Eight of Swords Meaning: Upright and Reversed

Are you feeling trapped, confined, restricted, or backed into a corner? Do you feel like you’re being silenced or censored? These are the key elements that this card touches on. But there’s no sense in getting stuck in feelings of hopelessness. The Sword suit, in general, touches on challenging situations, thoughts, and feelings- but should we fear cards in the suit of swords? This article will touch on the challenges that the Eight of Swords signifies but also offer a different perspective so you can deal with these challenges head-on instead of wallowing in them. 

Eight of Swords Keywords:


Restriction, control, fear, blindness. not seeing the larger picture, backed into a corner, extreme fear (paralyzed from fear), helpless, feeling bound, being bound, hands tied, no escape, judgment, punishment


Freedom, facing fears, mental strength & clarity, empowerment, release, breaking free, transmutation of fear, surrender, extreme oppression, severe depression

Eight of Swords Overall Meaning (Upright)

The Eight of Swords is a Minor Arcana card that heralds major feelings of helplessness. There are some frightful themes that we see with this card. This includes feelings of helplessness but also feeling as if you are a slave to a situation, your feelings, or another person. It also alludes to feeling as if you have lost your ability to voice yourself and what is important to you. If you are feeling censored in some area of your life, then this article should help you work through some of those issues. 

Let’s dive in.

It’s important to note here that while many people will feel a cold shiver down their spine when drawing an Eight of Swords, it doesn’t mean that bad things are coming your way. Instead, look at it as a reflection of things as the way they already are- and this card is helping you to find your freedom. 

When the Eight of Swords appears in a reading, it typically means that you, or the querent, are feeling trapped in some way. The person feels as if the situation is trapping them. But I am here to tell you that this isn’t the case. You are not being trapped or persecuted- because you are imprisoning yourself by feeling that way. In other words, it’s not being done to you, and you are doing it yourself, which means you can free yourself too. And that there is the key- your negative feelings and associations are what are trapping you, not the situation itself. 

Fear is a paralyzing thing. It is healthy in small doses, but not if it is in charge of driving the chariot. You are still in control. So acknowledge the fear and see what it is trying to show you. Then, you need to be proactive about dealing with and facing these fears. Because, as the Eight of Swords shows us, that fear we don’t face will become our prison. This card also touches on themes of judgment and the subsequent punishment we will either face from other people or ourselves. Forgiveness here is the key to setting yourself free. Everyone makes mistakes- and our growth in all areas of life needs to acknowledge the mistakes we make and not imprison and torture ourselves forever because of them. And to do this, we need to forgive ourselves. 

The imagery of the card can help us in understanding it, so let’s decode it. While I will be explaining the Rider Waite card deck, the same concepts are congruent throughout all decks, despite differing imagery. 

The Eight of Swords is not an inspiring card to look at. We see a blindfolded person surrounded by eight swords. We can argue that the blindfold signifies entrapment caused by fear. If you’re blinded by fear, you cannot risk moving forward because of the swords surrounding you. 

 So, what’s stopping you from removing the blindfold and walking away from the swords? 

What if we changed our perception to this: The eight swords of negative thought are not meant to bind. They are there to teach that it’s okay to let go of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back.

Eight of Swords in a Career Context (Upright)

This card signifies that you are feeling trapped in your current position. Just because you can’t see your way out at the moment doesn’t mean that your career is over or you are doomed to stay where you are. You are still in full control of your life and future.

You either don’t like where you’re at in your career and feel trapped in it, or you’re simply not happy with your current position in the company. Either way, things won’t get better until you decide to change it. You must take action and not just sit around and wait for things to improve. If you truly want something to change, then you need to be the one that makes it happen. 

If you are feeling trapped or restricted financially, it may be due to your anxiety about the future rather than any real obstacle. Although the current financial situation is restricting you, there are ways to get what you want and to break free from negative financial cycles. Don’t give in to fear.

