He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This week, as this exhausting, disturbing year finally winds down, we receive a visit from the Eight of Swords.
At the tail end of this year of Justice, this is another card that, like last week’s, seems to come up a lot. But, in fact, it’s been on hiatus for more than two years.
Like others in the Tarot, at first glance, it appears rather disturbing, for here is the quintessential damsel in distress. Certainly not a Merry Christmas card.
The woman is trapped, surrounded by swords, blindfolded and alone. But, as is so often the case in the Tarot, this is a card that beckons us to take a closer look.
For is she, in fact, so helpless? Where are her attackers? Whose power holds her?
There are no enemies to be seen. It would seem instead she is simply ringed by eight swords, all of which are safely stuck into the ground.
Eights are about organizing, expansion, and how we overcome challenges in order to move forward. And the Swords are the suit of air, thought, perceptions, and attitude.
Where Is the Danger?
Procrastination, perfectionism, or victim-thinking may be in play here. After all, as powerless as she seems, is she actually lost in some trackless wilderness? No, it appears that safety and shelter are quite nearby, as you can see by the castle in the distance.
Is she on the edge of some precipice or about to be swept off by roaring wind or waves?
No. The sea, or maybe a lake, is off in the distance, but near her there are only shallow, remarkably tame puddles, and the land is flat and nonthreatening.
Are her legs and feet tied? Is she truly unable to move? It would seem not. Her only challenges are her bound arms, and her blindfold. It might not be easy, but she could simply walk away.
Perhaps, then, she is a victim only of a mental fog, which would be a Swords-y condition. My insightful friend, astrologer Elisabeth Grace notes that the week kicks off with —
..a square (tension) between Mercury (how we need to think) and Neptune (fog; idealism), exact tonight at 7:33 PM ET. Upside: there’s magic in the air. Downside: deception and bewilderment.
She also warns that on Thursday, the Moon opposes “foggy Neptune,” creating more potential for misinterpretation and miscues.
Rescuing the Victim
What do we believe binds us to our own unhappiness? What guru, lover, savior, healer, or leader do we wait (and wait, and wait) for, to sweep us away from our current circumstances (and our own responsibility)? What triggers our thinking that we are stuck and helpless?
What we can see, that the Eight of Swords woman cannot, is that the swords are no threat.
From behind, they form a protective semicircle. And before her, as intimidating as it might seem, the one sword that stands alone could help her cut her bonds.
Her liberation is only a few paces away, if she could just trust herself to walk forward and find it.
How often is this the case in our own lives? It is so easy to give up on our dreams, struggle with “analysis paralysis,” and stay marooned in our self-pity and blindness, rather than risk the clumsiness of stepping into the unknown.
There are people who fear the universe is out to get them; that they are surrounded by enemies or some dark fate (or dark state) bent on destroying their rightful happiness. This dystopian view is incredibly marketable right now, and thousands of people are, alas, buying into it.
Whether we choose not to see, or whether we have indeed fallen prey to past misdeeds or deception, there is, in truth, absolutely no reason for not changing whatever our unhappy circumstances might be…except that we so strongly believe in the reality of our prison.
This card feels very much to me like the doctrine that is driving several increasingly isolated governments.
For example, there’s the good old U.S. of A., being run into the ground by a volatile, out-of-touch, possibly mentally ill resident in the White House.
And of course, there are the isolationist machinations of Great Britain trying to divorce, or maybe not divorce, the EU.
Even more pernicious are the countless nations who are, by turns, ignoring, blaming, and punishing the influx of refugee populations fleeing tyranny, war, and ethnic violence.
My country’s leadership seems to think that if we could just lock up all the “undesirables” in internment camps, and then forget about them, while building a giant, 2,000 mile, multi-billion dollar wall, all would be well. This propaganda amplifies the lie that “others” are ruining everything for “us.”
It is a lie rooted in fear.
Like magickal binding spells, if not woven with great care, the one casting and the target may end up inextricably and very unpleasantly bound together. As long as we continue to believe that people of other colors, languages, and backgrounds are enemies, we are the ones who are imprisoned.
Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself
As the fresh new year beckons, world events will doubtless continue to advance with high drama and surprises. But for now, we are given an opportunity to take stock of what holds us in check.
In what ways might you feel thwarted from your desires and goals, or your ability to fully express your authenticity?
It may be true that there are challenges, but are you so impotent, really? What hesitation, fear, or illusion is acting as your blindfold? Do you really need even MORE information before you decide?
Perhaps we should invoke the greater Eight of the Tarot, the Major Arcana Strength card, to help us break out of victimhood and take the needed steps forward.
When all our smart strategies, plans, intellectualizing, and arguments fail us, we must dig deep for our faith.
Real courage may be needed, but it is time to walk free from a bad situation, trusting our own wits and intuition.
Insisting that we are trapped makes it so. Waiting until things are perfect, or for a fantasy savior to appear on the horizon just leads to more waiting. Or worse.
Get your bearings, and then go.
Confidence and courage come through action, not overthinking.
The very good news of this card is that we do not need to be rescued. Step by step, we discover the secret that is in plain sight: we are as free as we dare to be.