This week, the Earth’s great extreme of light and darkness arrives, with the Summer Solstice arriving in the Northern Hemisphere, and Yule in the lands below the equator. Alas, though, into our celebrations, the Nine of Swords comes calling.
Obviously a card of sorrow, it depicts the anguish we sometimes feel in our dark hours alone. This card often speaks to our suffering on behalf of those we love, not only our own pain or fear.
Notice that the carving on the bed is of a conflict, where one figure is defeated, awaiting the final blow. On the blanket, we see roses – symbol of love and passion – interwoven with the signs of the zodiac, which points to the inclusion of others. This is also one of the few Tarot cards in which the central figure is of unclear gender – pointing to the universal nature of this situation.
The swords behind the figure do not actually pierce him or her, but three do line up quite clearly with the heart, the throat and third eye, and the crown chakras, implying extreme spiritual distress.
The Nines of the Tarot are the suit’s energetic conclusion (with the Tens being the overflow that points to the next beginning). And Swords rule the mind, communications, logic, discernment, and the stories we create about the nature of what is.
Beware of Maya
As many wisdom traditions teach, we must beware the illusion that the mind is our true identity. In our secularized, materialistic culture, we have placed an unprecedented faith in logic, analysis, and the triumph of the mind over all other aspects of our identity.
Experiences common to all humans — love, creativity, grief, desire, fear, spirituality — are deconstructed and analyzed in psychological terms, as if by so doing, the mind can then explain and control them. (Never mind that psychology itself is simply a sophisticated human myth).
In Sanskrit, maya is a term given to how we forget or are distracted from our true divine nature. We identify ourselves with the body, mind, and ego rather than the Atman, the divine Self. Maya is the ignorance in which our everyday consciousness has become entangled, a veiling of the true Self.
Thus, the Nine of Swords is the ultimate result of our investment in maya. It is what the mind, bereft of feeling, physicality, energy, and soul awareness will create: nightmares, sorrow, isolation, fear, and suffering.
Things That Go Bump in the Night
This may be a time to pause and look deeply into the wells of your worry or grief.
Perhaps it is time to name the shadow that haunts you in the night. What troubling news have you received, or perhaps dread to hear? What insistently calls to you in your dreams, though you wish it would not? What wrong needs to be put right?
In addition, ever since Neptune turned retrograde last week, I have been hearing many reports of disturbing dreams, interrupted, sleepless nights, and dark premonitions. One astrologer writes, “Like the Roman God rules over the depths of the ocean, so the planet rules over the depths of our mind. Neptune governs things like the subconscious, dreams, mysticism, artistic and spiritual vision…
“Be prepared for the things that had been brewing in your subconscious mind to begin surfacing into your consciousness. You may begin to have vivid dreams fraught with symbolism; it’s an opportune moment to keep a dream diary and seek to have your dreams interpreted. This is a time to listen to that inner voice, to pay attention to your intuition and heed all those inner warning bells. Deceivers are exposed, delusions fall away, and secrets are revealed.”
What troubled dreams, premonitions, insomnia, or even nightmares are plaguing you?
The resolution can sometimes be found in taking remedial action (Wands). Shifting our focus to our blessings can bring hopefulness and healing (Pentacles). Or it may be that we simply need to allow ourselves to feel and accept what we are going through, and even share with an understanding friend (Cups), rather than hiding behind our daytime game face.
While never pleasant, this is an opportunity to deepen your compassion for yourself and for all beings. Use the tool of your mind, but do not forget you are so much more than your thoughts.
When worry troubles us, when loneliness or dark thoughts enter our dreams, remember that such times come to all of us.
Whatever troubles your spirit, do not empower your fears to steal your hope.
Let the great moment of Solstice that arrives this week be a reminder that you, yourself, are a source of illumination that is untouched by the waxing or waning of the year, and undiminished by even the blackest night’s whisperings.
Love, hope, and forgiveness will return just as surely as the Sun will rise again. We can change our thoughts, and every wisdom path teaches us that even in our loneliest moments, we are not alone.