Keywords for the Nine of Swords
In the image on this card, we see someone sitting up in bed, holding their head in their hands. They appear as if they had just woken up from a nightmare, or recalled some horrible, traumatic memory.
Now, they cry bitterly, sad tears of despair in the middle of this long, dark night.
The pain and suffering evident in this card is palpable.However, it is an experience of inner suffering, of a mental or emotional pain which may sometimes come upon us unbidden in the darkness of the night.
The nine swords we see here make reference to the mental nature of this kind of pain, and their position fastened up high on the wall indicates that they are not something which can be of active use to us.
Instead, they are heavy reminders of past limitations that only serve to keep us trapped in difficult conditions.
Also of importance here are the figures we see depicted on the bed and blanket which belong to this unfortunate soul.
The blanket is covered in an alternating pattern of red roses and astrological symbols. The red roses symbolize, once again, the power of our emotions and our desires to create the reality of our lived experience.
The astrological glyphs, on the other hand, are a reference to a more large-scale view of causality and creation, one which is deeply related to the concepts of karma and reincarnation. It demonstrates the idea that we are born into life conditions which are a direct result of our previous actions and behaviors.
It is this combination of personal desire and impersonal karmic forces that creates our destiny. Together, these cover the person in bed, keeping him contained within his own personal sphere of “fated” experience.
Carved into the wooden bed is a scene of a man whipping or beating another. This person lies defenseless on the ground, unable to resist or protect himself.
This speaks of the fact that the suffering shown here is rooted in a serious issue. It is not a matter of a simple misunderstanding or having had a hard day. The shame and regret and loss re-experienced here is instead rooted in deep injustice, in true oppression and subjugation of others.
Interpretation of the 9 of Swords in a Reading
When the 9 of Swords comes up in a tarot reading, it typically speaks to an experience of great suffering and loss that has occured in our past.
It can indicate a longer, more enduring experience of suffering and shame over a longer period of time. It tells of the things which have left their marks on our souls, which linger within us as fears and anxieties, and in some cases can even manifest as consuming pangs of guilt or soul-crushing shame.
The 9 of Swords can at times refer to events so painful, they are not always even fully available to us in conscious awareness. These are the feelings and experiences we may have been forced to repress and deny in service of our own self-protection and well-being.
For example, we may bury our rage at an abusive parent who significantly harmed us during our childhood, and now have difficulty acknowledging or expressing our own anger in the present.
This pattern rooted in unconscious defense mechanisms often leads to further situations where we are put in a position of powerlessness. There we may re-experience the original rage of our youth, and in so doing perpetuate the cycle of oppression and suffering.
This is a card which at times may even represent the deepest inner turmoil known to us as human beings. It shows the powerfully debilitating sense of shame known by survivors of trauma and abuse.
As a result, this card can represent the pain and rage which, when not allowed expression in the outer world, is often turned inward against oneself.