8 of Swords

A woman, facing the viewer, stands on soggy ground with her head tilted down. Puddles are here and there under her feet and around her. She is blindfolded and bound with either several lengths of cloth or one long cloth wrapped several times around her. Her hands are presumed to be bound behind her back. To the viewer’s left are three longswords planted hilt up in the ground beside the figure. To the viewer’s right are five more longswords planted the same way. Between those five can be seen a hill and keep in the distance. The sky is featureless.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” The card’s imagery implies that the woman, representing the Querent, is helpless and unable to escape the circumstances. If you do nothing, you are subject to the whims of others. If you attempt to escape, your lack of mobility will cause more damage than if you just stood still and accepted what comes. Right?

Not quite. Yes, this is a very negative card, however the Querent is not as helpless in the situation as the image implies. I have observed that what holds the Querent in place is fear. Not the machinations of a conspiracy, not the random occurrences of life, but the Querent is too afraid to act because what the unknown could be is greater than the circumstances the Querent is in.

To escape the circumstances requires the Querent to take action and defy the menacing fear. I find the card to be a call to arms, rather than a declaration of defeat. Yes, things are bad. Yes, the Querent is caught. But if the Querent takes matters into their own hands and starts making independent decisions and movements rather than waiting for someone else to tell them what to do, the Querent can take control of the situation and create a happy ending for themselves after all.

This changes when the card is ill-dignified. Now it becomes safer for the Querent to remain still than to chance a move. There are other forces at work around the Querent, that would see them as prey than friend. It may also be that the Querent placed themselves in that position to begin with, and now there is no other option than allowing the circumstances to play out completely. Be wary of who offers to help when this card is ill-dignified, as what appears to be a helping hand is really another captor with a different leash.