Eight of Swords (II)

June 11, 2020

Eight of Swords Part II

Joel, Phillip, Amber, and Jarrod were present (Phillip with Amber and Jarrod in person, on the phone with Joel).

We began with the protective practice.

We then invoked the presence of the Virgin Mary to guide our conversation through the Hail Mary in eurythmy.

After briefly focusing the mantra IT THINKS in the region of the larynx, we enacted the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (I rest within the Godhead of the world) and the 15th letter of the Divine Alphabet, Samech, in relation to The Devil.

We then read from Revelation 11:5-7.

Philip, out of prior conversation with Amber, had come to the picture that perhaps there are male/female pairs running all through the Major Arcana:

Magician (male) and High Priestess (female)

Empress (female) and Emperor (male)

Pope (male) and Lovers (females flanking the central figure)

Chariot (male) and Justice (female)

Hermit (male) and Wheel of Fortune (female—as Prophetess vs the Prophet that is the Hermit)

Force (female) and Hanged Man (male)

Death (male) and Temperance (female)

Devil (female?) and Tower of Destruction (male?)

Star (female) and Moon (male)

Sun (male?) and Judgement (female?)

Fool (male) and World (female)

This made us realize that this distinction between odds and evens that is so strong and apparent in the Suit of Swords actually runs all through the Majors as well, is a predisposition so to speak.

From this, Joel realized that the Eight of Swords is the 44th Arcanum—that is, we have gone a distance of 22 Arcana into the Minors, the same number as the Majors. In this sense it is the end of the second run or iteration of 22. And 44 = 4+4 = 8. So this Eight of Swords is very much an Eight. Can we look at it in relation to the prior “Eights”: 

Justice—The Star—Four of Coins—Queen of Coins

– Comparing the Eight of Swords with the Four of Coins. These two are like a negative of each other. 

– Amber’s first conversation with us. Wondering if we are meant to be looking at the Eight of Swords on its own or if we should take the liberty of comparing it to other Sword Arcana? Interesting that this is the immediate question, as this has been a theme of our entire time with this suit.

Her impression of the Suit is that there are some Arcana that show a Sword within the curved framework of Swords. The curved framework is more coin-like than the straight swords. Then there are different types of objects inside of this framework. There seem to be “Swords of Swords” vs “Coins of Swords.”. The Eight of Swords is quite Earthy, very coin-like. Not much that is Sword-like in this image.

– Describing to Amber what we came to during the Seven of Swords, that this is the process of the forging of a Sword. The odds showing the Sword in the fire, the evens showing the fire itself. The repetitive process of blacksmithing.

But then since the first Eight conversation, and typing up the notes for the Seven, Joel came to a better understanding of all of this. He’d been thinking about Chris McFee making iron out of iron ore, making the Japanese tatara (traditional iron smelting furnace: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatara_(furnace)). There was a word connected to making iron that was right on the tip of Joel’s tongue, and then he finally remembered it: bloom. The end result of smelting iron ore in order to create iron is called an “iron bloom.”

Blooms and Bloomeries

The name of the furnace (in the west) for smelting iron is called a “bloomery” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomery). It is shaped like a little tower, a Tower of Destruction.

Bloomery - Wikipedia

And so here we have a clear connection between “flower” and “bloom.” The iron bloom is usually bluish when the process is complete, just like this final flower in the Eight of Coins. 

Hammered Out Bits: Pictish Iron : Bloom to Bar

And so perhaps it isn’t just representing the two stages, it’s representing two different processes: the act of refining iron (evens = 2, 4, 6 and 8) and the act of forging a sword (odds = 3, 5, 7, 9). 

We can think of the Coin as raw material, as iron ore gathered up. And then the bloomery requires specific materials (carbon, iron ore) and very high temperatures to be sustained in order to fundamentally transform the iron ore into iron. Only then can something be done with the iron. So the Coin must be melted down, transformed, and then it can be worked with in order to become a Sword.

