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Nine of Swords

“At cocktail parties, I played the part of a successful businessman's wife to perfection. I smiled, I made polite chit-chat, and I dressed the part. Denial and rationalization were two of my most effective tools in working my way through our social obligations. I believed that playing the roles of wife and mother were the least I could do to help support Tom's career. During the day, I was a puzzle with innumerable pieces. One piece made my family a nourishing breakfast. Another piece ferried the kids to school and to soccer practice. A third piece managed to trip to the grocery store. There was also a piece that wanted to sleep for eighteen hours a day and the piece that woke up shaking from yet another nightmare. And there was the piece that attended business functions and actually fooled people into thinking I might have something constructive to offer. I was a circus performer traversing the tightwire, and I could fall off into a vortex devoid of reality at any moment. There was, and had been for a very long time, an intense sense of despair. A self-deprecating voice inside told me I had no chance of getting better. I lived in an emotional black hole.”

― Suzie Burke, Wholeness: My Healing Journey from Ritual Abuse

Anyone who is familiar with Tarot will understand the connotation that the Nine of Swords is a very difficult card.

Very often it is associated with the dark night of the soul. Another aphorism might be that the darkest hour is right before the dawn. Whatever your spin is on this card the word dark is urging itself to be added into the description.

But what does dark mean?

Most decks have images that suggest extreme anxiety and despair and it is very unlikely that there is one single person who has not experienced these often debilitating states of being. You could say that this nine represents the type of mental health that we are all prone to be in at various stages of our lives. It is said that a little anxiety is good for us because it maintains a balance and jolts us into an awareness which seems as though it is placed on another realm of existence. Yet if we work with anxiety it can be a time of empowerment and spiritual brevity.

This is worth remembering when we perform consultations.

The majority of those that seek a reading are often in need of a pacifier, something to allay their extreme anxieties. The knots have tangled themselves up and it is only when the seekers speak of themselves that the tangles unravel. In a way we have to walk with that person so that they can see the emerging picture, to see where it all began and to see all the flotsam and jetsam that goes with it.

As a nine it falls into the realm of the unconscious.

The Nine of Swords shows that chink, in the depths, that is too painful for rational thought. Not unlike the moon, our perceptions glow from a half light, shadowy and undistinguished. If we look at the RWS deck we see the bedspread which has the zodiac signs and the red rose of passion which indicate, that as a human, we are experiencing something that all humans do, a kind of world sorrow. This sadness happens all over the world to everyone and I defy anyone reading this to say that they do not or cannot relate to feelings of abject emotion. The rose may also suggest suffering in silence; a silent torture that is inexplicable.

It is interesting that it is the nightmare card.

There is a sense that the dynamics of this card are associated with the night. This could be because during the day we get on with life, we put on our face for shopping, work, taking the kids to school, walking the dog, chores, or whatever we do in the daily humdrum of existence. We adopt the appropriate face that we think will express where we are at with the world yet when night falls and we are in our bed the face falls and we are alone with our fears. And very often these fears are the worse case scenarios that haunt our most positive sense of optimism until we are convinced that only the bottomless abyss may exist.

I have come to understand that the Nine of Swords is possibly one of the most spiritual cards in the deck.

I am reminded of Psalm 6 especially verse 6:

The Psalm of David.

1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? 4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. 5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? 6 I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. 7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. 8 Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. 9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.

From this dark of the night of the soul, we can come to prayer.

Whatever your belief or life path there comes a point when we reach out. I have come to understand that very often prayer is a way of communicating with your higher self, that all-knowing, all-forgiving aspect of the self that can guide you through the most of adverse of conditions. From the suffering and struggle we build a spiritual armoury of confidence, courage, hope and compassion. We learn the meaning of the Sufi saying, ’And this too shall pass.’ We strive to conquer.

Even in the midst of pain there is the possibility of rebirth and creation. We can only ever go forward.

The twilight of our inability to construct anything positive or useful can be the catalyst for powerful illumination. Thoughts are weapons of mass destruction when allowed to wander through our mental range unhindered. There is a lot to be said for consciously willing our thoughts to be happy and uplifting; this is sometimes a challenge but it is a folly to expect that happiness be an entitlement. Yes, bliss is part of our natural heritage but it should be attained through self-knowledge and awareness.

This bring mindfulness into a whole new context.

In this age where lack and want as well as self-depreciation are obligatory and fundamental in society, it is vital to harness the whole of our being into that which will evolve from the place of love.


  • Try not to tell people what to do

  • Empathy is helpful but be careful of creating confusion from the need to relate

  • Steer people towards finding their own answers

  • Do listen...sometimes all people want is a listening ear

  • Understand the nature of grief and be mindful of underlying pain

  • Don’t judge anyone who is struggling with their suffering

  • If needs be point someone towards professional assistance

  • Look for any suggestions that the person may have powerful spiritual aspects which require uncovering

  • Always be honest with your insights but be aware of how you communicate that

  • Do look at the chain of events that led up to a point of anguish, there could be comfort in understanding a cycle.

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