Eight of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

By Charrette Vachon

In the Rider Waite tarot deck, this card features a bound and blindfolded woman in a red dress, eight swords plunged point-down in the muddied ground around her. Her head is ducked, resigned to her fate instead of attempting to free herself from loose bindings with any of the sharp swords that surround her. Under the greying sky, a mountain town rises in the background behind her, surely close enough that help would come if the woman only cried out for it, but her mouth remains a stoic line.

The Eight of Swords is a card of paralyzing fear and learned helplessness. Though the woman has ample opportunity to free herself or find help, she continues to stand there, alone, accepting her situation and unwilling to take action to change it. She’s committed to the act of playing the victim, whether purposefully or just because she’s scared to change the narrative, it’s impossible to tell just by looking. There’s little about her situation that is genuinely a threat to her, though, only her imagination of what is on the other side of her blindfold. Nothing about her situation will change unless she finds the courage to change it, that is the one thing we know for certain.

Visual Elements and Symbolism

  • Element: Air
  • Planet: Jupiter
  • Astrological Sign: Gemini
  • Key d+Dates: May 21 to 31

The Eight of Swords Card as a Person

As a person, the Eight of Swords is someone who always has an excuse for why they can’t remove themselves from an unpleasant situation or solve their current problems. To everyone around them, the solution might be simple. If you don’t want to be at the party, simply leave. But this person worries that it will insult the friend that invited them, and what if they miss something important? They can’t go searching for a new job despite their current one making them miserable because they can’t leave their current coworkers, filling out applications is annoying, and they doubt a new job will be any better so what’s the point? At every turn, the Eight of Swords is a martyr or a victim of circumstances, and in most cases, they genuinely struggle to see how the proposed solutions are any better than their current conflict when both situations just leave them anxious. To them, not acting at all at least prevents a wasted effort, but all anyone else sees is someone who creates problems where there are none and sets needless restrictions on themselves when there’s no need.

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What Does The 8 Card Mean In Tarot

The Eight of Swords Upright

When upright, the Eight of Swords is a card of uncertainty and anxiety. When it shows up in a reading, expect to be surrounded by fears of the unknown and plagued with thoughts about all the ways everything can go wrong, but understand that those worries are based on your imagination, not anything that’s grounded in reality.

You may feel like you’re only being cautious or saving yourself from future pain, it may feel as if the danger you’re imagining is a very real threat, but if you spent time digging deeper into those fears, at their root you would see that they’re merely a product of lacking confidence in yourself and your abilities. No amount of agonizing over every possibility or combing through every word will ever completely ensure you’re prepared for everything the future brings.

Love and Relationships

In a relationship reading, the Eight of Swords is a sure sign of insecurity that can manifest in several ways.

For those that are single, the Eight of Swords implies that you may be suffering from self-sabotage. You may have your walls built so high to protect yourself that you come up with reasons to avoid putting yourself out there or find faults with potential partners that aren’t there so you have an excuse to decline that first or second date. The true struggle isn’t with finding the perfect match, it’s in overcoming your fear of vulnerability and your feelings of not being desirable enough.

If you’re already in a relationship, your insecurity might be causing you to look for problems where there are none. You may be suspicious of everything your partner says and does, twisting even the most innocent things to fit some conflict you’ve created in your head. If every conversation seems to only lead to arguments and accusations, your significant other is going to have a difficult time sympathizing with you and it’s only going to lead to frustration for the both of you.

Talk to your partner and learn to start healthy, open discussions about your anxiety and insecurity. It’s time to start realizing that you’re acting out of fear, not logic.


In a career reading, the Eight of Swords tends to represent self-sabotage. You may be denying yourself a promotion opportunity because you’re scared you won’t be able to handle the workload. Your lack of confidence could lead you to work slower or create problems for yourself and cause undue conflicts with your coworkers.

Even worse, your lack of confidence may lead you to believe you don’t deserve to rise through the ranks as quickly as others believe you deserve to, resulting in a feeling of inadequacy and imposter syndrome. Your hesitance and doubt will eventually result in a breakdown of communication between you and your coworkers and your quality of work will suffer for it.

While the fear of failure is common, the fear of success can be just as paralyzing sometimes. Do your best and let your work speak for itself. The hardest part is getting over your own inner critic.


Despite being in a financially stable space, you may be counting every penny right now and saving resources in the fear that you won’t have enough for some future emergency. The actual number in your bank account will matter little to the growing anxiety that you won’t have enough in the future nor will hoarding toilet paper benefit you in a crisis. Holding yourself back from the occasional treat isn’t going to help you feel less stressed about the future. It might be a good idea to talk to a professional about your anxiety if gets bad enough.


