8 of Swords

Alt names: Interference, Oppression
Keywords: Restriction, limitation, confinement, helplessness
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Range of meanings

Light: Honoring limits. Respecting the rules. Deciding to go on a diet for your health’s sake. Recognizing you cannot always be in control. Identifying obstacles to further progress. Refusing to think about unhealthy or unethical options. Asking for assistance.

Shadow: Feeling trapped. Being lost in a maze of rules and regulations. Giving in to despair. Playing the victim. Allowing others to dictate what you can and cannot do. Being rendered helpless. Having very few options. Failing to look for a way out.

Questions to ask

  1. Has the Universe been showing you an escape route you’ve been too proud or too distracted to see? What might happen if, instead of moving obediently from A to B, you rudely jumped over the walls?
  2. Who’s empowered to cut through the red tape?
  3. What, exactly, are the obstacles? What resources, exactly, are needed to move them?
  4. To what extent is your powerlessness a matter of attitude?


Personal Growth: Knowing your own limits is important; respect them. Whatever the issue, you’re balking for a reason. There’s no harm in refusing to move forward for now, and no shame in saying, “No.” A mature person communicates what he or she needs with absolute confidence.

Work: Some restrictions are necessary; others are merely tradition. Ethics demand you play by the rules; sacred cows, however, are fair game. What are the obstacles, exactly? If your limits didn’t exist, how might you move forward? Thinking freely will open unexpected options.

Relationships: Feeling boxed in? You have exactly as many options as you imagine you do. There is a way out, but someone is refusing to see it. A relationship should broaden horizons, not limit them. If the rules are uncomfortable, perhaps it’s time to re-examine them.

Spirituality: The free spirit cannot be contained by the physical constraints. As you learn to cultivate balance and focus, you may find that most obstacles are self-imposed and most limits are strictly imaginary. When you focus your will, blindfolds and bonds will fall away.

Fortune-Telling: Get over playing the victim. Once you realize you are your own biggest obstacle, nothing can hold you back.


Astrological: Gemini

Planet: Jupiter

Fool's Journey: The main character must call on his or her ingenuity to escape a trap.

The Number 8: The Action: movement, outer work.

Swords: One of the four suits of the tarot. Also sometimes called blades, knives or athames. Represents logic, objectivity, intellect, and choice. Along with the responsibility such talents bring. Swords suggest logic, clarity, and decision-making. Remember the story of wise King Solomon, who once offered to slice a baby in half in order to resolve a dispute over motherhood? Swords cut through confusion, revealing our agendas in the process.

Wall of Swords: RWS-inspired versions of the 8 of Swords depict a woman trapped in the middle of a circle of swords. The circle, however, is incomplete. Escape is simply a matter of casting off the blindfold and taking that first step. How many of your own limitations are strictly imagined?

Loose Bonds: Many versions of the 8 of Swords feature someone tied with what appear to be very loose bonds. They are reminiscent of the chains around the fawns’ necks on the Devil card. She feels trapped in many different ways, but each of those ways is relatively easy to get out of?

Content generously licensed from Mark McElroy via TarotTools.com.