Nine of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

By Charrette Vachon

The Nine of Swords is sometimes called the Lord of Cruelty, and for good reason. This is one of the worst cards to see in a spread as it symbolizes guilt, anguish, and depression. When revealed, the Nine of Swords warns you of struggles and internal turmoil, now and in the near future.

  • Element: Air
  • Planet: Mars
  • Astrological Sign: Gemini
  • Key Dates: June 1st – 10th

Visual Elements and Symbolism

In the classic Rider-Waite deck, the Nine of Swords card shows a man sitting up in bed, holding his head in his hands. His anguish is immediately apparent. He is dressed in a white robe, which hangs loosely from his arms. Above his head, you’ll see nine swords. They appear menacing and ominous, a symbol of the inner psychological turmoil the man is facing.

The man’s bed is ornately carved, but if you look closely, you’ll notice the carvings depict a battle scene in which the enemy is about to be overcome. The carvings symbolize a horrible act that the man committed in his past. It is this act that still keeps him awake at night, worried and restless. He relives this battle again and again, wishing he could go back in time and change his actions.

The man is resting under a quilt covered in astrological signs and beautiful flowers. However, he cannot see these decorations as he is covering his face with his hands. Similarly, in his life, he is and has always been blind to the signs around him.

The Nine of Swords as a Person

The Nine of Swords does not represent a particular person so much as it represents a state of being that a person may fall into or experience. This state of being is depression or deep mental anguish.

A person who is in this state has experienced something terrible in the past. Instead of finding the will to pick themselves up and move forward, they are still dwelling in the trauma. They may lie awake at night ruminating over details of their past and wondering what they could have done differently. They may replay conversations in their mind, wishing they could have spoken more eloquently. These ruminations greatly undermine their self-confidence and can lead to stagnation in their career, relationships, and self development.

The Nine of Swords Upright: Positive Meanings

When the Nine of Swords is revealed in the upright position, it suggests you are in a negative mental state. Remaining in this state is making it difficult for you to function in life. You may be aware of this, but you’re still struggling to move past the bad experience.

As you replay past events in your mind, you may trick yourself into thinking you’re being productive or fixing things. But in reality, you’re obsessing about a situation you cannot change. You would be better off setting these struggles down and leaving them in the past. Stop reliving these events, and instead, accept that they happened and start moving forward.

Love and Relationships

When revealed in a love reading, the Nine of Swords is a bad omen. It symbolizes a dark cloud looming over your partnership. You might have noticed something “off” about your partner’s behavior, and now you’re struggling to trust them. Perhaps you caught them in a white lie, or maybe their habits have become strange and uncharacteristic.

You’re now scrutinizing your partner’s actions and trying to hone in on exactly what’s amiss. In the process, you are causing your partner to feel self-conscious, and you’re creating more distance in the relationship. Your partner may not be deserving of this treatment. It’s very possible that you’re over-reacting to their change in behavior, which has a very good and honest explanation.

If you’re single, the Nine of Swords suggests that you stay that way – at least for a while. Past relationships have left you feeling jaded and skeptical. You’ll need to let go of this trauma before you’re able to be in a healthy, trusting relationship again. Loosen your grip on the past, bring yourself back into the moment, and figure out what you want in a relationship before pursuing new love.


The Nine of Swords suggests you’re struggling in your career. Perhaps you feel stuck in a rut, or maybe a mistake you made in the past is still impacting your current work performance. Your coworkers or supervisor may be unfairly focusing on this mistake and not giving you the opportunity to move on. The best you can do is laugh it off. Repeatedly trying to explain or defend your actions drags out the mistake. It’s time to let it fade away.


If this card is revealed in a financial reading, money is tight. Perhaps you made a financial mistake in the recent past, and now, you’re facing insecurity. The best you can do is own up to your mistake and hold yourself accountable. Keep moving forward, and use what you’ve learned to improve in the future. Fortunately, the Nine of Swords reassures you that your current financial situation is temporary.


The Nine of Swords suggests an insecure position in terms of your health. You may be worrying about every itch, pain, and bump you experience, and it is keeping you up at night. But your physical ailments can actually be traced back to your mental state. Obsessive thinking and a lack of sleep are causing your body to rebel against you.

