Tuesday 6 June 2017

Gemini in the Minor Arcana: The Nine of Swords

Today we move on to the Nine of Swords, which - in the system I use - is linked to Mars in Gemini, and the middle ten days of this sign (31st May to 10th June, approximately).

Just to recap: Gemini is the mutable Air sign, so we’re concerned with the exchange of knowledge and information through networks, through language and ideas.  It’s about communication, as well as the market place. Mars brings determination, drive, assertiveness, perhaps even some aggression into the mix.  Fire and Air – that suggests passionate conversations, curiosity around new ideas, perhaps a suggestion of open-mindedness.  Not the things we usually associate with the Nine of Swords, though, so what are we missing?

Nine of Swords (trimmed):
©Sharman-Burke/Caselli Tarot
The Nine of Swords is often called the card of nightmares. It’s about unfounded fears – not unlike the Eight of Swords, in a way; fears that aren’t based in reality.  Here though, we have the conflict (Mars) between what we think (Gemini/Air) and what we feel (the passion of Mars, perhaps) – symbolized in the Sharman-Burke/Caselli image by the air symbols and red hearts on the quilt.  Notice how the swords don’t touch the girl – just like the Eight of Swords; the situation is not always as bad as we think or fear it is. There could also be an element of being uncertain of what it is we want, and the doubt that comes with that being blown out of proportion by Martian energy – harsh or cruel words that create a deep wound, for instance, making us feel ashamed or oppressed for no good reason.

Nine of Swords (trimmed):
© Shadowsacpes Tarot
There’s a sense of that Mars in the Shadowscapes’ version too – we see a hunter with a gun in this image.  But he also has wings, a means of heading upwards towards the bright orb above him – a pinprick of hope - should he choose to.  He’s doubting himself, torturing himself through fear – but there’s a way out of it, if he ‘wakes up’.

The number ‘9’ is thought by some to be magical – it certainly appears often in many mythologies: the Nine Muses, the Celtic nine-fold sisterhood, the nine sisters’ rulership of the Fortunate Isles, and so on). These tie into the concept of choosing to start a new cycle, something we often consider in tarot – the nine being the penultimate card before the end of one cycle or phase, and preparation for a new one. In the Swords, this can represent the sorrow and the mental anguish that comes at the end of something, be it a separation or bereavement – but it also carries the knowledge that ‘this too shall pass’.

Nine of Swords (trimmed):
© SDruidCraft Tarot
I often think of the phrase’ light at the end of the tunnel’ when I look at the Druid Craft’s version of this card. It seems to me that the head of the bed is bathed in light, and the swords glint as if there’s light coming in from the left side of the card. As the Swords are associated with dawn in the Druid Craft (and in other decks), this could be the sun rising. 

Nine of Swords (trimmed):
© Thoth Tarot
The Thoth version takes this to another level, that of ‘cruelty’ to ourselves.  It sees the passion of Mars becoming revenge, or even martyrdom – a tendency to put ourselves down in a harsh, critical way.  Gemini is linked to our early childhood, our relationship with siblings as well as teachers – our formative years. If we remember harsh comments or criticisms from that time, we may continue to perpetuate these ourselves, becoming our own worst critic – and probably intensifying the original comment or criticism (or what we perceived as criticism).  The nine swords represent suffering – through lack of clarity.  We no longer have the ability to see things as they are, because our thoughts have become ‘destructive’ – we’ve lost the ability to make choices.  We need to open our minds again, to see and recognize the reality of the situation.

Beginner’s Guide to the Tarot created by Juliet Sharman-Burke, illustrated by Giovanni Caselli, published by Connections

DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections

Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn

Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris. Published by US Games Systems Inc.

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