Eight of Swords in a Love Reading (Upright)

As you can imagine, receiving the Eight of Swords in a love reading is not exactly an omen of a healthy relationship. But besides a commentary on your partner, this card symbolizes how you are feeling in the relationship, and chances are you are feeling trapped. In some cases, this might be as innocent as not wanting to hurt the other person by breaking things off. In other cases, it might indicate that you feel suffocated by your partner’s expectations and simply need to communicate your true feelings. This card does not predict the future- instead, it simply shines a light on issues that your subconscious already knows are present. With this card appearing, it’s time to deal with your feelings. 

Is the solution always to end the relationship? Not necessarily. Sometimes relationships can overtake the personal- and this happens all too often. Perhaps your partner is insecure in the relationship and is therefore overbearing or controlling. Other times, you are fearful of commitment because it makes you feel trapped. Whatever the case, an open and honest review of your feelings needs to be done- look beyond the feelings to the root of what is causing you to feel trapped or confined. 

If you feel as if you have lost a part of yourself in the relationship, it’s time to begin doing things that you need to do to feel more like yourself. It could be revisiting a hobby that you put to bed after getting involved or simply having some time out to yourself. The writer Khalil Gibran wrote a beautiful sentiment on Love that goes along the lines of “and even in togetherness, let there be space.” 

We can’t move on from this section without touching on a potentially severe aspect this card could bring to light: abuse. The swords can be a tumultuous suit, and if you have received the Eight of Swords in a love and relationship-focused reading, you might be experiencing trouble in an unhealthy relationship. Please reach out for help to organizations dedicated to supporting people going through this kind of issue. 

Overall, many people assume that the Eight of Swords is a severe card to receive- and none more so than in a relationship-focused reading. But the thing is, take time to review the relationship, your feelings, and what you can do to shift things towards a more balanced state.

The Eight of Swords can also symbolize a time of judgment. If there has been any cheating in the relationship or disloyalty, then this could come to light soon if it has not already. 

Another aspect this card shines a light on is something that most of us have experienced at some time or another, placing our happiness outside of ourselves, on our partner’s shoulders. You may have been feeling as if you are waiting for a person to come into your life and sweep away all your troubles. Well, here’s the thing, that knight you’re waiting for? It’s you. Only you are ultimately responsible for your happiness. 

Eight of Swords in a Health Reading (Upright)

Sometimes we can become stuck and frightened. Some of us suffer from anxiety and cannot leave our homes. We may not see the way out because we are not able to see clearly. Sometimes we need physical illness as a sign for us to be able to understand what we are feeling. 

The Eight of Swords is asking you to be honest about how you feel and to address your fears head-on. If you are suffering from ill health, ask yourself: what am I really afraid of? If you are suffering from mental health issues, perhaps it’s time to seek the help of a professional. There is nothing shameful in it, and it can be the first step towards living free from the constraints that our minds can impose. This card is often linked to weight loss and a problem with eyesight. If you have been concerned about any of these issues, then now’s the time to seek support. 

Reversed Eight of Swords

The Eight of Swords can have a more positive tone to its meaning when it is reversed. As we saw with the upright interpretation, this card can signal repression. But when it is reversed, the Eight of Swords symbolizes freedom and facing fears. This can be a positive card to receive when it is reversed, provided that we can dig deep and face our fears. But in some cases, it can also indicate extremes- especially when it comes to oppression and repression. In most cases, the reversed Eight of Swords will either signal a time of release or a time where the already stressful and oppressive situation is reaching a breaking point. When reading the meanings, feel what makes the most sense to you- you will know by that little tug in your tummy. That’s your gut feeling telling you where to find the answers. Let’s take a look at what this card means when it is reversed in specific card readings.

Eight of Swords in a Career Context (Reversed)

On the one hand, the appearance of this card reversed would indicate that you have worked through a lot of your fears and anxiety surrounding your work life and career. On the other hand, it could be the opposite. Use these questions to identify how you are feeling in your career:

  • Are you having more anxiety than usual concerning your career?
  • Are you working in a job that leaves you feeling scared, stressed out, or unhappy?
  • Are you feeling more restricted by your career?

