Nine: One-Track Mind

This Might Hurt Tarot

It feels like I’m being called out if I’m procrastinating and pull a Nine of Wands. The Nines cards all ask you to do the work, the kind of work depending on which one you pull. Work isn’t just what you do to make money, it’s also working on yourself to improve your mental health, or working on your relationships so that they go as smoothly as possible. 

Like The Hermit, card 9 of the Major Arcana, sometimes you have to just close the study door and get stuff done. Avoid distractions, have time to introspect. In balance, this is healthy, and necessary.

Nine of Wands: After you’ve done planning and preparation, it’s time to buckle down and get on with it. Rachel Pollack interprets this card as meaning that you are trapped in conflict and can only see enemies around you. Sometimes when you have been working on something for a long time, you develop an attachment to it, and can get defensive if anyone points out any criticism. Maybe it’s because you’re exhausted and can’t face having to edit a paragraph in an essay, or you feel like you can’t practice a song or speech even one more time. 

I find that in these moments, we can experience a lot of growth. When things get hard, and we persevere and do better than we expected as a result, what a huge accomplishment that is. If what you are doing is truly worth it, you can power through a little longer. And then of course you deserve the most glorious rest. 

Nine of Cups: The Nine of Cups is known as a ‘wish fulfillment’ card. It’s about enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Think of the song Feeling Good by Nina Simone. Write down things that bring you joy and revisit it anytime you need a little sunshine in your day. Here’s some examples to get you started:

drinking a cold glass of water, taking a bath, watching a sunset, playing with a puppy, being in nature, smelling a new book, fresh bed sheets, hearing rain hit your window, kicking autumn leaves, eating comfort food.

Nine of Swords: I think of this as the insomnia card. It represents nightmares, not being able to sleep for worry or fear. It’s usually about something that you’ve got out of proportion, the monster under the bed. It’s a horrible feeling of dread, but when the morning comes, it often fades away a little. If you pull this card, make plans for how to cope when you get these feelings so that you are more prepared.

Insomnia is truly one of the most horrible experiences we commonly experience. If you can’t sleep because you’re worrying about something, it might help to write down what is bothering you to revisit in the morning. Don’t lie in bed tossing and turning, get up and try to do something relaxing for a while before trying to sleep again. If you get nightmares, it can help to re-frame what happened in the dream in a more positive way. Take a moment to make calming or comical changes to what happened in the dream. The killer chasing you with a knife finds that the knife spontaneously turns into a bouquet of flowers, the exam you didn’t study for turns out to have been rescheduled for next week. 

Nine of Pentacles: This is the card you can think of coming after the Nine of Wands. It’s about accomplishing something, usually in a material way. You’re self-reliant and self-aware, knowing who you are and how to achieve what you want. 

Think of the skills and attributes that you have and think about how you can use them to enjoy abundance in your life. Think about what you’ve achieved and how you got there. If you feel that you’re still at the beginning of your journey, this card encourages you to have self-confidence. Create your own life, and be certain that you can achieve things. Side note, it took me ages to notice the cute snail in this card! Pentacles can represent nature, so notice the natural abundance of planet Earth, and remember to be grateful for the beauty that exists all around us. 


Ace: It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this

Mac the cat examining the Aces

Have you ever felt a spark of excitement when you begin something new? Maybe you felt that way when you began learning tarot, or starting a new relationship or career path. The Ace cards represent a new start, planting a seed, potential. They’re similar to the energy of The Fool, there’s a journey ahead. 

There is so much possibility in the Aces. You can see a hand reaching out, offering the element to you like a gift. It’s exciting but also in a way, it leaves you with a lot of responsibility. What do you want to do with this wand, cup, sword, or pentacle that you are being handed? Each element rules a different part of life.

Ace of Wands

The wands suit is all about that fire burning inside you. What gets you going, motivates you. The Ace of Wands asks you to say yes to whatever that passion is. Wands represent the element of fire, so be careful to control that flame and don’t let it consume you. Light that wand and let it guide you. If you pull this card, think about what inspires you. Journal or meditate ways in which you can use passion and power to begin a new project, or maybe come back to something you’ve neglected.

