Tarot Reversals – The Eights

Tarot Reversals - The Eights

You’d think that the Eights, which after all, should hold the promise of the infinity sign—an eight turned on its side—would share a theme of endless vistas and promise. But no. We might indeed say that the Eights tell the tale of a journey—just not a very pleasant one. A journey makes perfect sense, given that the qabalistic influence, Hod, is thought to represent the two feet of a person’s body. The beginner of the Eight of Pentacles takes the first steps. The Eight of Wands continues, swiftly approaching a conclusion; things are looking promising. But then the Eight of Cups comes to the fork in the road. And you know what Yogi Berra said: "when you come to a fork in the road, take it!" And so, unfortunately, the Eight of Swords binds herself at a time of crisis. Perhaps we ought to call them the "annoying eights." Note, by the way, we placed the Eights in calendar order by decan, though we did not start with the earliest in the Zodiac year.

As usual, this post reiterates the text within the illustrations in the accompanying PDF (link below; note also that the PDF will probably be much easier to read then the bitmap graphic). The purpose is to place the content of the PDF here for the benefit of the web indexers. Unlike the posts at accompany the One Page Guides, there’ll be little or nothing new from this point forward that is not in the PDF. Feel free to skip to the PDF.

In the first post in this series, we introduced the idea that relationships between the divinatory meanings (as defined by Waite in the Pictorial Key to the Tarot) of the upright vs. reversed minor arcana in the RWS can be interpreted as a change of perspective.

In the thirty six cards corresponding to the decans, we find visual clues to understand reversals by looking at the characters’ points of view. Where there is more than one character, we look at their perspectives of each other. Where there is a single character, from the point of view of an outside observer.

For the four Eights, the roadtrip from Hell of the RWS deck, to illustrate the idea of these perspectives, we find the following (Waite’s meanings in regular typeface, my notes in italics):

  • Eight of Pentacles isolated figure

    Eight of Pentacles Upright: "work"—the perspective of the buyer or employer who has hired the young apprentice. Reversed: "vanity"—the apprentice’s view of the one who buys the finished "trophies"

  • Eight of Wands isolated figure

    Eight of Wands Upright: "activity… undertakings"—the "target’s" perspective of its movement. Reversed: "arrows of jealousy"—the "archer’s" perspective

  • Eight of Cups isolated figure

    Eight of Cups Upright: "deserting… felicity"—the perspective of man at the crossroads, the beginning of the next part of his journey. Reversed: "great joy" the perspective of those he meets at the end of his journey, as if he were the "prodigal son."

  • Eight of Swords isolated figure

    Eight of Swords Upright: "bad news… crisis"—the perspective of the hoodwinked person who is tied up in this problem. Reversed: "disquiet… treachery"—the self-facing perspective of the other side, who have hoodwinked her of those dreams.

Background for feature image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

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John Iacovelli

I have spent 30+ years in the computing industry. In it I've pretty much done everything from tech support for elderly people doing genealogy, to documenting compilers, to software evangelist, to direct mail guru, to CIO of an international corporation. And here I am, older and gray, getting interested in Tarot?