Tarot Card Meanings – The 9 of Swords

Card Description
A character sits up in bed with their head in their hands. The sky is black and 9 swords hang ominously overhead, their points out of the picture. The lowest sword is in line with the heart chakra; the second sword up seems to pierce both the throat and 3rd eye chakra; the third sword up is in line with the crown chakra.

A scene of a fight is carved into the side of the bed. It seems as though the person on the right has just dealt the killing blow. Behind the victorious character is a small tree. The bed cover is decorated in a check pattern of red, blue and yellow and decorated with red poppies. Interspersed with these are the signs of the zodiac and the planets.


Astrological Associations
Mars in Gemini

Card Meaning
swords09The card immediately portrays someone who has been awakened, startled by a nightmare or bad dream. The hands over their eyes indicates that they are crying or trying to ‘not see’ what they could see in the dream. The body language suggests distress. As they are alone in the middle of the night, we can imagine them feeling afraid, lonely and upset.

Maybe this person hasn’t got to sleep at all. Maybe they can’t sleep because they are worrying. Perhaps they are going over and over something which was said (Gemini) that made them angry or afraid. Perhaps they suspect something is wrong in their life but don’t know the truth.

When this card appears in a reading, it indicates stress and anxiety is taking a toll on your mind and body. Sleep is healing and restorative, yet here sleep has been disturbed. You may be tossing and turning, waiting for the endless night to end.

The three swords piercing the chakras mentioned above, suggests that you may be experiencing some kind of heartache. You can’t talk to anyone about it and neither can you see a way out because anxiety is over-riding your intuitive connection to the universe or higher self. None of the points of the swords are visible – perhaps you are engaged in pointless fretting, not getting to the point (of understanding) or simply feeling that everything is pointless.

Notice that in the carved scene, the tree seems small compared to the fighting characters. Perhaps your thoughts and fears are out of proportion to the real issue. Alternatively, the tree may appear small because it’s in the distance. Maybe you have got so caught up in the internal ‘fight’ that you have become ungrounded and disconnected from earthy wisdom. Mars (the bringer of war, aggression, will and desire) in Gemini (mind, communication, thoughts, knowledge) tends towards mental battles. The constellation Gemini is represented by the twins. Mars in Gemini can err towards arguments, a war of words and constantly defending their thoughts from the opinions of others. The fighting characters in the carving are maybe the original brothers Cain and Abel who were born of Adam and Eve. Cain was the firstborn and eventually killed his brother Abel (the first human to die). Cain was essentially the first murderer, the first to kill his brother. On an archetypal level, it can be suggested that Abel was the shadow-self of Cain. Maybe you fear you have done something wrong, or perhaps you have been on the receiving end of wrong-doing. In the middle of the night, when all is quiet, your shadows rise up to haunt you.

The red poppies on the yellow fabric in the bed cover is another reference to Mars in Gemini as Mars is associated with the colour red and Gemini is associated with the colour yellow. Poppies are connected to sleep, death and peace because of the opiates that naturally occur in them, namely morphine and codeine. Both are pain relievers although given in high enough doses, both can kill (bringing peace after pain). Maybe you are desperately looking for a way out of pain but because no solution is pain free, you cannot move forwards. Instead you are endlessly going round in circles driving yourself crazy trying to find a better solution when none is available. There may be a need to accept that sometimes it’s about having to choose the lesser of two evils.

One of the most interesting features of this card is the signs of the planets and zodiac woven into the bed cover. You are still connected to the universe even if you cannot see it. Relief is available to if you can only connect the dots in your mind. Nightmares are messages to be unravelled which can bring the peace you are yearning for. The colour blue as the background to the symbols represents healing. The astrological chart represents the totality of human experience. Knowledge of the chart brings self-awareness and understanding and understanding of self strengthens the mind. It is in our darkest hours that personal transformation can take place.

The 9 of Swords can show up in a reading after extremely distressing circumstances such as separation, death and loss. In these cases, it shows your private agony which needs to be gently addressed. It may be necessary to talk things through with a good friend or therapist (look for the King of Cups as an indicator of a helping hand).

Overall, this card is a signal that you need to relax, step back your problems and fears and find a way to quieten the mind to gain clarity. You have become too caught up in your thoughts to be able to see anything clearly. There may be a need to talk things through with someone else to allay your worst fears. Generally, your fears are bigger than the problem is. Dreams need to be analysed.

The 9 of Swords reversed tends to accentuate its upright meaning. This can mean that you have been suffering from anxiety for a long time or that there is a deep seated cause to the current anxiety. Nightmares may be violent or so terrifying you don’t want to go to sleep.

Turning the card upside down, it seems as though the character is going to fall out of bed right onto the swords! The inability to make a decision or resolve inner conflict creates a bigger problem than that which occurred initially. There can be a tendency to ignore very real problems. Upside down, the swords are like a barred window which suggests being imprisoned by your thoughts.

I acknowledge and release my pain.

Keywords and Phrases
Upright – Nightmares, bad dreams, insomnia, sleepless nights, anxiety getting the better of you, unfounded fears, pining, imagining the worst, driving yourself crazy, anguish, private grief, sleep disorders, excessive worry takes a toll on health, crying yourself to sleep, disconnection, internal arguments, thoughts spiralling out of control, remorse, making mountains out of molehills, mental cruelty, a victim of your thoughts, defeatist thinking, stress, things aren’t as bad as you think they are, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Reversed – Things that go bump in the night, night terrors, sleep walking, having no choice other than to accept responsibility for ones actions, a waking nightmare, dark night of the soul, a guilty conscience, no rest for the wicked, haunted by the past, well founded suspicion, agony, consequences, avoidance behaviour, being too afraid to face up to things, imprisoned/incarcerated (metaphorically or literally), agoraphobia, emotional breakdown, inability to ‘let it go’.

Image- Nine of Swords – Rider Waite deck

1 thought on “Tarot Card Meanings – The 9 of Swords”

  1. Thank you for publishing this… I’m reading into something someone told a friend regarding her niece’s disappearance, and it confirms everything the girl was going to before she vanished… She disappeared in 2009, and has not been seen since. Her name was Jolene Stephens. We fear the worst, and do believe we know who is responsible. Thank you for your help. Blessed be.

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