Understanding Tarot: The Eights of the Minor Arcana

minor arcana eight of tarot
Cards Pictured are from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck

The Understanding Tarot series is written by Claire Chilvers. If you would like to read more of Claire’s articles or book a tarot reading, please visit www.clairechilvers.com or follow her at – @ClaireChilversTarot

Finding power with the Eights

After the challenges faced in the sevens, the eights are giving us the opportunity to stand in our own power.

With this empowering theme comes a poignant message suggesting we should allow ourselves to complete this journey and gain the gift that was on offer from the very start. 

The Eight of Swords

The gift that this swords journey offers is clarity of mind and the ability to lift our consciousness to a higher level.

At a glance, the Eight of Swords picture does not match this idea. It shows a woman bound and blindfolded and surrounded by swords. If anything, it reminds us of the very beginning of this journey when a similar blindfolded woman sat motionless holding two swords aloft. 

This lady is restricted, but she does not look panicked or afraid. Her feet seem as if they are feeling the terrain around her, one is in water and one is moving towards the dry land. Her hands are behind her back, but they seem relaxed, and the cord that is wrapped around her is beginning to slip over her hips which would indicate that she could soon wriggle herself free, take off her blindfold and see her escape. 

The swords are not a danger either, but, that is something we have grown to learn about the swords along the way.

They can be dangerous and cause great harm, but, invariably throughout this journey, they have only been threatening rather than inflicting pain.

This is similar to the concerns and worries that manifest in own mind. Ask yourself how many thoughts have raced through your head that have been menacing, frightening, or caused great anxiety or stress – yet never materialised into a real life situation?

I call that the power of the ‘What ifs?’. And this card signifies the point where the ‘What Ifs?’ are about to be overcome. 

The swords within this card are grounded, and their message is that we should find a way to ground ourselves too. The swords can give the harshest of lessons; this repeated scene of someone trapped, enslaved or in peril reminds us that we can often find ourselves in these difficult situations. 

This lady shows us the importance of taking the time to have a calm, rational mind, and thinking her way out of her circumstances is the only way forward.

This card serves as a reminder that we all have the answers within our own mind to set ourselves free. We always have the answers. We are stronger, wiser, and more resourceful than we think, and when faced with similar experiences of feeling trapped or needing to find a way out, this card prompts us to remember we have the power within ourselves to overcome it.

The Eight of Cups

The Eight of Cups sees a character walking away from a perfectly stacked pile of cups. It is often suggested that this card is set in the middle of the night, but, I do not feel this is the case.

The moon is partially covering the sun, which suggests this scene is taking place during an eclipse. As this partial solar eclipse brings darkness across the Earth the world suddenly feels very strange and out of control.

A solar eclipse is a strange phenomenon and can take the most beautiful sunny day and plunge it into darkness, leaving an unsettling feeling that something is not quite right.

The stack of cups also hints at the idea that something is not quite as it should be. If you look closely in the pattern of the gold, glistening cups, there is a gap. If one more cup was stacked on this pile it would be perfectly symmetrical, balanced, and complete. But, it is not.

As we suspected, something is missing. 

This character is shown walking away, presumably to find the one cup (or emotion) that is missing from his life.

We are led to believe that this is a sad picture and, whilst it is true that the emotions this card portrays of disillusionment, abandonment, and disappointment are sad emotions, we need to remember the bigger message the eights are showing us, which is to tune into our inner power and strength. 

The brightest colour in this card is the vivid red of the cloak and boots that our character is wearing. This bold and dramatic colour suggests that this person is a lot more confident than we first imagined.

Is he skulking away in the dead of night? Or, is he bravely striding away at just the right moment (tuning into the energy of the eclipse) to go and search for what he knows he needs in his life. 

The last time we saw the cups it was at a confusing time with many options to choose from. We assumed that the man in that picture made the right choice as he moved on, but, that is not necessarily the case.

We have all had the disappointing realisation that we have made a wrong choice. Take a moment to think of the times when you did this; it could be a job you hated, a toxic relationship, a time when you should have left or stayed, indeed any decision that changed your life in such a way that you felt regret or unhappiness. 

But we can learn from these mistakes and make changes to put them right or ensure the same mistake never happens again.

Some of you may be resonating with this feeling right now, and if you do, take a moment to imagine how empowered you would feel if, you too, were inspired by the message of this card to bravely search for that missing emotion that you crave.

The Eight of Wands

The Eight of Wands is symbolising the freedom and power of movement. These wands are not being staked in the ground or used to battle or point at others. They are parallel, in formation, and being thrown through the air with determination and a huge amount of energy.

They give the feeling that they are finally being used wisely and this journey, which has sometimes been a little difficult, is now becoming easier. 

