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Friday, November 14, 2014

Old English Tarot: 9 of Swords

Today I am pleased to introduce a new series of posts by Helen Howell, former co-author of Tarot Notes. Helen will be exploring cards from the Old English Tarot by Maggie Kneen (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

Old English Tarot
9 of Swords
by Helen Howell

In this series I’m going to be taking a look at the Minor Arcana of the Old English Tarot by Maggie Kneen, published by U.S.Games Systems Inc. I’m going to attempt to look at the symbolism and see how we can interpret these cards for not just how the four elements are arranged by also by the small depictions that accompany each of these cards.

I will pick the cards randomly but over a course of time hope to cover all the cards in the four suits.

My first card is the Nine of Swords:


Old English Tarot (U.S. Games)


In the Old English we see eight of the swords woven together with the ninth sword  pointing directly down over the head of the figure, who is tied to the stake and stands on a pile of kindling.  It’s an interesting depiction, because it differs from the traditional image which often gives us the interpretation of impending doom but from a mental point of view. That is to say the person in the image is thought to be overwhelmed with doubts and fears.

This image also gives us a sense of impending doom, but more from a physical aspect. Yes, the Swords still do represent mental activity, but we see the figure actually bound to the stake with no means to free himself while the sword hangs like a heavy weight above his head. He’s not imagining this; he is actually in that situation.

The way the swords are locked together, seems to me to symbolise that those thoughts he may have are trapped within his thinking pattern and he is helpless to free them, because he is tethered and cannot move away. But more than symbolising that he has troublesome thoughts, this card also indicates for us that he is in an unhappy situation, one that probably causes him mental suffering as well as physical.

How did he end up like this? Who tied him to that stake? He must have had a disagreement with someone for this to have happened, and so another aspect of this card could be that he has come out the worse for wear from a quarrel and now he is suffering for it.

I think the Old English depiction of the Nine of Swords gives us that extra element of of physical suffering as well as mental, whereas, for instance, the Rider Waite depiction tends to indicate that it’s all in the mind.

I particularly like the way the swords have been placed in an interlocking pattern with one that hangs free in a threatening position. It enhances the idea that one can get locked into a train of thought that you can allow to loom over you so that it threatens your physical well being.

So if you draw this card in a reading, depending on the surrounding cards, just remember that the message it may be trying to impart could be more than a mental fear or anxiety. It may well be telling you also that the person feels isolated, trapped, threatened or locked even in an unhappy situation. The very act of being tied to the stake is a shameful position to be in and could indicate that the person concerned feels shame for something they may have done or are thinking of doing.

You may or may not agree with my interpretation of this card, but I hope that some of it will be useful to you.

The LWB with this deck says:
Misery, suffering, unhappy situation quarrel
Reversed: Slander, doubt, shame.

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