There is a multitasking happening throughout the Suit of Swords: both iron smelting and sword forging, a parallel process.

This is in the very nature of a Vesica Piscis, of two sides coming together to complete each other, to form a new shape. What does Vesica Piscis mean? Where did this name come from?

– Looking at the curved throne of Justice, akin to the curved scimitars. 

– Clarifying Amber’s point: what exactly was “coin-like” in her view? It is the circular nature of the curved swords. There is a contrast here between coin-like (round) objects and wand-like (straight) objects: the broad swords and some of the flowers are vertical/straight, whereas some of the flowers and the curved swords are round.

In Amber’s deck, there are flowers blooming out of the wands in the Suit of Wands, therefore the flowers in the Four and Six are very reminiscent of wands for her.

We see a relationship between the broad swords and the wand-like flowers (batons). But we can also see in the evens (2, 4, 6, 8) a distinction between idealized vs real flowers. The Eight seems to be the most idealized flower. The most spiritualized. The Two is similar, it is flattened, abstracted, but it is quite colorful and vibrant. The Eight is only one color, pure, essential.

– Bringing the Suit of Wands and plants into relationship is a new association for Phillip and Joel. It definitely fits, especially with the cut plants—not the living plants.

However, in most of the decks that Amber uses, the Wands are living, there are flowers growing out of them. They aren’t dead.

– It’s like there are two different decks within the same suit. Odds and evens are divided.

Reiterating the observation that when two pairs are put together, a full circle emerges. All of the circles are split in half, into doubles. 

– Going back to this idea of the iron ore, and the process itself of creating swords. There is the ideal vs. the real, the mental image vs what is to be fashioned. The Eight is like a very idealized  picture of the “sword potential.” 

Is the flower the raw material that  makes up a Sword? Yes, but it is also the conceptual aspect, the conceptual “raw material”—able to be fashioned into something other than a Sword hypothetically. The Sword itself is what is fashioned out of the substantial/conceptual “raw material” due to human will, human imagination. 

The Pentacles/Coins are seeds, they come from Nature.

The Swords are a result of human activity.

– So we have two halves of a whole in a single imaginal realm: the making of the Sword vs the raw material that goes into the actual action. 

The odds = product. This is piece that is real, reality in Steiner’s sense (unity of conceptual with perceptual). 

The evens have a two-fold aspect: substantial (perceptual) raw material vs conceptual raw material. 

– In an alchemical sense, Flower = light = air = idea. This is the Suit of Swords, it is the “air” suit, the suit of ideas/concepts.

The imagining that comes prior to fashioning. Feeling into the environment, creating from one’s environment. But then the Sword itself, the result—what do we do with it? Is it for bloodshed? For Plowing, etc? What is the intention

– The Four and Six look like wands, they are the most actional: “How do we act, what do we do, with our tools?”

The Eight is more like “what do we acquire or accumulate through our human tools?”

Swords used for conquering others, for acquisition of resources? What is the motive?

– multiplicity vs unity = wholeness. The two different flowers. The Eight of Swords is related to 16-petalled lotus flower, the 8-fold path, related to inner will and intent. 

– The flowers are the percept and concept prior to human interaction. The swords are what we do with the percept and concept, the splitting and reuniting, the shaping of reality.

– The contrast of gardener vs mason as in Tower of Destruction. Gardening in the realm of ideas. Cultivating vs building with ideas.

(Jarrod appears. The fly on the wall, who has been listening in on/observing our conversation. He makes himself known to Joel.)

– In the Ace there is a hand. Everything here can accommodate a hand. But not so much the Two or the Eight, definitely the Four and the Six can be held by a hand. The hand is invisible but implied after the Ace.

The Eight is the most esoteric. The 16-petalled lotus flower, it is carried within rather than by an outer hand.

– The Two is like the crest of a shield. Are all of the evens like a shield’s crest or emblem? The Vesica Piscis as shield?

