8 of Swords – Helplessness

A bounded and blindfolded woman stands in a murky wasteland while eight swords are planted into the ground behind her like a fence. Her situation seems dire at first but closer examination will show that she is not tied to any of the swords. Furthermore, she is only bounded from the waist up, leaving her feet free to move. All the swords are standing behind her, meaning that there is nothing in her way should she choose to move forward.

Although this woman is in a frightening and difficult position, she is not entirely helpless. Unfortuantely, she has decided to play the role of a victim by choosing to wait for rescue instead of making any attempts to save herself. Her inability to escape her current situation stems from her refusal to deal with her own fear, pain, regrets, or anything else unpleasant. She feels trapped, but her boundaries are self-imposed, created by her own thoughts and perspectives.

Even though most people do not wish to suffer injustice, many of us unconsciously choose to play the role of a victim from time to time in order to escape responsibility. When we see ourselves as victims, we can blame others or fate for the sadness and pain we experience. We can also expect someone to come save us.

The 8 of Swords asks us to be honest with ourselves and our current situation. We are drowning and we must swim through the guilt and fear in order to reach the surface. We have surrendered our power and free will but we must now reclaim them by holding ourselves accountable for our own safety and happiness. This is our only option. We can’t give up on ourselves and expect others to fix us. Joy, love and dignity must come from within.

This is probably one of the most difficult lessons in the tarot. Acknowledging that we are the cause of our own unhappiness is hard, but even more difficult is figuring out what we can do about it. Many of us are not irresponsible because we are selfish and uncaring. Rather, we are irresponsible because we’ve never had to be responsible and so we don’t know how.

Bare in mind that responsibility is a life long lesson. Do not despair; keep on trying and eventually, we will make progress.


Hexagram 47 – Oppression

In this hexagram, the Water is placed underneath Lake, creating the image that all the water has drained from the lake. It speaks of times when one feels exhausted of resources and opportunities. During such times, we must not lose faith in ourselves but remain true to our goals and beliefs.

The Chinese character for Oppression is the character for wood inside a square. This creates two meanings: the first is that of being trapped, but the second is that what is trapped can still grow. We must behave like the tree inside the entrapment. During times of oppression, look inward and focus on nurturing our inner strength and virtue. Do not waste our time and efforts complaining, justifying failures or blaming others. Such words will go unheard.

Six on line 1:

During difficult times, do not wallow in self-pity. No forward movement is possible when drowning in despair. When there is nothing to rely on and no help coming, we must count on our own strength to get us through.

Nine on line 2:

Sometimes, oppression and set back may not be due to external circumstances. Outwardly, we can be drinking and feasting, all the while feeling empty and inadequate on the inside. During such times, we must look to our higher selves for salvation. Offer our luxuries as sacrifice and dedicate ourselves to a higher purpose.

Six on line 3:

Here, oppression is caused by one’s own weakness. Instead of proceeding firmly, confident in our decisions, we stumble. Not only that, we feel let down when we lean on things that cannot support us and feel blocked when we run headfirst into brick walls.

Nine on line 4:

Gold chains may be beautiful but they are heavy and weigh us down. One in this position is slow to act, fearing any action that may result in the loss of material wealth or status. Such fear is beneath the noble and superior.

Nine on line 5:

The oppression in this line is caused by small and inferior people. During such times, we must remain faithful and confident. When feeling backed into a corner, know that we are never left without any option or hope for we can always still choose to adhere to our own truth and correctness.

Six on line 6:

Oppression caused by our own fear, guilt and regret are not true oppression. These chains can be broken if we have the will to do so.



When we feel unworthy and incapable, remember that our current state of weakness is not an inevitability. Although we may have failed or accepted defeat in a certain situation, it is not time to give up. We need to focus on finding a way out of the slums instead of succumbing to our feelings of hopelessness and victimization. Not being able to accomplish a goal does not make us losers – refusing to pick ourselves back up is what makes us so.

During dark times, keep in mind that inner strength isn’t something people are born with. Rather, it’s a cultivated virtue that takes years to simply comprehend and a lifetime to master. To become strong, we must abandon the belief in our own weakness and have faith in our capacity to learn and grow.

Even the mighty oak that has withstood hundreds of winter started out as a tiny sapling at the mercy of the weather and even the smallest moving creatures. Weakness is not a handicap but simply a starting point in our journey towards strength.