To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy power which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates…
True to form, this once again underscores a year in which so much potential has been darkened with grief. Still, I was hoping for something a lot more.. well, hopeful.. for this profound day of power, the Winter Solstice that also heralds the turn of the eon. So I will admit I was sorely tempted to put it back and never tell. But I am sworn to honesty, so in this week of joy and idealism, we are accompanied by the Nine of Swords.
Although this is obviously a painful card, and it depicts the anguish we sometimes feel in our dark hours alone, the Nines are the completion of the cycle, the fulfillment of the energy of the suit.
We are frightened. Sad. Filled with guilt, or regret, or darkest woe. But the nightmare itself is interrupted and gone.
My sense of this is reinforced by the fact that Swords are the suit of the mind, communication, memory, intellect, attitude, and perception. They are ruled by the element of Air.
As you can see, the carving on the bed is of a conflict, where one figure is defeated, awaiting the final blow. On the blanket, we see red roses – symbol of love and passion – interwoven with the signs of the zodiac, which points to the inclusion of others.
Thus, I believe that this card speaks just as often to our suffering on behalf of those we love, as it does of our own pain or fears. This is also one of the few Tarot cards in the R-W-S deck, in which the central figure is of unclear gender, pointing to the universal nature of this situation.
The Cries in the Night
Perhaps the person shown has had a terrible premonition in her or his dreams. Perhaps they are playing back old scenarios that happened in the past.
Increasingly, it seems that many of us are experiencing difficulties with our sleep. Typically, the problem is not with falling asleep; it’s what one client of mine calls the “3 a.m. Club.” She describes popping wide awake around 3 in the morning, mind racing.
From what I can tell, she certainly has plenty of company.
Ranging from hyper-busy thoughts to soul-deep anxieties, from melancholy to despair, the intensity usually dispels by morning. Only to return the next night.
The losses are mounting. So many dead, jobs lost, or health destroyed, due to the pandemic.
So much destruction thanks to The Loser’s grim scorched Earth exit. Countless businesses shuttered forever, dreams destroyed, cold-blooded, murderous systemic racism still marching along. There are waves of families falling into poverty, hunger, and out on the streets. And climate crises continue to mount around the world.
No wonder we sit up in bed in the wee hours, and weep.
In the daylight, when we are engaged in our busyness, such matters may seem far away.
But in the night, when we are alone, we feel the cries of our own hearts and our interconnected family of all that lives. How can we not be awakened by the distress of the nearly two million dead, and especially of our Mother, the Earth Herself?
Buddhist teacher and deep ecology expert, Joanna Macy, notes:
Refusing to feel pain…refusal to suffer, makes us stupid, and half alive. It causes us to become blind to see what is really out there. We have a sense of something being wrong, so we find another target and project our anxiety onto the nearest thing handy.
The Nine of Swords, as unhappy as it is, will not allow this. It offers a rude but necessary awakening.
To Love and Bear and Hope
The Nine of Swords acknowledges that we need to pause and look honestly at the grief or fears we may have been closing our eyes to. That which we refuse to acknowledge in the light of day may appear to us in the cloak of night.
But this week, with the Great Turning of the Epoch now upon us, from the Solstice to many other powerful forces converging for good, my sense is that this card is not grief to come. It is about grief we are facing and from which we may recover.
It shows that, although we are still in deep night, and the darkest Winter we may have ever known still lies ahead of us, we are awake. We are aware. We are empowered to act.
The promise of Winter Solstice is that the Light is reborn. Nature does not fail, and by attuning to Her gift, a new dawn is on the way.
There is great love behind this disturbing image – and therefore, there is hope. For while this is not the cheeriest card in the Tarot, it speaks to the deepest and loneliest places in the human heart.
Denial is not only exhausting, but it doesn’t help. As the incompetent paralysis of The Loser proves, it makes situations much worse.
Holidays are rarely the shiny, sparkly events that we are shown in the media, even in the best of times and the happiest of families. But this year is especially painful, with its exhaustion, rancor, and the grinding toll of our many months of seclusion, underscored by the constant fear of contagion.
Although not pleasant, our card offers an opportunity to deepen your tenderness for yourself and for all beings.
When worry troubles us, when loneliness or fears enter our dreams, remember that such times come to all of us. No matter how it seems in the dead of night, you are not alone.
If we will be open to messages from Shadow, our bleakest nights can be teachers.
As an irrevocable part of the Great Wholeness, you, yourself, are a source of illumination that is untouched by the waxing or waning of events, and undiminished by even the blackest night’s whisperings.
Be at peace, for behold! In this most holy week, the promise of the returning Light is assured.