The Nine of Swords is the ninth tarot card in the Minor Arcana suit of Swords and represents the inner turmoil, anguish, and anxiety that can overpower the mind in times of stress. It symbolizes our relationship to fear and alludes to ways that we can begin to transform this dynamic so that it doesn’t overpower us.
The Nine of Swords is associated with the element of air and the second decan of the zodiac’s astrological symbol Gemini (10-19 degrees), and it is ruled by Mars. This pair combines the drive, motivation, and aggression of Mars with the Gemini tendency towards multiplicity in thought, words, and speech. It speaks to the possibility of scattered energy driven by impassioned, emotional thoughts.
Where the key meanings of the Major Arcana focus on life’s overarching themes and events, Minor Arcana cards like the Nine of Swords explore and reveal the more subtle changes impacting one’s day-to-day life and near future. The Nine of Swords also bears similarities with its sibling cards the Nine of Cups, Nine of Pentacles, and Nine of Wands, in that all four deal with endings or the final stage of an action or cycle.
Nine of Swords Keywords
stress, anxiety, self-criticism, feeling alone
deep seated fears, secrets, releasing worry, transforming relationship to fear
Description of the Nine of Swords Tarot Card
The previous card, the Eight of Swords, illustrated the power of the mind to create disempowering narratives which can turn into false beliefs about our agency. The Nine of Swords card shows the consequence of believing the fearful and anxious stories and the power of the mind to turn on itself.
In the classic Rider-Waite Smith tarot deck, nine swords lay horizontally across a pitch-black background, forming a kind of window or screen behind the anguished figure and creating a feeling of imprisonment. Symbolically, this alludes to the window or lens through which he sees the world, which is colored by fear, anxiety, negative thoughts, and limited possibility.
He appears to have woken up from a bad dream, or perhaps he is experiencing sleepless nights because of the terrible thoughts and dreams that race through his mind. Whether he is lamenting the past or fearfully anticipating a worst-case scenario in the future, he covers his head with his hands to symbolize his anguish. A frieze that seemingly depicts two figures engaged in conflict decorates his bed, which speaks to his inner struggle.
However, he lies underneath a quilt, which symbolizes protection and safety. The roses represent the beauty of the natural world, and the zodiac signs remind him that he is part of a larger matrix of connection to the celestial realm above. He only needs to remember the ways that he is inextricably connected to life in order to hold his suffering with a bit more lightness.
Nine of Swords Upright Meaning
When the Nine of Swords appears in the upright position of a tarot spread, it is a reflection of the mental anguish you’re experiencing and the anxiety and fear that may be consuming you pushing you toward a breaking point. You could be under a huge amount of stress and are finding it difficult to ground, center, and calm yourself. Anxious projections about the future could be keeping you up at night, making it difficult to get the rest you desperately need.
The Nine of Swords upright suggests that you could be struggling with self-criticism and are metaphorically turning the knife’s blade onto yourself. This relentless criticism and devaluing of the self could be leading to feelings of isolation or helplessness, as well as mental health issues. This card invites you to try to witness the negative or cyclical thoughts rather than believe them and cultivate greater self-compassion and kindness.
The upright Nine of Swords encourages you to consider if you can transform your relationship to fear by looking for the deeper messages that the fear might be telling you. The blanket on this card serves as a reminder that you are not alone and that you are connected to the natural and celestial world around you at all times.
Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)
The Nine of Swords can indicate that you are feeling fearful and anxious about a relationship, and these feelings are currently overpowering your ability to think clearly or to feel a sense of grounded safety. It is a gentle invitation to examine the roots of your fears and anxieties and find ways of working through them by giving voice to your feelings.
The upright Nine of Swords can also indicate that you are finding it difficult to open yourself up to the possibility of a new connection because of the pain you experienced in past relationships. You could be replaying the past and anxiously projecting it onto the future, which inhibits you from moving forward. This card invites you to try to work through your past hurts so that you can open yourself up to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Love/relationships upright keywords
Career/finance upright keywords
anxiety about a relationship, needing to give voice to fears, replaying the past, anxiously projecting onto the future
feeling stuck, battling inner saboteur, scattered and unfocused energy, investigating root cause of fear
Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)
The Nine of Swords suggests that you’re finding it difficult to move forward in your work or career because of persistent anxieties and fears. You could be battling your inner saboteur as you try to overcome negative and critical self-talk about your capabilities and your future. This card signals the need for kindness and self-compassion.
The upright Nine of Swords suggests that your energy is becoming scattered and unfocused because of persistent worries and fears. It is an encouragement to gather your courage to face what scares you and remind yourself of your true talents, abilities, and worth. When you investigate the cause of your fears, you will be better equipped to see through them.
Nine of Swords Reversed Meaning
When the Nine of Swords is a reversed card in a tarot reading, it may indicate that you are hiding your fears and anxieties from others out of a feeling of shame or a fear of judgment. You could be denying your true feelings in an effort to maintain equanimity and cutting yourself off from important support in the process. This card encourages you to reach out and ask for help, and it reminds you that you should not have to bear these feelings alone.
The reversed Nine of Swords can also indicate that you are releasing yourself from persistent worries, fears, and anxieties. You may have investigated the root causes of your fears and have discovered the messages they held for you. You found ways to work through them, self-soothe, and reconnect to your strength.
You may have learned to transform your relationship to fear by witnessing it and being with it rather than allowing it to control you. You have woken up from the metaphorical nightmare and have realized that the fears and anxieties that once held such power over you were just powerful projections of the mind. You can move forward feeling both lighter and stronger for having endured this.
Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)
In the reverse position of a love reading, the Nine of Swords suggests that you may be keeping your fears and anxieties within. As you attempt to hide these deep-seated feelings from your partner, you feel more isolated and helpless. This card encourages you to speak your true feelings out loud in order to work through them.
The reversed Nine of Swords can also symbolize that you have given voice to your fears and anxieties about your relationship and are releasing yourself from them. By confronting what filled you with dread, you are able to move forward with clarity. You are seeing through your fears and realizing that they no longer hold power over you.
Love/relationships reversed keywords
Career/finance reversed keywords
hiding fears and anxieties, feeling isolated, confronting and releasing fears
overpowered by negative self-talk, need for clear evaluation of risks, releasing yourself from crippling fears, standing up to the inner critic
Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)
The reversed Nine of Swords can indicate that you are feeling overpowered by fears, anxieties, and negative self-talk. You may have talked yourself out of pursuing a dream or taking action toward a goal, and this is impeding you from reaching your fullest potential. This card suggests the need for a clear evaluation of the risks so that you can move forward.
The Nine of Swords reversed can also suggest that you are finally letting go of the crippling fears, self-doubts, and negative self-talk that previously held you back from pursuing your goals. You’ve stood up to the inner voice that tried to convince you that you’re powerless and can now take empowered action toward pursuing the work that is meaningful to you.