It’s time to make an appointment with a medical professional who can help you navigate both your mental and physical struggles. Break the cycle, and you’ll start to feel better.

The Nine of Swords Reversed: Negative Meanings

The Nine of Swords is somewhat less ominous when revealed in the reversed position, rather than the upright position. It suggests you’ve been forced to take ownership for your actions and that you’ve accepted the consequences of your mistakes. You may still feel apprehensive about the future, but you’re becoming more optimistic by the day.

Love and Relationships

In a love reading, the reversed Nine of Swords suggests you’ve found closure, but you’re still not ready for new love. You’re still struggling with mistrust and a lack of self-confidence. This is a time to seek comfort within yourself, and not through someone else.

If you’re currently in a relationship, this card suggests you’re putting undue strain on your partner. You’re suspicious of them or struggling to trust them. Take this as a reminder to communicate about your feelings instead of hiding them.


A past mistake is coming back to haunt you at work, and you’re feeling insecure about it. Perhaps you were recently demoted or formally disciplined. This experience was stressful, and you were right to feel bad about it. However, it is now time to accept that you made a mistake and focus on moving forward. You’ve learned from the mistake already, so you can stop beating yourself up. Use your stress to fuel your productivity, and you’ll soon rise above this situation.


The reversed Nine of Swords suggests that your current financial worries are largely unfounded. You’ve been very conservative with your spending out of fear, and perhaps because you feel like you need to punish yourself for previous financial mistakes. This self-punishment is not necessary. You’re in a better financial position than you realize.

Avoid reacting to this news by overspending, as that will set you back. Instead, focus on gradually loosening your grip on your money. Spend a little more on things you enjoy. Add a treat or two to your weekly grocery purchase, or buy that little trinket you’ve been admiring.


If the reversed Nine of Swords is revealed in a health reading, you’re feeling guilty about your current state of health. Maybe you overindulged, and now you feel miserable. You’re now beating yourself up for your lack of self control and discipline. Work on letting this go.

If the struggle to control your habits is a longer-term problem, this is a sign you should seek professional advice. Addressing your psychological woes will put you in a better position to care for your physical health.


The past position is the most positive position for the Nine of Swords. This card symbolizes something terrible that happened in your past. You’ve been revisiting this experience too often, and the Nine of Swords in the past position reminds you to leave your anguish behind.

When revealed in the present position, the Nine of Swords suggests that you’re currently facing a trying time. You may feel like you’ll be stuck in this place forever, continually lamenting and ruminating on negative experiences. This card is a reminder that your mental state is temporary. Reach out to those around you for help; they are willing to offer it.

In the future position, the Lord of Cruelty suggests you’re about to experience a traumatic event. Your partner may break up with you, or you may lose a job. Deep down, you’ve known this is coming and have been worrying about it.

Important Card Combinations

The Nine of Swords represents a negative mental state originating with a hardship or traumatic event. Cards paired with the Nine of Swords add context to the situation.

Nine of Swords and Lovers

When these two cards are paired together, they represent unexpected romantic feelings for someone. You feel guilty for being attracted to this person, and as such, you’ve been suppressing your attraction. This pair could also suggest you’re still attracted to your ex and ruminating on the details of your past relationship.

Nine of Swords and Hermit

You find social interaction challenging, uncomfortable, and anxiety-inducing. You may want to improve your social skills but be unsure of how to do so. As you begin pursuing this goal, remember that you’re not alone. Many people struggle with social anxiety, and you can overcome it.

Nine of Swords and Queen of Swords

This pairing reveals that you’re facing a big decision. That decision has the potential to impact your social standing, and as such, it is giving you great distress. You do not want to be perceived negatively as a result of your decisions.

So far, you’ve been holding your emotions inside and doing your best to maintain a calm disposition in spite of your inner turmoil. The Queen of Swords reminds you to find a positive outlet for your strong emotions. Or, let go of your need to wear a mask, and let your true feelings on the topic be known to those involved. You’ll be admired for your honesty.

Nine of Swords: Yes or No Questions

This is a very negative card that always answers “no.”