Anxiety surrounding your health plagues your thoughts when the Eight of Swords comes up in a health reading, although like everything else with this card, the biggest threat to yourself is your own imagination. You may feel like every upset stomach or sneeze portent some serious illness, but you make excuses to avoid seeing a doctor because you’re scared of the news you might receive. Anxiety is a threat all on its own, one that can cause physical symptoms if left to ravage your mind. The only way you’ll be able to rest easy is to get checked out and be told for sure what’s going on.

The Eight of Swords Reversed

Though there’s much work still left ahead of you, the Eight of Swords reversed is one of slowly learning how to free yourself and adjust your thoughts. You’re starting to rationalize your fears and gently coax them towards the truth of the situation: that not everything will end in disaster, and not everyone will hurt you.

Trusting yourself is a long process, and fearful ways of thinking eventually become a habit, but if you’re aware of them you can consciously work on correcting and guiding them, reminding yourself of all the wonderful things that might happen instead. Or at least the most realistic result.

Love and Relationships

If you’re single, the Eight of Swords reversed represents a cautiously optimistic attitude. You still put up walls and struggle with insecurities, but you’re aware of them now and make a conscious effort to open yourself up to new people in your life. Letting a potential partner know about your insecurities can help them understand you better and meet you in the middle.

If you’re already in a relationship, you may be struggling with a secret you’ve kept from your partner and be debating with yourself about coming clean to them. Whatever it is, it takes up a lot of your mental space and leaves you feeling guilty and afraid. Your partner has probably noticed you distancing yourself from them, but unless you tell them why your actions will only be confusing and upsetting for them. To free yourself from the guilt and have a chance of pulling the relationship back onto a healthy track, you’ll need to tell them.


You’re finally starting to find your footing in the workplace and letting yourself be more confident. This might feel like you’re taking a bit of a risk, but the success you’ll feel afterward will be well worth the nervousness you feel at first. Once you start realizing your full potential, your coworkers and superiors will see it too. Just take things one step at a time and trust yourself to know what you’re doing.


When it comes to money, the Eight of Swords represents shaking yourself free from financial stress. You have enough disposable income that you finally feel like you can treat yourself without feeling guilty or anxious afterward. The trick will be to learn when to listen to the voice that tells you to save up a bit, and when it’s merely old insecurities coming to the surface.


In a health reading, the Eight of Swords reversed shows that you’re having an easier time when it comes to checking on your health. You no longer avoid making appointments or dread the terrible news you’ll hear at every check-up, which in turn can only help your physical health as any problems can be caught early and dealt with sooner.

The real benefit here is your mental health. Breaking free of fear and anxiety is a huge step to take. You’re changing your negative thoughts and while there’s still a long way to go, every small step is something to celebrate. You may have even sought out professional help and are starting to see the positive results of your hard work.

Your Past, Present, and Future

In the past position, the Eight of Swords represents setting yourself on fire to keep other people warm. You’ve put the wants and comforts of others above your own, and tolerated uncomfortable situations just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, often at the detriment of your own mental health. You may have felt like doing everything you can to avoid conflict was somehow sparing the people around you, but found that you only hurt yourself in the end.

In the present position, the Eight of Swords represents inaction due to fear and uncertainty. You may feel overwhelmed with information and scared of making the wrong choice or upsetting someone with your decision, so you simply do nothing. Remember that there comes a time when you need to put your own happiness and success above what other people want for you, and recognize that your life is your own and meant to be lived by you.

In the future position, the Eight of Swords is a reminder that no amount of preparation will truly cover every situation. That doesn’t mean something will happen, it just means that stressing yourself out now in the hopes of preparing for every possible disaster isn’t going to benefit you. There are some things you’ll just have to take as they are, and trust yourself to figure them out along the way.

Important Card Combinations

Eight of Swords and Queen of Cups

The Queen of Cups represents creativity and empathy, and when paired with the Eight of Swords, represents a struggle between your self-doubt and your desire to create and help others. This combination shows someone who stifles their creativity out of fear that it won’t be good enough, and who avoids offering good advice just in case it’s wrong.

Eight of Swords and Moon

The Moon represents the unconscious mind and inner knowledge, and when paired with the Eight of Swords, shows that you’re starting to look within yourself to analyze your fear and confusion. With the Moon’s connection to the shadow self, it might be a good time to start doing shadow work to help you reveal the root cause of your fear and inaction.

Eight of Swords and Knight of Pentacles

The Knight of Pentacles represents passions and ambitions, and when paired with the Eight of Swords, can represent someone hesitant to start working in a field they’re passionate about because they’re worried they won’t find it as enjoyable as they hope, or that they won’t find success with it. Instead, they curb their ambitions or settle for doing something they enjoy far less.

Eight of Swords: Yes or No Questions

With all the insecurity and indecision surrounding the Eight of Swords card, your own fears and anxieties will block you from the path you desire. The answer will likely be no.