Monday, July 30, 2012

Journey through My Decks: Eight of Swords

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring the EIGHT OF SWORDS from Legend: The Arthurian Tarot by Anna-Marie Ferguson (Llewellyn Publications).

Legend: The Arthurian Tarot

In the Legend deck, Swords represent action, conflict, and decisive, analytical thinking -- a discriminating thought process that involves penetrating logic, decisive actions, and methods of coping with conflict. Anna-Marie Ferguson contrasts this with the suit of Spears which in this deck symbolizes intuitive intellect.

Concerning elemental associations, Ferguson writes: "In my opinion, fire best fits the explosive and definite nature of the [Swords] suit. Friction creates heat and leads to fire, just as it leads to the appearance of Swords in a card reading." Ferguson also feels that the element fire "mirrors the important constructive ability of Swords to clear dead wood from one's life." She associates Swords with the season of autumn, "with its darkening days and hot colours."

The Eight of Swords in the Legend deck depicts Queen Guenevere (also known as Guinevere, Guenievre, Gwenhwyfar, Gaynour, Guenhumare, or Ginevra) as she is being bound to the stake to be burned for high treason. This was to be her punishment for having Sir Lancelot as a lover while she was married to King Arthur. In Arthurian legend, Guenevere does not die at the stake but is rescued by Lancelot, an act that sparks war and splits the Fellowship of the Round Table.

The liaison between Guenevere and Lancelot is not part of the earliest recordings of Arthurian legend, but is thought to have been the invention of Marie, Countess of Champagne, who then passed the story along to Cretien de Troyes.

Divinatory Meanings provided by Ferguson: "Feeling bound and trapped. Being held at a disadvantage. Inability to free one's self from a difficult situation. Having to rely on the judgement of others. Slander. Domination. Calamity and regret. Personal effort and courage are needed to take advantage of a temporary route of escape. Approaching the end of adversity."

Reversed, the Eight of Swords can suggest "Senseless tragedy. Frustration. Ceaseless pressures. Depression. Treachery and betrayal. Unintentionally hurting loved ones. Continuing conflict."

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About the Deck: In A Keeper of Words, the book accompanying the Legend deck, Anna-Marie Ferguson writes: "The purpose of bridging the [Arthurian] legend and the Tarot was to enhance the deck by providing a second avenue of approach. . . In creating this deck, I found the legend and the Tarot to be so compatible that I have come to believe that though their origins may be different, this is a marriage of old friends."

Other Sources:
  • The Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends by Ronan Coghlan, with illustrations by Courtney Davis. (Element Inc.)
  • The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, edited by Norris J. Lacy et al. (Garland Publishing, Inc.)

13 comments:

  1. It's an interesting deck, and knowing the legends does help with the interpretation, because unlike the RWS image where we know that it's her thoughts that keep her trapped and she can free herself if she wants, this image shows her chained to the post, unable to free herself. So she is trapped more than just by her thoughts, she is physically trapped too. - Made all the more clearer by knowing the legend. Thanks for this interesting post.

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  2. I like your post showing 8 of swords in King Arthur or Chaucer times. To me, 8 swords means "time to go into storage" because cards don't favor action. The 8 swords you suggest shows 8 swords means "storage" could be forced (kingdom leadership) or passive step back. It all depends on geographic location and occupation (school, lawyer, doctor! As an example, if the 8 of swords appears in 2nd grade, then you become the best qualified second grade teacher. As another website suggested, she is blindfolded but she can smell and hear. The 8 of swords is the officer on deck: do not question her offer.

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    1. Thank you for sharing those insights, Anonymous!

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  3. One more thing. It doesn't matter if 8 of swords sshows in past, present or future. She appears in all time periods.

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  4. Do you see the 8 of swords as a credible news bearer? I saw an 8 of swords card online of a girl sitting down in a mound of sand and she clearly wanted her viewer to understand that inaction is the best action (to me). I like the 2 of swords and the 8 of swords for the phantomwise tarot.

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  5. I want to be sure I understand your question about the card being a "credible news bearer". Do you mean as opposed to a "deceptive" or "not credible" news bearer? I am thinking that all of the cards can be news bearers at times, but perhaps not always "credible."

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  6. I initially found the 8 swords fascinating because it suggests inactivity as the best course of action because outside forces cannot be reckoned with. However, two 8 swords suggest that the poor girl in the 8 swords has been imprisoned by magic or a curse. In the Phantomwise Tarot, the black birds elegantly wrap formal black blindfolds around her. The swords ar stationary so it seems that the curse doesn't come from the swords. In a really scary card I saw on line today (Whispering in My ear), the girl in the Anna K Tarot 8 Swords has been placed in a mirror and wrapped with gaudy cloth with a sword within her bound body. Outside of the mirror is a distinguished lady with sword in hand looking like she has place the girl in the mirror. The girl in the mirror has no sense of anything at her disposal it seems. So maybe I just answered my question. Two different decks show that the girl I saw previously is unable to explain her imprisonment. Maybe each sword card could be an artistic show of imprisonment via various means.

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    1. Imprisonment (being trapped, captured) does seem to be a common theme in the 8 of Swords card across a wide range of decks. I agree that the Anna K card is really scary looking. With Swords so often being linked with the element Air (the mind), I also see it as suggesting that some influence has taken over one's mind or thoughts, perhaps forcing a limited perspective that "blinds" one to other possibilities.

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  7. I looked at a Google list of 8 of swords images. For the 8 of Swords in the Anna K Tarot, the woman watching the rag wrapped girl encased in the mirror could be the Queen of Swords. However there is a problem because there are not nine swords in the card. If this analogy is plausible, the any time a moon is in a card, then is The Moon card represented too? It is interesting to note that one site says the moon tarot card represents "things are not as they seem, which has also been used as an interpretation for the 2 of swords.

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  8. If astrologers feel a skew in readings for specific decks, then the Ana K tarot 8 swords makes sense. Following my "storage" analogy, maybe the Anna K Tarot 8 Swords shows what happens if warning is not headed. As an extreme short term example, if I do no get enough sleep, my joints are painful.

    This card certainly is consistent with the sacred circle type theme. Pentacles seem to be "ways" through a barrier, so maybe circles of swords or staffs are "storage" or deep freeze devices as defenses against curses.

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  9. Not sure I could call Anna K Tarot 8 Swords because only 7 Swords an the mirror with her. Another website said 7 swords shows manipulation/logical reasoning interplay. After looing at the description, the 6 swords could signify going out of the frying pan and into the fire. So maybe the Anna K Tarot 8 swords shows that there is a dynamic (reversible) relationship between 6,7,8 swords. This card is not strictly an 8 swords card.

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  10. Maybe the women in the Anna K Tarot 8 swords is showing the uninvited guests entrapment/manipulation power. Maybe the extra card is really manifested in all decks in a different card for each deck.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I love hearing from my readers!
~ Zanna