9 of Swords: Tarot Card Meaning

By Lauren Williams
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9 of Swords Keywords


  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Despair
  • Nightmares
  • Isolation
  • Mental anguish
  • Overthinking
  • Mental stress


  • Release of worry
  • Overcoming fear
  • Learning to cope
  • End of nightmares
  • End of isolation
  • Healing after mental anguish
  • Letting go of overthinking
  • Recovery from mental stress
  • Unresolved issues
  • Inner turmoil

9 of Swords Essential Meanings Snapshot


In its upright position, the 9 of Swords symbolizes a state of intense worry or anxiety, often caused by some fear or gloom, frequently leading to sleepless or restless nights. This card is a blatant reminder of the negativity, stress, or guilt that one might be experiencing, and it underscores the psychological troubles one could be going through.


In contrast, the reversed 9 of Swords indicates that the period of anxiety and dread is closing. Although stress and guilt might still be residual, the worst is indeed behind. It encourages one to let go of their anxieties, fears, and dreadful thoughts, implying an imminent release from troubling mindsets or situations. This could also indicate dealing with difficulties in facing certain truths or, in some cases, a necessary period of introspection and therapy.

9 of Swords Description

The 9 of Swords is one of the most poignant cards in the tarot deck, its imagery deliberately designed to invoke feelings of apprehension.

The card depicts a person – gender is unidentifiable, indicating that the struggles could be faced by anyone – in bed, seemingly awakened from a nightmare, their face in their hands, suggesting a state of despair and anxiety. The quilt covering them is adorned with chaotic astrological symbols and roses, giving a sense of turmoil and unease.

9 swords on a wall with a person crying.

Nine sharply shaped swords are seen hanging on the black, brooding wall in the backdrop, seeming ready to fall at any moment. The swords’ sharp edges create a sense of imminent danger, matching the scare of the nightmare the person appears to have just gotten from. The individual is alone in the room, signifying isolation and mental struggle that often goes unnoticed by others.

The bleak, grey ambiance of the room resonates with the gloom and restlessness this card often symbolizes. Overall, the overpowering mood of worry and torment is hard to ignore when setting eyes on the 9 of Swords, making it an undeniable alarm ringing for one’s mental and emotional state of unrest.

Beyond the Surface: Symbolic Meanings

  • The Nine Swords signify overwhelming negative thoughts or mental burden. They’re indicative of anxiety, fear, or guilt, suggesting the power of the mind to dictate one’s reality.
  • The figure on the bed, appearing restless or in despair, represents the subject of these mental burdens. It’s a portrayal of someone trapped in their own mind, overwhelmed by worries or feelings of guilt.
  • The darkened room, as the card’s setting, tells of isolation or solitude. It implies that these troubles are kept private, unseen by others, or simply magnified by the subject’s loneliness.
  • The blanket’s rose patterns and astrological symbols carry significance too. The roses infer beauty and purity, hinting at the possibility of positive outcomes or realizations amidst the worry. The astrological symbols embody celestial influence or fate, subtly suggesting that these mental burdens may belong to a phase or cycle of one’s life rather than being a permanent state.
  • The night sky carving on the bed personifies gloom, a signal of the darkness that the mind can create. However, it’s also symbolic of the dawn that follows every night, hinting at the potential of eventual healing and tranquility.
  • The ominous figure in the carving illustrates the presence of a scary or disturbing thought. It’s the manifestation of fears and anxieties that one has to overcome to move forward.

Dual Perspectives: Upright & Reversed

When analyzing tarot cards, it’s critical to remember that each card has dual aspects: upright and reversed. These different positions can dramatically influence a reading and add depth to our understanding.

Upright 9 of Swords

As an upright card, the 9 of Swords often signifies mental strain, nightmares, or an overwhelming weight of anxieties and fears. It’s essentially a portrait of a person in the grip of their worries, a reminder that we often can be our own worst enemies. This card might appear in a reading when the querent needs to confront their anxieties and fears head-on to move forward.