While it’s true that some career paths will limit your potential, it is always true that you have the power to alter your path on any given day. Will it be easy? No, most probably not. But a complete overhaul isn’t always necessary. Perhaps you need to speak up about how certain working conditions are not fair. Or perhaps you need to speak up to get noticed and considered for a new position. And remember, even if you are fearful of what lies on the other side of quitting, sometimes it’s not nearly as bad as remaining in an unhealthy and unfulfilling career or job.

Eight of Swords in a Love Reading (Reversed)

If you have been experiencing anxiety about a relationship, the Eight of Swords reversed can indicate that you are approaching a turning point where your fears can be overcome. 

Are you tired of feeling trapped in a relationship? 

Are you ready to explore other options? T

This card signifies freedom from an old relationship that isn’t working. Another meaning could be that something or someone is suppressing your free expression. As a result, it can indicate that a person suffering from severe depression might engage in self-destructive behavior or that a partner in a relationship with a controlling person will experience that behavior worsening. 

If you are single, the Eight of Swords reversed suggests that you have gotten rid of the fear you have been facing when looking for love. This card could signal that while love has been elusive in the past, you are feeling hopeful and encouraged about love. 

Alternatively, it can indicate that you are so afraid of being alone that you are too shy to act. Or, it can be an indication that your anxiety around dating has reached such an extreme that it is paralyzing when it comes to finding a partner. 

Eight of Swords in a Health Reading (Reversed)

The reversed Eight of Swords could indicate that you have managed to move through many fears or paralyzing mental health issues such as trauma, PTSD, anxiety, etc. 

But it could also indicate the opposite: that these are reaching a breaking point. I know, it seems ambiguous, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tarot doesn’t tell, It shows). What this means is that only you know what the cards mean for you specifically. And it’s going to be pretty clear to you whether or not you have transformed your fears and worked through mental health issues. That’s not to say these issues are ‘bad.’ Because they aren’t. 

They show us where we need to put in the work to heal, and not just on a physical level. If you have been wondering whether or not to get professional help, then take this as your sign that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to feel vulnerable, and it’s more than okay to feel afraid and emotional. It’s when we get stuck in the pain that it prevents us from living “our best life.”

 A reversed Eight of Swords in a health reading can also be telling us to look out for warning signs that our health is suffering and to remember that we don’t have to remain the victim in our stories. It’s time to change the narrative and reclaim your health. 

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is the Eight of Swords a Yes or No Card? 

Answer: The Eight of Swords is generally regarded as a no or not now card. But this ‘no’ typically comes from ourselves- because we are too afraid to say yes (yet). Use the guidance in this article to help you understand why you aren’t ready, and then begin addressing those fears so you can let them go and let the blessings flow. 

Question: Is the Eight of Swords a Bad Omen?

Answer: This card can symbolize a variety of negative aspects in our careers, relationships, or health. But an omen? I don’t think so. More than an omen, it simply directs our attention to the areas in our lives that we already know need change, even if we might not feel ready to tackle them head-on. 

Question: What Does the Suit of Swords Mean in Tarot?

Answer: The cards in the suit of Swords speak to our intellect, masculinity, and also our fears of failure as well as bad luck. 

Question: What Element is Associated With the Suit of Swords?

Answer: The element of Air is most closely connected to the suit of swords

Question: What Does the Eight of Swords Mean When it Represents a Person?

Answer: Generally, this card indicates that the person is bound by his or her thoughts and fears. The person is stuck in cyclic behavior of his own making and is fearful of moving forward. 

The Bottom Line

It can be difficult to digest when you flip over a card and see the Eight of Swords staring you down. A fearful chill might freeze your heart, but as the chill runs down your spine, remember that this is exactly what the card is teaching us: fear-based thinking entraps us. Our fears are there to show us where the inner work needs doing. And sometimes, all it takes to release the shackles is to simply reach up and remove the blindfold. If fear is blocking your view, perhaps it is time to understand your fear. Learning more about ourselves and our fears is crucial if we want to be emancipated from them. 

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