Sitting upright in a bed, the character covers his face with his hands, as if in despair. In the background, the nine swords are horizontal, set against a black backdrop. The signs of the zodiac are woven into the bedclothes along with flowers. A carving is etched into the base of the bed.
Swords are of course related to our mental facilities and the imagery in the nine of swords relates very much to our mind. Dreaming, visions, foresight and making sense of the world around us are all related to the suit of swords. In the nine of swords, the first impression is that the individual has sat bolt upright, perhaps suddenly awoken from his nightmare and proceeds to bury his face in his hands at what he has dreamt. The black background serves to heighten the worry of this card and draw us into a gloomy scene.
Nines on the Tree of life are linked to Yesod, the sphere of imagination and reflection and the connection between this description and the nightmare depicted in the card is straightforward enough.
The nine of swords warns us that we may be suffering from pessimism, gloominess and a sense of despair. In a very real sense, we may be suffering sleep problems due to nightmares. The card warns us of our fears playing on our minds, of our worries interrupting our ability to function properly.
More curious, is the smaller detail in the card. The checkerboard pattern of the bedclothes with the signs of the zodiac suggests that we may have been playing games with the universe. Have the problems that cause us to wake with nightmares been of our own making? Is karma paying us back with guilt? The etching on the lower side of the bed suggests some sort of duel or fight. Have we been involved in actions that have resulted in another being hurt?
That the tips of the swords are not visible on the card suggests that our problems are not resolved yet. There is more to play out in our situation and we have yet to work through the issues affecting us. We may have to resolve our guilt and make peace with past actions. We have to overcome what strikes fear into our sleep. The nine of swords at its best means a call to balance our actions once more. We may be so fearful of the future or our past that it paralyzes us At its worst, the nine of swords is a reminder that all our actions bear consequences and those consequences can oft come in the middle of the night.
Reversed: The nine of swords reversed takes on an alltogether harsher meaning. We may have been deceitful, dishonest, we have hurt others with our actions. We have undertaken actions without thought or fear of the consequences. Those consequences have now come home to roost.
The nine of swords reversed could also mean we are worrying ourselves unduly with a situation, that we have become so involved, so stressed, that we are failing to see beyond our immediate problem. We need to breathe a little and examine why we are so stressed or what is driving our fear or despair to consume us.