Cruelty: The Curse of Enlightenment, Anguish, and an Uncaring World
The Nine of Swords. Cruelty. Guilt. Anguish. Worry. Fear. Self-injury. Degenerate. Sadism. Despair. Uncaring. Implacable Fate. Heartless Passion. The Nine of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Yesod: Crystallization and the Essence of Being. The Nine, in most Suits, represents the best that the Suit of has to offer, representing the crystallization of all that is good within the suit, and the resolving of the weaknesses of Netzach and Hod. In the case of the Suit of Swords, a bleak message is sent: the best that the Suit has to offer is Cruelty. Many of the cards in the Suit of Swords are negative, and this negativity is manifested in the Nine. The Nine of Swords is very close to the Ten, which represents Swords manifested in reality. The Suit of Swords is the realm of the abstract, of thought and reason. As the Suit of Swords approaches the gates of reality, the disconnect between the material and abstract becomes ever greater, which is why the positive Swords cards tend to be earlier on, while the later cards tend to be more negative.
The Nine of Swords still does resolve the weaknesses of Seven and Eight, but not in a positive way; Futility is resolved by succumbing to the material influences of the world, and Interference is resolved in much the same way. Rather than consciously “fixing” the weaknesses above, the despair seen throughout the Suit of Swords continues into the Nine, where the mind finally gives in (the body gives in at the Ten) and surrenders to the cruelty of the world. This card represents the true and final realization that the world is imperfect, and the consequences of said realization. This card symbolizes also the emotions and mental state that lead later to the physical fall depicted in the Ten of Swords.
The Nine of Swords portrays the world as uncaring and full of heartless passion; it exists and continues to exist, but has little regard for individuals. At its heart, the world is degenerate and rife with evil and inequality. The principles of the Suit of Swords do not belong in the material world, and are incompatible with it. There is a sense of Guilt when those who come to the realization see that they cannot fix the world, and they begin to Despair about what will happen. The helplessness of Futility and Interference manifest in the more powerful idea of Implacable Fate; one man cannot usually change the world or its nature. “Enlightened” people torment themselves over their existence, and turn to self-injury. They see the Sadistic nature of the world,and they cannot stand it. The world is a Cruel place.
The Rider-Waite art emphasizes the ideas of despair, worry, guilt, and anguish. A man sits up with his head in his hands in the middle of the night, his slumber tormented by inner daemons, while swords hang over his bed; an unsafe move indicative of a lack of caring and self-injury (these swords will fall on him in the Ten of Swords). He is alone in the night, kept awake by the realization of the cruelty of the world. The Thoth art shows nine swords, all pointed downwards, glowing red. They are surrounded by what appear to be drops of fiery blood, indicating both passion and despair; but passion of a very melancholy sort, as the drops are not rising, but fallen, and are the result of a mortal wound of the mind. The blood that falls is from the injury of realization. These swords are falling, and someone at the bottom is going to be hurt.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that the realization of cruelty play in your life. Have you been unhappy lately? Worried or feeling guilty about something? Feel like you are being moved along in your life while you have no agency of your own? Are you alone in a cruel world that makes you despair? These questions are prompted by the Nine of Swords. Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted; perhaps you are denying yourself this cold realization and living purposefully in a dreamlike state, retreating to the energy of Cups for safety.