The Eight of Swords is the eighth tarot card in the Minor Arcana suit of Swords and depicts a woman who’s been blindfolded and bound and is surrounded by swords. The swords, which correspond to the mind, suggest that her thoughts and beliefs have served to imprison her or restrict her freedom of movement.

The Eight of Swords corresponds to the element of air and the first decan of the astrological zodiac sign Gemini (0-9 degrees), and it is ruled by the planet Jupiter. In traditional astrology, Jupiter is considered to be in detriment in Gemini because Jupiter’s search for expansive meaning can be curtailed by Gemini’s need to collect detailed tidbits of information. The mind here can become overwhelmed by too much stimuli, leading to difficulty synthesizing it all into a coherent bigger picture.

Where the general meanings of the Major Arcana focus on life’s overarching themes and events, Minor Arcana cards like the Eight of Swords explore and reveal the more subtle changes impacting one’s day-to-day life and near future. The Eight of Swords also bears similarities with its sibling cards the Eight of Cups, Eight of Pentacles, and Eight of Wands, in that all four deal with the manifestation and harnessing of the full potential of one’s strength.

Eight of Swords Keywords

Upright Keywords

Reversed Keywords

decision paralysis, mentally overwhelmed, feeling trapped, binding fear

facing fears, new perspectives, change, self-acceptance

Description of the Eight of Swords Tarot Card

The preceding card, the Seven of Swords, illustrated the power of the mind to either find novel solutions using strategy and wit or, otherwise, to convince us that we must act covertly to get our needs met. The Eight of Swords card shows the result of over-identifying with the machinations of the mind and the ensuing feeling of paralysis that can accompany disempowering narratives.

In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, a woman in a tattered red dress and blindfold stands near the sea shore, bound and alone. Eight swords surround her, alluding to the feeling of being imprisoned within her mind. She stands in a pool of watery mud, which further illustrates the feeling of being stuck. In the background, a gray castle sits against a gray sky, alluding to a forsaken or unreachable home.

While the woman, no doubt, believes herself to be trapped, the fabric that binds her appears to be loose enough to shimmy out of if she believed that she could try. Likewise, the eight swords that surround her do not form a binding enclosure, making it possible for her to simply walk away. The problem is that she believes she is trapped, which effectively entraps her.

Eight of Swords Upright Meaning

When the Eight of Swords appears upright in a tarot reading, it is an invitation to reflect on the ways that your thoughts and self-beliefs may be working against you, keeping you stuck or trapped in cyclical and disempowering narratives. You may have created a story about your situation that needs revisiting and revising. If the thoughts, narratives, and beliefs you hold consistently reinforce a victim mentality, or reasons why you cannot do or have what you desire, it may be time to re-examine those self-imposed beliefs.

The Eight of Swords upright can appear when you are experiencing decision paralysis. Your mind could be racing, churning, and whirring as you try to compare multiple options or paths forward. This card suggests that you try to find a way to detach from the situation, temporarily walk away or take a break in order to gain valuable perspective

At other times, the Eight of Swords upright can indicate that you may be keeping yourself stuck by refusing to make a choice or take decisive action in certain areas of your life. Accepting your own power to make decisions could feel scary, and the fear of committing to a singular path forward is keeping you from being able to move forward with clarity. This card is an encouragement to find the courage and self-confidence to face what scares you and to make choices that empower you.

The Eight of Swords can indicate that the mind has turned on itself and that you could be turning to coping mechanisms that keep you trapped in this cycle even further. This card suggests the need for strategies, practices, and tools that can soothe the mind, ground the body, and restore equilibrium to the nervous system.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

In a love tarot reading, the Eight of Swords upright suggests that you are finding it difficult to make yourself available for relationships because of disempowering beliefs about your worth. You may be keeping yourself stuck by identifying with your inner critic who tries to convince you that there is no hope. This card is an encouragement to connect to your innate worthiness and claim your right to loving connections.

The upright Eight of Swords may also suggest that you are operating from the belief that you are trapped, either in a relationship or in a dynamic with your partner that feels cyclical and suffocating. This card comes as a reminder that you can create the change you need by facing your truth and finding the courage to take the necessary action that will set you free.

Love/relationships upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

disempowering beliefs about worthiness, identifying with the inner critic, feeling trapped

playing small, lack of belief in self, fear of leaving an unsatisfying job

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

The Eight of Swords upright asks if you are making decisions about your work out of fear or out of negative assumptions about yourself or your future. If you are playing small out of a lack of belief in yourself, this card is an encouragement to examine your beliefs and find ways of connecting to your courage and confidence.

The Eight of Swords can also indicate that you are staying in a position, job, or role that you have outgrown but are scared to walk away from. You may be telling yourself that you have no other options and are using your fear to rationalize your situation. This card invites you to consider that you have far more agency than you believe and that you can take action toward what you desire when you abandon your illusions.

Eight of Swords Reversed Meaning

An Eight of Swords in the reversed position of a tarot card reading suggests that you’re freeing yourself from the feeling of being stuck by releasing yourself from limiting beliefs. As old fears and patterns slip away, you can see yourself from a new perspective and find self-acceptance and self-love in this process. From this new vantage point, you can clearly see your gifts, talents, and innate worth.

The Eight of Swords reversed can signify that you are healing traumas or wounds from your past by finding acceptance and forgiveness within. Through this process, you are releasing yourself from focusing on the past and are allowing yourself to appreciate the beauty and the gifts that surround you in the present moment. You could feel a renewed sense of hope as you connect to the blessings in your life.

The reversed Eight of Swords can signify embracing change and standing up to what scares you. If you have been avoiding making a decision, pursuing a dream, or confronting the inner critic within, this card can signify that you are no longer willing to stay stuck. You are ready to take matters into your own hands and make positive changes in your life.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

The reversed Eight of Swords can signify that you are ready to leave behind a relationship that feels suffocating or restricting. You could be coming to terms with the negative effect this relationship has on your well-being and are ready to make necessary changes. By walking away from this relationship, you make space to reconnect to your authentic self and feel free once again.

The reversed Eight of Swords can also indicate that you are seeing through repetitive and negative patterns within your relationship and are ready to stop this cycle that is keeping you trapped in a feeling of endless conflict. You could be connecting to important truths about yourself or your relationship that allow you to see it in a new light and make positive changes that will free you from this dynamic.

Love/relationships reversed keywords

Career/finance reversed keywords

walking away from a relationship, reconnecting to authentic self, breaking repetitive or negative patterns

facing what scares you, no longer playing small, managing feelings of being overwhelmed

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

The reversed Eight of Swords can indicate that you are realizing the ways you’ve been playing small within your work or career and are no longer willing to settle. With these newfound realizations, you can start to make positive changes, face what scares you, and claim your power.

The Eight of Swords reversed may indicate that you are learning to manage feelings of anxiety and fear connected to your work by employing tools and practices that enable you to feel calm, grounded, and stable. When you disconnect from the stimulus, thoughts, and fears that overwhelm and paralyze you, you learn to manage and accept the uncertainty and flux of life.