Okay, so first of all, Berenjager is honey liqueur, and it is good stuff. The name means “bear hunter,” and the German version is Barenfang, or “bear trap,” which are the best liquor names of all time. The label says it’s made with a “generous amount” of honey, and holy shit they are not kidding at all about that. 10/10.
You really want to have your bear-themed honey drunk on when approaching the next two cards. Yes, the swords=negative thing may be exaggerated for reasons I’ve mentioned before (weapons as symbol, Tarot developed by feelings-having romantics, and so forth), but intellect and particularly power can be dangerous things to mess with in our society, long-term associations have their own kind of power, and, in general, Shit Gets Real here.
“Real” in some terms in The Nine of Swords, or HOLY FUCK How Much Did I Drink Last Night?
I mean: there are nine swords on the wall, sure, that’s a thing, but someone is sitting up in bed, burying their face in their hands, and I guess this pose indicates Existential Dread if you’re more innocent but it mostly reminds me of a lot of Sunday mornings. Like, you could replace the central figure with any picture from Hungover Owls and get the same general effect. You consumed substances. Some of them were blue. Then you had a lot of opinions about sitcoms from the nineties, you think, and now you’re in a motel where the lobby features tourist booklets about Maine. Are you in Maine? You’re pretty sure that wasn’t in your plans.
This is probably not what the original or indeed the Victorian artists intended, but it’s also not inaccurate. The specific meaning has a lot to do with doubts, fears, guilt, and other bad shit that is mostly in your head. Shit may indeed be bad, but it’s not as bad as you think, and you can get through it, but worrying will only make it worse. Yes, you may have sung a lot of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and you may have tried to catch mushroom poppers in your mouth like a seal, but you know what? It’s not the end of the fucking world. Most people do worse by the time they hit thirty.
Similarly, in the mnemonic sense, the Nine of Swords is intellect, power, and freedom, but not enough or not what’s needed in the situation. All the power in the world won’t make your own brain shut up, because your brain is a dick, and knowledge often just makes it more dickish, particularly in these situations: yeah, you’d love to un-know what your friend’s cousin looks like naked, but here you fucking well are until those brain cells die. As for freedom? Yeah, you had free will. Look what–and who–you chose to do with it.
That said? You can roll with this. Take some Alka-Seltzer and dim sum, or the mental equivalent, and call in sick. This isn’t the end of the line.
The Ten of Swords
This…kind of is. This is probably the card for which the consensus is most clear that it means Nothing Fucking Good For Someone. A person–or in one case, a whale, because it wouldn’t be the modern occult scene if we didn’t have motherfucking whales involved with everything–has been stabbed with ten swords, and I am not an expert, but this is way more swords than is actually needed to stab most people.* Furthermore, the person doing the stabbing has just left the swords in the victim, even though swords are pretty valuable.
My Dubious Profiling Skills say that this means either the perp has plenty of swords and/or cash to go around and can just walk away whistling and leave a goddamn arsenal behind, either to show contempt, to ditch the weapons, or because they find the victim so goddamn gross that they don’t even want to wipe off their blood, or the victim was so threatening that whoever stabbed them wanted to leave them good and stabbed, in case they got any ideas afterwards.
(In the background, generally, some clouds are either approaching or departing, and it’s either sunrise or sunset. Also, mountains.)
(I will note that the Gummi Bear Tarot shows the victim-bear looking not only stabbed but squished, and it’s very sad.)
Mnemonically, this is All The Swords: all the air, all the power, all the knowledge, all the freedom. This can be great, but usually you don’t get that without a sacrifice. Maybe you sacrifice who you were, or your old ties, to get freedom–this card sometimes gets a “rebirth” optional meaning. Maybe you have to invoke power in tense situations or act powerless to get what you need or want. Maybe you find out more than you want to know. Maybe you crush your enemies and see them driven before you.
And maybe your women are the ones lamenting.
I’m not gonna lie: most specific interpretations of this card are along the lines of Wow, It Sucks To Be You. Disaster, endings, betrayals, despair–your dog dies, your girlfriend leaves, your truck breaks down, and they’re serving dubious fishsticks in the cafeteria. Part of the human experience is getting as low as you think you can, and this is, conventionally, that card.
Now, there are a couple of possibilities that make it maybe suck less. One is, as I hinted at earlier, that the person with all the swords in them isn’t actually you. This is not a common interpretation, which is partly due to me learning a different tradition and partly due to a lot of modern-day mystics being sweetness-and-light types who would clutch all sorts of pearls at the notion that sticking a bunch of swords in your enemy’s back and walking off is a viable option. These people are silly. Power and knowledge are dangerous things to handle, but if you can do it well and in a good cause, fucking go for the kidneys, is what I say. And yeah, keep the asshole from getting up again.
If it is you with swords in your vital bits, well, first of all, your pain isn’t insignificant. As I mentioned above, someone went to a lot of fucking trouble to stab this person and make sure they stayed stabbed. If this a thing someone did to you, it’s likely you put some marks on the son of a bitch beforehand, and there’s some satisfaction in that.
Second, this is as bad as it gets. A lot of interpretations have the light in the sky as sunrise, and the clouds lifting. If the worst has happened, then the worst is over. Insert Janis Joplin lyrics here. That doesn’t mean it’s not awful, it doesn’t mean you don’t hurt, but it does mean there’s no further down to go. You’re alive, and if this card means an ending, it’s probably an ending that needed to happen. If it means betrayal, at least you know who your real friends are–or aren’t–now.
For the record: last time I got this card in a daily reading, it was right before a bus trip where I had to first act all sweet and desperate to get on without printed tickets and then get into it with an asshole from Hartford who kept yakking on his cell phone. Definitely some power/knowledge/freedom issues, but I didn’t die or anything.
* Next week, I will tell the story of Brandon and the Emo Zombie.