Nine of Swords

9 of Swords from Anecdotes Tarot: a fallen winged person on a shore with the sun setting

Ancient border, sink past the West,
like a sword at the bearer’s fall.

Joanna Newsom, “Divers” (Divers, 2015)

Image Description

A person with folded dark red wings kneels on an icy stone beach, facing a long sword with its point stuck into the ground. Beyond the gray water, the pink sun is setting, emanating eight pink blades of light. The sword in the ground has a light blue blade and a dark red hit with a white lemniscate or figure-8 drawn on it. Near the sword, three open oyster shells lay on the ice. One has a white pearl in its pink insides.


A fall follows the ascent from the Eight of Swords. Borders are tools to rationalize the world, to understand things by neatly dividing them into their categories. We have set borders between life and death, between past and future, between ourselves and others. The crisis of Swords comes in the title track “Divers,” with the dissolution of these borders. This image is inspired by both the Smith-Waite Ten of Swords and the Sola Busca Five of Coins (see Selected References). Though winged, the character is thrown to the ground. Her single blue sword is outnumbered by the fading pink rays, and she confronts the pearl of death as mortality defeats her ideals. This card represents vanquished expectations, works undone, and feeling defeated by a problem or a puzzle.

This card links to the mental crossroads of the Two of Swords.