Tarot 101, My Way – Minor Arcana: The Eights

I’ve said almost everything I have to say about the Eights in two previous posts, “The Eights and Anxiety” and “The Sevens and Eights” (links below). The one thing that bears repeating is Joseph Maxwell’s idea that the simple even numbers Four and Eight are characteristically balanced owing to their roots in the binary Two, although the dynamic tension that keeps the Two centered is more external in its later iterations. It stems from their transitory role as a “go-between” separating expressions of asymmetrical force, one incoming and the other outgoing. In the case of the Sevens, this force has struck out from the steady-state Sixes, often with no good idea where it’s headed, and is seeking the fulfillment of its quest in the only slightly more stable Eights.  Together they create a kind of “dance” (my “learning to ride a bicycle” analogy”), revolving around one another until centripetal force reconciles their contradictory energies in the collective hub of the Nines on the middle pillar of the Tree of Life. Think of it as a figurative “two-step,” one move going in the direction of compensatory adjustment and the other straying into overcompensation that itself requires mitigation.

Setting aside the comparatively inscrutable “pip’ cards of the Tarot de Marseille, the cards depicting the Eights in the Thoth and RWS decks variously partake of both the stabilizing and oscillating influences of the binary dichotomy (Macgregor Maters’ observation “great ease in some things, counterbalanced by equal disorder in others” is instructive.) The cards of the Thoth Wands and Disks are neatly poised, pushing outward as much as drawing inward in their geometric regularity, the perfect intermediary. The Swords card is edgy and erratic, offering little opportunity for closure, while the Cups card portrays a sludgy uneasiness. In the RWS deck, the Wands card is homing in on its target but still uncertain about its final trajectory, and the Pentacles card suggests diligence that may degenerate into fussiness. The Cups and Swords cards are both irresolute, offering scant hope for satisfactory resolution.

https://parsifalswheeldivination.com/2018/09/12/the-eights-and-anxiety/

https://parsifalswheeldivination.com/2017/08/09/the-sevens-and-eights/

 

The Minor Arcana: Eight of Wands

Titles:

The Lord of Swiftness

Astrological Correspondence:

Mercury in Sagittarius, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Too much force applied too suddenly. Very rapid rush, but too quickly passed and expended. Violent but not lasting. Swiftness. Rapidity. Courage, boldness, confidence, freedom, warfare. Violence, love of open air, field sports, garden, meadows. Generous, subtle, eloquent, yet somewhat untrustworthy. Rapacious, insolent, oppressive. Theft and robbery, according to dignity.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Activity in undertakings, the path of such activity, swiftness, as that of an express messenger; great haste, great hope, speed towards an end which promises assured felicity; generally, that which is on the move; also the arrows of love. Reversed: Arrows of jealousy, internal dispute, stingings of conscience, quarrels; and domestic disputes for persons who are married.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

(General) “Being in the same plane as the Sevens on the Tree of Life, but on the other side, the same inherent defects as are found in the Sevens will apply. Yet one may perhaps urge this alleviation, that the Eights come as (in a sense) a remedy for the error of the Sevens. The mischief has been done; and there is now a reaction against it. One may, therefore, expect to find that, while there is no possibility of perfection in the cards of this number, they are free from such essential and original errors as in the Lower case.

(Let there be a short digression with regard to the signs of the Zodiac. In the case of each element, the Cardinal sign represents the swift, impulsive onrush of the idea. In the Kerubic sign, the element has come to its full balance of power; and in the other signs the force is fading away. Thus, Aries represents the rush of fire, Lightning; Leo, its power, the Sun; and Sagittarius, the rainbow, its sublimation. Similar considerations apply to the other elements.)”

(Specific) “In the Eight of Wands, fire is no longer conjoined with the ideas of combustion and destruction. It represents energy in its most exalted and tenuous sense; this suggests such forms thereof as the electric current; one might almost say pure light in the material sense of that word. (It) belong to Sagittarius, which represents the subtilizing of the Fiery energy; and Mercury rules the card, thus bringing down (from above) the message of the original Will; it refers to the phenomena of speech, light, electricity. This card, therefore, represents energy of high velocity, such as furnishes the master-key to modern mathematical physics.”