This goes back to the Empress and Emperor. What the shield represents = under what sign or aegis do you wield the Sword. The intention, the aim.

– In Bali you need to operate under a certain “sign” in terms of lineage or caste in order to make a kris. Flower then represents crest, lineage, clan, tribe.

– In terms of cognition: what is sword vs shield? Defensive vs offensive?

– The Coin is the integrated binary. There is always a positive/negative contrast in the Coin Arcana, but never soulful: never sympathetic vs antipathetic, good vs bad, etc.

– Why is it that the Rider Waite Swords are so negative vs the other suits? Maybe mystics are discouraged from overly using intellect/brain-bound logic? There is a similar feeling of division in the Rider Waite, although the imagery is so different.

– The expectation of archetypal wholeness, and the reality is fractured.

– The Eight of Swords. It does have a sense of wholeness. The first impression from last week was that of a casket, of death. The scimitar enclosing, filling the space in a balanced way.

There is an eye shape in all of them since the Two, but most of all in this one. Comparing it back to the Two, it makes the Two look crazy, widely dilated bloodshot eye.

– Jarrod’s input: one thinks of flowers and pruning. A “point/periphery”-experiencing. The Ace is peripheral, and in the Two there is a perspective shift to the point (i.e., we enter into the Crown and see the top/bottom of the sword through it). The Four and the Six are again peripheral, and then Eight returns to the point. 

The poison that cures. “The dose makes the poison.” Is this surgery or dissection? 

The increased syncopation and complexity of the scimitars. Like a skunk’s stripes, they are a warning; aposematism. The increasingly dense weaving and linking together of the scimitars.

Skunk - Wikipedia

An interaction between curative/herbal remedy (flower) vs surgery/pruning (sword). A movement from peripheral perspective to point and back to periphery. This all ends in the Ten. Here, we have two swords rather than one. Two centers of perspective. This is a resigned cut rather than a full-on piercing/incision. The swords are leaning, not upright. Again, a warning, a cross. And the broadswords for the first time in the Ten intersect the scimitars, they are woven in with them.

– Jarrod asking where the imagery comes from. Muses that it has to be riffing on the Hegelian dialectic of resolution of binaries. Joel describes the history: this specifically geometric Tarot imagery comes from Muslim Mumlak dynasty in Egypt (12th century or so). Iconoclastic, injunction against human/animal representations. Hence the plants, the geometrical aspect. 

Then taken up by the Templars to Europe. Through this combination of sources (Egyptian, Muslim, Templar) it was Given an underlying structure coming from esoteric Judaism and Egyptian hermeticism with the Sephiroth Tree/Tree of Life (Hebrew alphabet, etc). Then the face cards (Majors, Court Cards) added by Christianity. An archetypal weaving of the three Abrahamic religions. It predates Hegel by a few centuries.

– Bee studies. Insects nibbling on flowers incentivized plants to incentivize bugs to come pollinate. The flower on a plant is a sort of parasite on the plant, a response to bug/“sword” stimulation. The sword cutting the plant (i.e. the bug nibbling the flower) makes for the metamorphosis and development of flowering. 

– In the Ace of Amber’s Marseilles deck, flowers are growing out of the hilt of the sword as a floral arrangement rather than as a kind of halo in the crown. There is no cut on the stems. 

Amber’s mother’s deck, based on Marseilles. Missing some cards.

– The Ace as a process, as an exploding of the Ace of Coins. Unplugging the Sword, opening up the portal of the Crown. Then each of the Arcana from Two through Ten is like a continuation through the portal opened up into the Crown. The scimitars are the warning: to access the realm of plant vs sword you must pass through the “danger zone” of splitting that which was originally whole (Coin). 

– Like being in Plato’s cave, not knowing what the shadows and reflections are on the wall (scimitar shadows). Looking for the real.

Like a birth canal. But is the process of being born into the physical world taking you to the realm of the real? Or away from the realm of the real, the spiritual origin?

