Tuesday, June 23, 2015

9 of Swords

By the time the Swords have followed the Lightning Flash to the 9th Sephirah (Yesod) they have become an all-consuming despair.  The Querent is struggling to make sense of past traumas and fearful of future dangers.  Yet despite all efforts the answers remain unclear and Hope stubbornly refuses to leave Pandora's box of problems.   It is certainly an unpleasant card: given how our society treats sorrow as sickness it's not surprising that we generally see the 9 of Swords as a problem to be overcome. But though it will never be a comfortable or friendly card, it carries a great deal of wisdom -- wisdom which we can access only by engaging its pain and rising to its challenges.

Yesod is the sphere of dream and illusion.  The suffering signified by the 9 of Swords partakes of that deceptive nature.  It is not the deep existential despair of the 3 of Swords but a sorrow which is as much overreaction as reaction.  This is not meant to trivialize the Querent's pain: the Reader must remember that the despair is very real, but it is rooted in miscommunication and misunderstanding.  Alternately, it is the despair of one whose illusions have been stripped away: the woman crying beneath swords has awakened from a dream of past joys only to return to present misery.  Context and placement will reveal more about which of these apply to the situation at hand.  But whatever the case compassion will be in order.  Mistakes and misunderstandings are part of the human condition: beating up on our client or on ourselves will not make matters better.

Aleister Crowley saw another, more unsettling, aspect to this card.  For him the 9 of Swords represented "Cruelty." As he put it, "The Swords no longer represent pure intellect so much as the automatic stirring of heartless passions. Consciousness has fallen into a realm unenlightened by reason. This is the world of the unconscious primitive instincts, of the psychopath, of the fanatic." When it manifests thusly, the 9 of Swords can signify a desperate self-justification. The Querent knows an action is wrong yet continues to make excuses for it: there is a greater interest in feeling moral than in behaving morally.

In the context of prediction the 9 of Swords can often serve as a warning.  It suggests this action or this relationship will lead the querent to grief and should be handled accordingly. It also points to areas where the Querent may be decieved. Despair can be a powerful business tool: more than a few people support themselves as professional victims. No matter how much you guide them from crisis to crisis you will never ease their suffering -- because they don't want it eased.  The 9 of Swords can be the card of what Anton LaVey called "Psychic Vampires."  It reminds us that not all the lame wish to walk nor all the sick to be healed: it also notes the best way to handle a vampire involves a sharp object through the heart.

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