Reversed 9 of Swords

In contrast, when the 9 of Swords appears in a reversed position, it may signal an impending release from anxiety. The intense tension and distress signified by the upright card start to uplift. The querent might be at the cusp of moving beyond a period of mental anguish or overcoming embedded fears. This reversed position could also suggest the necessity of seeking help, perhaps through therapy or other forms of support, to navigate through the darkness and into the light.

9 of Swords in Life Scenarios

While the Tarot card 9 of Swords may hold various meanings, the interpretation often depends on the context of the querent’s life situation. By understanding the card’s symbolism and applying it to different life scenarios, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the challenges we face.

Growth & Self-Discovery

In the realm of personal growth and self-discovery, the 9 of Swords often symbolises anxiety, worry, or internal conflict. It serves as an indicator of inner turmoil that may be hindering personal development. This card encourages introspection and urges individuals to confront their fears or worries head-on in order to progress and evolve.

If this card appears while you are undergoing a transformative journey, it’s a clear sign to start addressing your internal battles. Start with acknowledging these struggles and seek help if needed. Personal growth often involves overcoming obstacles, after all.

Career and Creativity

Within the context of career and creativity, the appearance of the 9 of Swords could indicate a stressful work environment or a difficult phase in your professional life. It may also imply that you’re facing doubts or insecurities about your abilities.

Take this as a signal to reassess your work-life balance; this might involve seeking help through mentorship, consulting with a career counselor, or practicing stress management techniques. If you’re feeling uncreative at the moment, this card is a reminder not to let fear and stress absorb your creative energy.

Relationships & Bonds

In relationships, the 9 of Swords might indicate a time of emotional discomfort. You may find yourself racked with guilt, regret, or harmful memories related to past relationships that continue to cause pain.

With this card, it’s crucial to remind yourself that worrying will not change the situation. Open communication and seeking resolution is the only way forward. It may be painful, but it’s a necessary process to strengthen your emotional wellness and improve your relationships.

To read more about the 9 of Swords in the context of feelings, read our 9 of Swords as Feelings article.

Choices & Life Decisions

When related to choices and life decisions, the 9 of Swords suggests overthinking, constant worry, and even sleepless nights. This card serves as a reminder that it’s essential to face your anxieties rather than avoid them.

This card signifies that it’s time to step back, clear your mind, and contemplate the big picture. Take the time to reassess your options and approach your decisions with a calm, rational mind. It’s okay to seek advice and guidance when needed. After all, complex decisions require careful consideration, not unproductive worry.

To read more about the 9 of Swords when making decisions, read our 9 of Swords: Yes or No article.

9 of Swords from Past to Present

When it comes to Tarot, the graphic evolution of each card is as important as its symbolic and historical significance. The 9 of Swords is no exception.

In its original form, in the Visconti-Sforza deck of the 15th century, the 9 of Swords depicts nine disjointed swords, a symbol of mental anguish and despair. The deck was unsuited for the game it was named after, as the numbered suit cards made it impossible to play. It was supplemented with a special “triumph” suit where each card depicted a separate allegorical illustration.

As Tarot moved from Italy to France, the symbolism behind the deck grew deeper. The Marseilles Tarot, famous in the 17th century, kept the unaligned swords. However, it added decorative elements, subtly linking the card to its symbolic meaning of fear, guilt, and worrying thoughts.

In the most widely-used Tarot deck today, the Rider-Waite, the 9 of Swords presents a new scene: a figure waking up from a nightmare, with 9 swords hanging on the wall. Symbolizing torments, doubts, and uncertainties, it accurately reflects our present-day understanding.

In essence, the 9 of Swords continues to be associated with mental struggle and inner turmoil. Its evolution reflects both the changes in art styles and deeper understanding of psychology over centuries.

Synergistic Card Combinations

9 of Swords and The Fool

When combined, the 9 of Swords and The Fool present a strong message related to gaining wisdom and perspective after periods of stress and anxiety. The Fool shows a sense of hope, naivety and potential for new beginnings. When this card interacts in tandem with 9 of Swords, it signifies that while you may feel weighed down by worries, there’s always an opportunity to start anew.

