The barb of Gemini I
A decanic introduction to the Eight of Swords, blurring boundaries, and some thoughts on Haneke films
Visually, the Eight of Swords from the Waite-Smith deck has always screamed mental illness! bad brain! self-undoing! at me, though in practice, drawing this card more often than not indicates, for me, that physical malady has come to visit my body or the bodies of those for whom I care.
This makes sense, though, if we think about the attendant anxieties and interruptions that crop up around sickness—or if we think about the tarot itself as one of the ways we can discard the mind-body split and instead peer deeper into the unknowable connections between the aches and pains of joints and disease and the anxious disquiet that weaves its way into our internal narration about the sick body. Most contemporary readings of the blindfolded woman on the Eight of Swords card discuss her temporary entrapment, how she can easily free herself if she’d just give up the grip on her own sense of helplessness.
These interpretations are sometimes helpful for me on days when I need a reminder that I’m leaning heavily on my own sense of victimhood as a paradoxical way of manipulating future outcomes in my favor. (Sometimes, indeed, I worry this whole newsletter is an Eight of Swords exercise in this vein: See my shitty illness, read my sad words, help me pay my bills, oh god!) But what these interpretations ignore is that choosing to do something different with your brain takes an immense amount of effort, and not all of it mental. This is why people end up in isolated treatment centers—changing harmful thought patterns, ways of living, requires repetition and bodily strength alongside the Herculean self-awareness, and taking these tasks on alone, amidst the detritus of daily life under late pandemic capitalism, can feel like willingly yanking those swords out of the ground, sure. But only to then use them to stab yourself over and over in your still blindfolded face.