Nine of Swords

Key Meanings

Despair. Anxiety. Excessive worrying.

Nine of Swords—Original RWS TarotNine of Swords—Original RWS Tarot

Meaning of the Nine of Swords

The Nine of Swords, as is clear from the picture, can indicate nightmares, depression, despair, and disappointment.

The card has the feeling of (usually inner) conflict.

You might be drawing this card because you’re beating yourself up about something that happened or that you expect to happen.

It’s important to remember that it’s often not as bad as you imagine. Sometimes thinking too much about something can lead to more anxiety than is warranted. 

Don’t be too hard on yourself. 

It’s important to decided whether the problems are more in your mind than in reality, or whether they’re objectively real. If the latter, then make plans to deal with them.

There may be some sort of delay.

A failure or loss may be indicated.

The Nine of Swords has many darker meanings that may (depending on the accompanying cards) sometimes hold true. Despair, cruelty, hurtful gossip, suffering, and a lack of pity are possible.

But usually the meaning is not so dramatic. Excessive worrying about something is more likely, and it could be important to practice letting go of negative thoughts that don’t serve you well.

The Nine of Swords Reversed

The Nine of Swords reversed shares many of the upright meanings, but often to lesser extent, or perhaps with a more internalised energy—in the sense of thinking too much about and worrying too much about a problem.

Reversed, the Nine of Swords can also show patience and unselfishness. Sometimes the querent is too timid.

Images, Symbols, and More

The RWS Nine of Swords shows a woman sitting up in bed with her head in her hands. The background is black with nine swords hanging above. The blanket is embroidered with astrological symbols and red roses. On the side of the bed there is a scene of what appears to be two people sword fighting, with one falling to the ground. The atmosphere is of nightmares or depression.

Traditionally, this card was considered one of the most negative cards in tarot, and the meaning included death, cruelty, but modern readings have softened the meaning, and in my own experience, the meaning can be much less dramatic (however negative readings are of course possible). Some traditional readings also suggest obedience and faithfulness.

The esoteric title of the Nine of Swords is Lord of Despair and Cruelty.

Astrologically, this card represents Mars in Gemini.

Read more tarot card meanings

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