Discussion:

The Thoth and RWS decks agree on the definition of “swiftness;” the Thoth card’s release of fiery energy is omnidirectional, expanding outward toward all quarters, while the RWs card is more targeted in its intent. Crowley brings in the subtle concept of electricity, while Waite’s card looks more like “blunt force.” Rather than repeating myself here, I will just bring forward my comments from a previous post:

“The 8 of Wands is typically interpreted as the prompt arrival of something; in the Thoth tarot it is even titled “Swiftness.” Although it is often deemed a fortunate card, I see it more as the rapid onset of a stimulating and perhaps revelatory challenge that requires a creative response without going too far out on a limb. Another common meaning is “rapid communication,” and in that sense I see it not so much as the delivery of “good news” but simply as incoming “news.” Anxiety is caused in the 8 of Wands by a compulsive and enervating sense of urgency that works against a calm, rational assessment of the situation. It looks like a case of the “jitters” to me.” (In which case it may indicate “premature evacuation” instead of imminent arrival.)

“Metaphorical euphemisms” for this card are “The ‘discretion is the better part of valor’ card (aka the ‘strategic retreat’ card), and a few additional keywords include rapid but short-lived rush to action, unwise haste.

The Minor Arcana: Eight of Cups

Titles:

The Lord of Abandoned Success (Mathers); Indolence (Crowley)

Astrological Correspondence:

Saturn in Pisces, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Temporary success, but without further result. Things thrown aside as soon as gained. Not lasting, even in the matter in hand. Indolence in success. Journeying from place to place. Misery and repining without cause. Seeking after riches. Instability according to dignity.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“The card speaks for itself on the surface, but other readings are entirely antithetical—giving joy, mildness, timidity, honour, modesty. In practice, it is usually found that the card shews the decline of a matter, or that a matter which has been thought to be important is really of slight consequence—either for good or evil. Reversed: Great joy, happiness, feasting.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

“The Eight of Cups is called Indolence. This card is the very apex of unpleasantness. It is ruled by the planet Saturn; time, sorrow, have descended upon pleasure, and there is no strength in the element of water which can react against it. This card is not exactly “the morning after the night before”; but it is very nearly that. The difference is that the “night before” has not happened! This card represents a party for which all preparations have been made; but the host has forgotten to invite the guests; or, the caterers have not delivered the good cheer. There is this difference, though, that it is in some way or other the host’s own fault. The party that he planned was just a little bit above his capacity; perhaps he lost heart at the last moment.”

Discussion:

Crowley’s title “Indolence” is fascinating; it suggests a languid disinterest in doing anything of consequence, and the vision created by Harris perfectly expresses that lethargic feeling. Mathers’ interpretation of “misery and repining without cause” is also interesting; I’m not sure I would say that to someone suffering under its influence since their perspective would most likely be distorted at the time. I’m fond of calling this the “poisoned well” card; the man in the RWS image has peered into the eight cups and found their contents toxic. There is no contentment to be found in them, so he has turned his back and is trudging away, apparently dejected, under the light of what has been described as a “peculiar” Moon. It could be said that his red cloak and boots reflect his desire to be well away from the scene of his discomfiture. I also get the fanciful notion that he is headed off over the horizon in search of the obviously missing ninth cup, in which he will find what he’s looking for. This impression and the Moon as his guide presage the entrance of the 9 of Cups. The Thoth card shows emotional desolation in extremis; the water isn’t as aggressively poisonous as that in the 7 of Cups, but it is perhaps even more deadly. Crowley’s alchemical vignette for the last triplicity of the suit of Cups begins with corruption in the Seven, enters the stage of putrefaction in the Eight (which is in fact a period of cleansing as the decrepit excesses of the Seven gradually rot away) and culminates in the Nine, in which the reduced remnants are reabsorbed and reconciled.

The “metaphorical euphemism” for this card is ‘The ‘poisoned well’ card;” here are a few  additional keywords: success abandoned, loss of interest, renunciation, stagnation.

The Minor Arcana: Eight of Swords

Titles:

Lord of Shortened Force (Mathers); Interference (Crowley)

Astrological Correspondence:

Jupiter in Gemini, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Too much force applied to small things, too much attention to detail, at expense of principle and more important points. Ill-dignified, these qualities produce malice, pettiness, and domineering qualities. Patience in detail of study, great ease in some things, counterbalanced by equal disorder in others. Impulsive, equally fond of giving or receiving money, or presents. Generous, clever, acute, selfish, and without strong feeling of affection. Admires wisdom, yet applies it to small and unworthy objects.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Bad news, violent chagrin, crisis, censure, power in trammels, conflict, calumny; also sickness. Reversed: Disquiet, difficulty, opposition, accident, treachery; what is unforeseen; fatality.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

The Eight of Swords is called Interference. At first sight, it would seem easy to confuse it with the Eight of Cups; but the idea is, in reality, quite different. The card is attributed to Jupiter and Gemini; accordingly, there is no weighing down of the will by internal or external stress. It is simply the error of being good- natured when good-nature is disastrous. Gemini is an airy sign, an intellectual sign; Jupiter is geniality and optimism. This will not do in the world of Swords; if one must hit at all, a knock-out blow is best. But there is another element in this card; that of unexpected (the Eights, being at heart Mercurial, are always that) interference, sheer unforeseen bad luck. Trivial incidents have often altered the destiny of empires, brought to naught “the best-laid plans of mice and men.”

