the Upright is not so easily fixed.  However, once there is a realisation of hope; mental energy and positivity will begin to return.  You will discover that all is not lost and you may indeed have a future to look forward to.  You begin to see that you can overcome your problems and will rejoice in mini successes as they come, each one encouraging you to take one more step forward.

This slow release from entrapment or the prison of your mind may require a lot of hard work.  There will be a strong determination on your part to make a bid for freedom.  This will probably be encouraged and supported by those around you, such as family and friends.  There is a likelihood of professional input too. As a Sword’s you may turn to the talking therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy or hypnoanalysis or possibly take the holistic route via alternative methods.  One way or another, you are making a very focussed effort in finding healing and psychological strength.  It is important not to rush this process and accept that there will be minor setbacks along the way. You will also have to accept that you may have created all the problems yourself. It may have been in your mind and not based on any reality or logic.  You will need to change your attitude and the way you handle things in future.  You should be proud of yourself for not just giving in under the pressure.  You are stronger than you think you are.

In the Extreme Aspect of The Eight, your psychological state will be diminishing and you probably are not aware of how bad things really are. You may be suffering from severe depression. It is unlikely you will seek help and will have to rely on others to see how much trouble you are in. Your mental walls may be collapsing within and you might need to seek emergency care.  You may be suffering from paranoia and delusional.  Your Swords have turned inwards on you and attacked. Your own Swords (mentality) is hurting you and not healing.

When the Eight of Swords appears Reversed it can suggest that after being kept ‘in the dark’ about a situation or issue, you now have the full facts laid bare in front of you.  With your blindfold off, you can now see things in stark clarity. If you have been the victim of bullying you may begin to fight back or go to the authorities.  Should you have been on the receiving end of malicious gossip or insulting remarks, you now rise above it or take action to defend yourself. You no longer allow others to exert control over you. In the Extreme Reversed Aspect, a trouble-maker may be back in town and back in business.

If you have been shunned by friends and family because of any inappropriate behaviour or actions, feelings may have changed towards you or you may be forgiven. You are no longer left out in the cold or forced to stay in exile.  On the other hand, you may have been blind to something going on around you or perhaps chose to turn a blind eye to it. However, this Reversed Eight will force you to face the truth or the facts whether you like it or not.  You will no longer be able to sit on the fence or claim ignorance. You can no longer argue that your ‘hands were tied’ and so could do ‘nothing to help’. Everything is now out in the open or in the public domain. Any denials of involvement or having nothing to do with a scandal, inappropriate behaviour or underhand dealings will be exposed as incredulous, when it was going on right under your nose all the time.

If the Eight of Swords Reversed is representing Justice and The Law, it can represent the release from imprisonment or incarceration. Release from custody may be as a result of being found innocent or after serving a sentence.   A jury may rule in your favour or you may win a long ongoing stressful court case. Where legal contracts are involved, you eventually find a loophole allowing you a way out of its tight bind.   In the Extreme Aspect of this Eight, someone may literally get away with blue murder as the guilty walk free or an innocent person is found guilty and gets sent down. There may be an escape from prison.

The Eight of Swords Reversed can also suggest standing your ground against the opinions of others regardless of how convincing they may sound.  Great force may be put on you to accept a certain way of thinking, understanding or beliefs. However, you will mentally rebel against their suggestions and implications. You will not be manipulated or coerced into anything and you will resist being forced into a corner by anyone regardless of the consequences.  You are prepared to suffer for your beliefs.  Attempts at silencing or censoring you is ignored as your strong mind, standards and principles battle for justice. You may be under threat of imprisonment or punishment for failing to obey.   It can also suggest that someone is attempting to control you but that you are putting up a strong resistance.

In Relationships, the Eight of Swords Reversed can suggest the release from an unhappy or controlling relationship.  After much time and terrible stress you have eventually found a way out.  There will be a great sense of freedom and relief but it will have taken its toll on you.  You will need to pick up the pieces now and recover from the whole ordeal.  On the other hand, if you have been seeking reconciliation, the Reversed Eight can highlight the lessening of worries, stress and conflict in a relationship through communication.  A way forward has been found through new understanding and attitudes towards each other.  This healing has still a long way to go as much damage has been done.

If you have been in a controlling abusive relationship, the Eight of Swords Reversed, can highlight the eventual escape from it.  It suggests that you may have eventually found the courage to leave or have sought help through organisations and refuges.  Again, it will be necessary to repair any damage done psychologically as the relationship will have had a very negative and destructive effect on the psyche.

When we look at the Extreme Aspect of this Reversed Eight, we can have the worsening of the Upright. Your situation can intensify.  Escape from an unhappy relationship may grow more impossible. You may have no options available to you and do not have the mental strength to help yourself.  You might resign yourself to your situation as the ties that bind become stronger and tighter.  It may no longer be all in your head as it is now a reality. Abuse in controlling relationships can escalate with the fear and threat of aggression and violence.  Psychologically you may be all over the place and not very well-balanced. You may be in denial about your situation but may be in grave danger.  There is a possibility you have given away all your power to another and it will be very hard to reclaim.  Surrounding Cards would need to support this extreme interpretation.

Career related the Eight of Swords Reversed can suggest that the pressures of work in the Upright Card have eased or you have left. You no longer take the work pressures home with you. By opening up and communicating your concerns to your work colleagues a new way of dealing with things may be looked at. You might find the strength to leave a stressful job behind. You realise that you do have other options. You may have to be open with family and express your decision not to join a family business or follow a traditional family profession. This will release you from a life sentence of duty-bound obligation and unhappiness.

On the other hand, in the Extreme Aspect of this Card, you cannot find the mental strength to leave a stressful job or career behind.  Instead you get sucked in further. Work pressures can increase causing severe mental strain.  You might believe you have no options and must stay.  You may resign yourself to joining a family business or following a family career tradition that makes you extremely unhappy.

In Business, the pressure is off and you have survived the worst.  You may have sought the advice of experts or a mentor, which has opened your mind to new areas and the options that are available to you. A way forward is found and new opportunities come your way.

Brief VersionsAce of Swords   Two (II) of Swords  Three (III) of Swords   Four (IV) of Swords  Five (V) of Swords        Six (VI) of Swords  Seven (VII) of Swords  Eight (VIII) of Swords  Nine (IX) of Swords  Ten (X) of Swords

Brief VersionsWands  Cups  Swords   Pentacles

Back to 78 Cards – Brief Page

The 78 Cards – Detailed Study Version (Card Description, Keywords, Upright & Reversed Meanings)

The 78 Cards – Shortened Version (Keywords, Upright & Reversed Meanings)


Copyright © 2006-2013 Vivien Ní Dhuinn
Truly Teach Me Tarot Part I

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