Image description: The 8 of Swords in the Next World Tarot.
Today’s card is the 8 of Swords. Restriction.
There are so many things that I love about Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot, but perhaps my favourite is that the deck offers something liberatory and strong in each card. It’s a deck that welcomes reflection, accountability, and the acknowledgement of how even our “maladaptive” coping strategies are born from inner knowing and self-preservation.
In the introduction to the guidebook, Road writes, “When we’re up, the system wants to tear us down. When we’re down, we sink in an act of resistance or self-preservation that comes from the horror of exhaustion. How do we hold each other up in a world where oppression can be louder than self-love?”
“We sink in an act of resistance.”
I really appreciate this framing of what it can mean to sink in response to feeling down. This is so counter to narratives of positivity and positive thinking, which push us always towards rising, growing, freeing ourselves. There is so little space for contraction, constraint, restraint, restriction. This leaves us with a thin narrative available for this card – it’s something to get rid of, get out of, get past.
Michelle Tea writes, in Modern Tarot, “When the Eight of Swords arrives, you are so deeply stuck that you have given up any hope of fixing the situation. Or maybe you delayed fixing a situation until it swallowed you whole and now you’ve lost hope… If you did allow yourself to see, you’d have to acknowledge that this miserable situation is at least partly your own doing. You have tremendous personal power, but for some reason you are choosing not to use it, or you have handed it over to someone else.”
This is a common interpretation of the card. And sometimes it’s true! But other interpretations are possible. I’m thinking of the cocoon in the Wild Unknown, and the idea of restriction as being about the moment before growth and the painful period of transformation.
Image description: The Eight of Swords in the Wild Unknown tarot.
But I’m also thinking about the Next World Tarot, and this interpretation – “The 8 of Swords was burned once and refuses to be burned again. She hides from the possibility, but knows deep inside that she is greater than her triggers. The 8 of Swords is self-imposed limits for her own protection. She embodies a moment of validation. She asks you to name your needs. What do you need to heal? What do you need to avoid? She asks you to choose your limits and trust your body is the foremost guide for your healing… She asks you to unearth your truth and your personal accountability in order to begin crawling through the exit wound.”
How different is this interpretation!
So, an invitation to explore the discourses we have internalized about restriction.
What has your experience of limitations or restrictions been? What is the difference between self-imposed limitations and externally-imposed limitations? Is there any overlap between the two?
Who taught you about limitations or restrictions? Were these framed as a positive or a negative? Have you had experiences that stood against or challenged this framing?
What are the limits you have imposed on yourself?
What wisdom informed the setting of these limits? What were you valuing for yourself when you set these limits?
What do these limits make possible in your life? Now, or in the past?
Do these limits still align with what you value for yourself? Do they feel necessary? Is there a way to shift your relationship to these limits?
This card is richly, beautifully, complexly multi-storied. There are many true stories that coexist and contradict each other without overwriting each other. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to explore, so if you have had a relationship with this card and would like to talk about it in a narrative session, let me know!