Discussion:

I’ve never been entirely sure what “shortened force” means, even after trying to find a definition on-line. To me it implies “pulling one’s punches.” as in a blow that intentionally lands softly or doesn’t impact its target at all. But I don’t think that’s what Mathers had in mind. It seems like he was talking about  misapplied force, as in too much when a little would suffice, although the title sounds like too little has been delivered when much more is in fact necessary. Anything “shortened” strikes me as inadequate or underpowered. The Crowley and Harris card suggests “irregular force,” since none of the six horizontal swords are identical and they don’t seem to be working in concert. The title “Interference” gives the impression they are cutting at cross-purposes. The RWS card looks like “stymied force;” the woman in the picture can’t see or touch anything in front of her, and the hedge of swords behind her prevents returning the way she came. Her salvation is in her feet, which are unbound. The feet are ruled by the intuitive sign Pisces, and she can use them to feel her way along the watercourse leading off the lower-right corner of the card to escape her predicament. To my mind, Crowley’s title makes better sense than Mathers’ since it invokes the “disorder” aspect apparent in both versions of the card far more than the “ease” assumption.

The “metaphorical euphemism” for this card is “The ‘follow your heart, not your head’ card, and several additional keywords include unexpected meddling or bad luck, wasted effort.

The Minor Arcana: Eight of Pentacles

Titles:

Lord of Prudence

Astrological Correspondence:

Sun in Virgo, 1°—10°

Commentary:

Golden Dawn “Liber T” (S.L. Mathers):

“Over-careful in small things at the expense of the great. “Penny-wise and pound-foolish.” Gain of ready money in small sums. Mean, avariciousness. Industrious, cultivation of land, hoarding, lacking in enterprise.”

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (A.E. Waite):

“Work, employment, commission, craftsmanship, skill in craft and business, perhaps in the preparatory stage. Reversed: Voided ambition, vanity, cupidity, exaction, usury. It may also signify the possession of skill, in the sense of the ingenious mind turned to cunning and intrigue.”

The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

“The Eight of Disks is called Prudence. This card is a great deal better than the last two, because, in purely material matters, especially those relating to actual money, there is a sort of strength in doing nothing at all. The problem of every financier is, first of all, to gain time; if his resources are sufficient, he always beats the market. This is the card of ‘putting something away for a rainy day.’ Its attribution is Sol in Virgo; it is the card of the husbandman; he can do little more than sow the seed, sit back, and wait for the harvest. There is nothing noble about this aspect of the card; like all the Eights, it represents an element of calculation, and gambling is securely profitable if one has adjusted the cagnotte properly. The number Eight is very helpful in this card, because it represents Mercury in his most spiritual aspect, and he both rules and is exalted in the sign of Virgo, which belongs to the Decan, and is governed by the Sun. It signifies intelligence lovingly applied to material matters, especially those of the agriculturalist, the artificer and the engineer. The interest of this card is the interest of the common people. The rulership of the Sun in Virgo suggests also birth. The disks are arranged in (a manner that) may be represented as the flowers or fruits of a great tree, its solid roots in fertile land. ”

Discussion:

As with all of the cards corresponding to Virgo, there is a purposeful attentiveness  about the 8 of Pentacle (or Disks) in both of its incarnations. The Harris version conveys a ripe plenitude that evokes a carefully tended harvest brought to fruition. The Smith card depicts the fruits of diligent labor, all artfully carved with perfectly measured strokes; here is the consummate artisan at his craft.  However, it can also imply paying an inordinate amount of attention to detail at the expense of missing the “big picture.” Having ones “nose to the grindstone” necessarily shrinks one’s horizons; kingdoms might be won and lost but the laborer at his bench won’t notice in the least (until the new regime’s taxman shows up at his door). This is an excellent card for accomplishing small tasks that demand great precision in their execution, but obsessive fussiness can take its toll on productivity. If anything, it is even more anal about its preoccupation with material success than its compatriot, the 4 of Pentacles. Here, though, practical utility is more important than mere hoarding of wealth. Any of the actuarial professions would seem to be a good fit for the attentive student of hardheaded pragmatism. But at the other end of the spectrum lies the caveat “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“Metaphorical euphemisms” for this card are “The ‘perfectionist’ card (aka the ‘nose to the grindstone’ card),” and a brief list of additional keywords includes practical, resourceful, cautions, skilled, focused on small things.

 

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