– The spiritual discipline increases as we move through the numbers. By the Eight, we have reached the homeopathic medicine of the Aster. This is more refined. A rarification through the cycles. 

Aster Flower: Definition, Types & Leaves - Biology Class | Study.com

We are working with mineral/earth (Coin) within air (Sword) in the Two through Nine.

– We go farther into the Cosmos with the Eight, deeper into the Self with the Nine.

Now we come to a new arrangement.

Whereas the Coins overlap, and develop out of each other, the Swords have a clear pairing: Four Pairs:

The Ace is the unsheathing, then a series of inversions, and then finally a return with the Ten.

With the Ten, wound and wounding reunite, and are healed. The return to the Ace. Four pairs, and then a fifth pair (Ace/Ten). Not a linear sequence of 10.

– The doppleganger in the Ten. At the end of the sequence, you can confront the shadow/double and see a true reflection or wholeness.

Or is it a battle? Swords clashing in the Ten. 

Uniting of wounded and wounding: one is completely/irreparably wounded and has learned how to just live with it, to bear it as a permanent feature.

– All sense organs begin as wounds. Like the flowers on the plant, they begin as attacks from bugs. The Ten is the organ that has formed out of the wound.

– In the Rider Waite, you get the feeling of defeat. The Eight-Nine-Ten sequence is dire.

– The aposematism: the use of black is striking, this rarely happens in the Tarot. The same is true of the strong presence of black in the backgrounds of the Rider Waite (see image). 

– Seeing the scimitars as rib, shadow, death—the doppelgänger becoming more and more powerful, increasing in intensity the farther you go into it. 

– The difference between Coin and Sword is the path of Goetheanism (Coin) vs Rosicrucianism (Sword). With the Swords, we are no longer in Paradise, we are in the “id” region. 

– Noting a similarity between the Eight of Swords and the Cat’s Eye nebula. 

Cat's Eye Nebula - Facts and Info • The Planets

Also a similarity to the Turkish/Middle Eastern “evil eye.” Blue and white. Wards off demonic intrusion, a pendant worn to ward of demons.

Turkish Spiritual Moving Evil Eye Pendant Necklace 925 Sterling Silver -  Overstock - 30632985

Similar to St. Brigid’s cross, which is the pattern of the latticework at the top and bottom.

St Brigids Cross - Peat

– Throughout the Letter-Meditation on the Devil, he gives warnings about meditating too deeply on Evil. He gives the protective practice, which we use to open the meetings. No wonder there is the aposematism (strong striped warnings) throughout the suit! 

The confrontation with the Double. If the goal is absolute peace/vulnerability/woundedness, then one must enter a state where one is not killed, but is destroyed, broken down. 

Valentin Tomberg speaks of three different doubles in Inner Development. The luciferic wishes for redemption, the ahrimanic needs to be starved, and the karmic double needs to be exposed. One needs a technique to go where you don’t really want to go, to confront what you don’t wish to recognize. Therefore this path, this Suit, is embedded with protections and warnings.

– Thinking of the indications on the Minors from the end of MOT. The Coins accrue value, and are paid as you traverse the Swords. This payment seems to consist in subjecting yourself to taking off all the layers of being and substance in order to be completely vulnerable—only to be killed anyway, if you ask the Rider Waite!

– Reminiscent of the legend of Inana. Seven gates down (then a rapid/immediate resurrection at the end). (Perhaps the goal of the Suit is evaporation). Were two flies sent down to her? Or two globs of dirt which turn into flies? She was a warrior, a bad-ass. Amber presented on Inana for a Venus retrograde workshop in mid-May. She meets her doppelgänger, who is her sister. She was murdered because she overstepped her bounds. 

The Swords as the whirling blades that establish the boundary. Both a danger and a protection: that which knocks you back into place if you work against your own destiny (karma/guardian angel). 

Firefly enters the room at the end…Inana…fly on the wall…

We closed with the third part of the Foundation Stone Meditation.