9 of Swords and The Lovers

If the 9 of Swords shows up with The Lovers card in a reading, it signifies relationship concerns that may be causing anxiety, stress, or feelings of guilt. This combination suggests taking time to understand and communicate emotional complexities effectively. Letting go of fear and guilt is emphasized when these cards come together.

9 of Swords and The Empress

The combination of the 9 of Swords and The Empress cards presents a rebalancing of emotions. The Empress signifies abundance, nurturing, and the mother figure. Its presence helps to soothe the mental anguish signified by the 9 of Swords, implying a healing process.

9 of Swords and The Wheel of Fortune

When combined with the 9 of Swords, The Wheel of Fortune enlightens a way to break free from the mental prison of worries and fear. The Wheel of Fortune represents the cycle of life, suggesting that the current phase of anxiety will eventually pass, making way for better times.

9 of Swords and The Hanged Man

When seen together, the Hanged Man and 9 of Swords suggest that the best solution for current worries and anxieties may be to adopt a new perspective or to take a pause. The Hanged Man signifies suspension and seeing things from a fresh angle.

9 of Swords and The Star

The combination of the 9 of Swords with The Star card presents a sense of hope despite the overwhelming anxieties. The Star symbolizes hope, faith, inspiration, and healing. This combination encourages individuals to find their inner light and navigate through times of distress.

9 of Swords and Death

Death in combination with 9 of Swords signifies the ending of a phase that has caused much worry or fear. This major life change could lead to inevitable stress, but it also provides an opportunity for a fresh start and transformation.

9 of Swords and The Sun

If your reading includes the 9 of Swords and The Sun card, it speaks to emerging from a period of stress or anxiety with newfound understanding and optimism. The Sun sheds light on the darkness, indicating that better times lie ahead.

9 of Swords and The Hermit

The combination of 9 of Swords with The Hermit card suggests introspection as a potential solution for current problems. The Hermit connects with personal soul-searching and introspection, encouraging one to look within to find guidance in times of distress.

Introspection & Meditation

The 9 of Swords tarot card carries powerful messages for introspection and meditation. Regardless of its position, its presence invites us to dig deeper within our psyche and confront our inner turmoil or fears.

Meditative Practices and the 9 of Swords

Tarot-guided meditation is significant with the 9 of Swords. Visualize the overwhelming figure shrouded in darkness, clutching its head in despair. But, instead of fear, approach the figure with compassion and understanding.

In your meditations, sit comfortably and hold the 9 of Swords card. Breathe in its energy, absorb its lessons. Visualize the scenario changing: the figure gradually letting go of despair, standing up, and walking out of the darkness. Internalize the image of the new dawn as an embodiment of hope and resilience. This card teaches us that, regardless of how dire our situation may seem, there is always a new dawn awaiting.

Personal Reflections and the 9 of Swords

Personal reflections centered around this tarot card can point towards heightened anxieties and mental distress. Our minds often amplify worries, making issues seem worse than they are. Invoking the 9 of Swords in personal reflection requires us to recognize and accept our anxieties, and understand that they do not control us or define our reality. Utilize this time of reflection to explore why these fears have arisen and how they can be addressed.

In both introspective practices and meditative states, the 9 of Swords serves as a potent symbol of self-discovery, understanding, and the hopeful promise of a new beginning.


The 9 of Swords tarot card symbolizes worry, anxiety, and psychological stress but also carries a message of hope and impending release from mental burdens.

Its rich symbolism depicts the mental struggles anyone could face and the potential for healing and tranquility amidst despair. The card holds various meanings depending on a person’s life situation, encouraging introspection, resolution, and the overcoming of fears.

Its combination with other cards, like The Fool or The Star, highlights new beginnings and the rekindling of hope. Moreover, the 9 of Swords provides powerful messages for introspection, meditation, and personal reflection, serving as a potent symbol of self-discovery and the promise of a new dawn.

What Next?

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Lauren holding a crystal ball in her hands.


Lauren Williams
Lauren merges ancient wisdom with modern insights, offering a fresh perspective on life's mysteries. She's passionate about guiding individuals through the world of astrology, lunar cycles, numerology, and tarot. When she's not charting the stars or reading tarot, she enjoys getting out in nature, hikes and yoga.