There was a suggestion in the Seven of Wands that energy could be put to better use than fighting, point-scoring, and proving one’s worth to others. The positive message here is that anyone travelling this fast is not concerning themselves with what others think. 

This is certainly an empowering message and can signify a time when so much is happening we do not have the luxury to stop and think about where we are heading or give our emotions much time to feel.

The excitement of plans and dreams gathering momentum can be an inspiring time when we create and achieve more than we ever felt possible. Finally being able to express your ideas, put projects into action, to move to a new home, or to travel around the world are all examples of when we feel giddy and thrilled by the new, fast pace of life.

It is worth noting that it would be almost impossible for one person to throw all these wands at the same time, which suggests that this is a collaboration of some sort.

This is another positive vibe after the delays and arguments caused in previous cards when not all people were working together.

We all find life a lot easier when we are working in unison with the people around us and this can ignite our passions further as others’ ideas and visions are fused with our own and channelled in the same direction.

In fact, when everything is moving in synchronisation like this it can seem that the universe has you in exactly the right place. It can be intoxicating to feel this full of energy but we mustn’t let it go to our head!

Interestingly, the Eight of Wands does not have a character in the card to relate to, perhaps because they could not portray the speed of this card? However, the wands are also linked to the element of fire. As we see (far too often these days) fires can quickly spread and get out of control. The fast paced movement of this card can also signify the negative aspect of needing to hurry. 

Getting caught up in a frenzy of activity can move us to places we would never have dreamed of visiting, or finding opportunities that shape the rest of our lives. But, the warning here is not to get caught up in a stampede, and be sure that you are still in control of when to stop (which is a recurring message that appears in the wand’s journey).

An out of control situation (or ego) is as difficult to harness as the fast-flying wands we have been given in this card.

The Eight of Pentacles

We can always rely on the pentacles to move us to a slower, more methodical pace and the Eight of Pentacles is no exception.

The location of the hard work has changed, and we have moved from the outdoor scene of crop maintenance to the inside of a workshop. However, the message is very similar as determination and perseverance are ensuring that many beautiful pentacles are crafted by this character’s skilled hands. 

This person is completely absorbed by his work, focusing on only what he is making and it would seem that he has been there for some time. Five pentacles are completed and nailed proudly to the wooden joist of his dwelling. He is currently working on the sixth pentacle, and the seventh and eighth pentacles are waiting patiently by his feet to complete the display. 

It takes time to perfect a craft or learn a trade and years of practice. This character is beginning to see the benefits of plying his trade, whether he intends to sell these crafted pentacles is not clear, but, what is clear is that he is working hard so that they can be used for his benefit.

The accumulation of these pentacles is very different to the image that we saw earlier in the Four of Pentacles. These pentacles are being proudly displayed, but, are not being clung to as we saw previously.

Time has taught this character the value of material things, and that they can be easily taken and passed onto someone else. It would seem that the ebb and flow of pentacles coming in and out of this character’s life has given him the understanding that clinging on to material items serves no purpose. Sometimes we have more, sometimes we have less. But life continues either way. 

Finding empowerment with the Eight of Pentacles is not in keeping the pentacles, but, learning the skills to be able to acquire them whenever needed. We often worry far too much about not having enough money, or how we are going to make ends meet. This can sometimes lead us to concentrate on nothing else but how much money we have (or do not have). 

Finding our power on the pentacles journey requires hard work, determination, and patience. And it can be slow and painful for us to work towards being solvent, self-sufficient, or not having to worry about money too much.

But the message that we have the skills, talents, and ability to help ourselves is the promise of this card. Perhaps this could be by working more hours, taking on a second job, learning a new skill, or by studying in our spare time to enhance career options.

We have the ability to work ourselves to a better situation if we choose to, but it requires focus and strength of character.

The pentacles are linked to the element of earth and sometimes they do have a habit of bringing us down to earth with a bump.

There is no question that this man is working hard, but, his expression is more difficult to read. Is he concentrating or bored? Is he inspired or exhausted? It is hard to tell, which is often the same for us as we work our way through life. 

One thing is certain there is an end in sight to his endeavours – eight seems to be the deadline and another poignant message to know when the time is right to down our tools and concentrate on something else for a while.

Which leads me to wonder what he will do when he finishes his work? In the distance is a church presiding over a village. Will he go home to his family? Or is he heading straight to the local tavern to take part in the weekly quiz night or karaoke? I always hope he understands that life is not all about work and this subtle message is not lost on him.

To understand the eights in the Minor Arcana is to understand one’s self more deeply and fully than ever before. These life lessons will be rewarded as we move to the penultimate cards on our journey and see what the nines have to teach us. 

If you would like to read more of Claire’s articles or book a tarot reading, please visit her website

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About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com. Claire also has a Youtube Channel where she shares daily readings- https://www.youtube.com/@dailytarotwithclaire