Gemini I: May 21-May 30
Decan rulership: Jupiter
Associated majors: The Wheel of Fortune (Jupiter), The Lovers (Gemini)
So this is one of my absolute favorite cards to muse on. The Waite Smith 8 of Swords is one of those cards that people fear, yet its associated majors are perhaps the two they most rejoice to see. How can this be?
The Wheel gives and gives, handing out destinies like candy (it is associated with Hebrew letter kaph, כ, the outstretched palm), but what it doesn't give you is choice. To be the recipient of fortune is to live in this moment, knowing that your fate will almost certainly be different tomorrow. The Lovers offers choice - sharply defined ones. It's associated with the Hebrew letter, ז , zayin, meaning sword - that which cleaves in two. Where a moment ago you had one thing, now you have *twins*.
So, the 8 of Swords represents what happens when destiny runs into choice. In other words, just as the 7 of Cups was the card of eros vs. thanatos, this is the card of Fate vs. Free Will. What happens when the two confront each other - when they are at cross purposes? You get paralysis, frustration - or, to use the Hermetic names for this card, "interference" and "shortened force". As we see amongst the artisans who people this decan, the gifts of Fortune can be actual skills. Or they can be opportunities. The two are really the same thing, for doesn't it always seem like talented people have all the luck?
What's interesting about the 8 of Swords is that the two majors are struggling for supremacy in this card, and neither has the upper hand. The Wheel of Fortune keeps turning, spinning out destinies, and the hands of the Lovers keep trying to pause it and choose. The 8 of Swords has bound itself - unable to accept what is given, but unable to choose anything else. It's not like the 4 of Cups, which is uninterested in what's on offer. It's more like choosing feels too dangerous, like throwing a stick into a spinning bicycle wheel. The Lovers' sword is designed for paring down, dividing, separating. But how do you prune infinity? How do you divide by zero?
One of my hats is that of a seamstress. Anyone who sews has probably had the awful experience of a massive thread jam in their machine. Something goes wrong with the timing (Fate!) of the needle (the tiniest *sword*!), and the bobbin snags into a Gordian knot of confusion. So I sometimes think of this card as The Snagged Bobbin. When that happens, you mustn't force the needle; you can only cut the thread; i.e. face Fate head on, and do what you must to earn back your freedom.
I've given two conflicting, different kinds of advice with this card: (1) Wait it out like a rhinovirus, since sometimes there's nothing you can do - which speaks to the fate side of the equation; and (2) Take off the blindfold and throw off the bindings! - which speaks to the free will side of it.
Maybe both are legitimate. If you wait, things will surely change anyway, but you will lose the moment to choose. If you act, you will be the one to change them, but you'll have to say goodbye to something. Maybe the point is that worrying about it is fruitless, and that you might as well assess your own damn capacity for risk and make up your mind to move or to sit. Knowing the choice is yours at least removes the blindfold.
The outstretched palm must close, to grip the sword. Those who find the wherewithal to choose are turning the sword of perception onto Schrödinger's cat. The wave function collapses, a thousand possible realities evaporate, and you return to the comforts and trials of the known. Should you dwell on regretting your choice, you proceed to the remorse and insomnia of the 9 of Swords.
Anyway, I feel I've only scratched the surface with this card. It's begging for more time and scrutiny. But the mercurial sword must cut things off somewhere!