Gemini I: The Eight of Swords

Our Decan Walk has finally entered the sign of Gemini. The Eight of Swords is the card associated with the First Decan of Gemini, which covers 0° to 10° of that sign. In 2021, the Sun was in Gemini I from May 20th to May 30th. The sign of Gemini is ruled by Mercury, and its first Decan is governed by Jupiter.

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The Eight of Swords

Well, I warned you last time that the Swords are not the most cheerful of cards. How could they be? They are all about pointy things that are crafted specifically to hurt people.

When you approach the Rider-Waite-Smith version of this card just on face value, it’s bleak. The landscape is marshy and barren. The sky is grey and colorless, and off in the distance is a craggy mountain topped by a castle that seems distant and uncaring. The main character is bound and hoodwinked and surrounded by eight swords, which are presumably sharp.

This card had me in a quagmire of writer’s block for a while. I couldn’t think of anything clever to say about it. I read the entry for the Eight of Swords in Coleman Stevenson’s Dark Exact Tarot Guide, which provided me with a burst of inspiration, but even that fizzled. It wasn’t until I pulled the card from the Rota Tarot deck and really took a look that it hit me: it’s the Hod trap!

I don’t believe I’ve ever written about it before, but there is a concept in Hermetic Qabalah that each of the sefirot has an aspect that acts as a challenge that you must conquer before properly assimilating that sefirah and moving up the Tree of Life. Hod is the sefirah of intellect, logic, memory, and knowledge – a good match for the Swords. The Eights are all associated with Hod, which makes the Eight of Swords a particularly hairy card when interpreted through the lens of Hermetic Qabalah. I have often mused that the challenge of this sefirah, which I call the Hod trap, is to be so bound up in the mind, so bound up in intricacies and trying to be smart, that you can’t move forward.

Once I realized this, I realized what I wanted to say about this card. It is indeed about being bound up in thought. It is not necessarily a card of self doubt. The dangers this card warns of could be quite real. The problem is that you can never have enough information to navigate those dangers. The Eight of Swords whispers to you constantly that maybe one more piece of information will be the bit that shows you the safe passage through all threats and perils. But it will never come. That’s the trap of this card, what you need to avoid.

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