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."

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.)


  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.

  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.

    1. Thank you for sharing those insights, Anonymous!

  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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~ Zanna