Ace of Cups

The Cups suit rules water. It’s all about emotion and intuition. Again, this card represents new starts, but those related to relationships, love, and feelings. Think of it as an opportunity for emotional growth. Maybe you’re starting therapy, or confronting a trauma for the first time. Don’t be afraid to dive deep, but remember not to wallow. The cup in the imagery is overflowing, and of course those feelings can be positive, but it’s equally possible to be drowned in negative emotion. If you pull this card, be receptive to change and open your heart. 

Ace of Swords

The suit of Swords rules air and deals with some difficult parts of life. But the Ace is all about piercing through illusion and being perceptive. It’s about using your intellect to find new perspectives. Studying, teaching, writing, planning, these are all great ways to use the Ace of Swords. Think of the potential of a sword. You can use one to be a hero and save the world, or you can use it to hurt and oppress others. The element of air is often associated with communication, so think about the ways you use your words. Are they sharp and cruel, or truthful and fair. You have the choice of how you use this power.

Ace of Pentacles

Pentacles is earthy and grounded. It’s about nature, work, abundance, and stability. It’s much more practical than some of the other elements. Rather than jumping in without thinking, this Ace asks you to think about how you can build your best life. It can seem mundane, but it can represent things like getting a new home or job, being able to provide for yourself. It can be a long and arduous journey, so if you pull this card, be patient and focus on hard work. Think of gardening, where you plant a seed and watch it grow for many months before it bears fruit. 


8. Strength: Compassionate Action

Answers to yesterday’s riddles:

I walk on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet in the evening, what am I?

A human- crawls as a baby (morning), walks independently as an adult (afternoon), and walks with a stick in old age (evening).

I have a mouth but do not speak, I have a bed but do not sleep, I run everywhere but go nowhere, what am I?

A river- mouth of a river, riverbed, a river runs but can’t relocate.

In some Tarot decks, the 8th card is Justice, and Strength is 11, but all of the decks I work with have Strength as 8, so that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

When you hear the word ‘strength’, you might think of raw power or physical strength, and that might well resonate with a lot of people. But there’s an interpretation I think might be applicable to a wider range of people regardless of physical ability.

Have you ever seen the TV show What Would You Do? It’s a series where actors sit in public areas like restaurants and shops and pretend to have a disagreement that involves an injustice. An example is this episode which involves a cis woman telling a trans woman that she can’t use the women’s bathroom. The people around are not actors, and you can see their reactions to overhearing this conversation. Most of them begin by looking very uncomfortable, sometimes looking to whoever is with them like they’re thinking ‘are you seeing this?!’ and then in nearly every case, they step in and stand up for the trans woman.

Those situations are really scary, and I’m sure many of us have seen something similar and wanted to step in but felt too intimidated. But sometimes you can’t take it anymore, because the anger and the sense of injustice is stronger than the fear. For me, that’s a major part of the Strength card. When you’re so sure of your convictions that your fear of getting involved in a potential fight isn’t as powerful as that inner strength.

This kind of strength is compassionate and loving. It requires being sure of yourself. That’s really not easy. I think the beautiful symbolism of the Strength card helps us to find that within ourselves. Let’s take a look:

Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

The image is of a woman taming a lion. But she isn’t doing so brutally or forcefully. You can tell that she loves the lion. She’s firm, yet gentle. The lion represents parts of us that are often in our unconscious mind. In her book Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack describes Strength as ‘the whole force of personality, usually smoothed over by the demands of civilised life.’ Sometimes we have been taught by society to not speak up, or not express certain things. But rather than force those things away, the woman in the Strength card tames those aspects so that she can express them in a way that is useful.

It’s normal and understandable to be angry about something and want to lash out sometimes, but Strength helps us to channel this into something more productive like through activism or Nonviolent Communication, depending on the issue. Accept and love those fiery parts of yourself. Don’t ever force that lion back if you are passionate about something, but rather than letting those feeling explode, use them as fuel. If we let those feelings injure us, we can sometimes feel like the people who have wronged us have won.

It takes courage to release emotion. Sometimes people will call you names. For example, when black women express their feelings, they are often labelled as an ‘Angry Black Woman’, and this is used to dismiss them. Most women are socialised to tip-toe around others, and that’s not okay. Strength is that wild part of all of us that should not be pushed away.

There’s another part of Strength that I love. It’s the idea that you don’t need others’ approval to enjoy something. I like this quote by C.S. Lewis:

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

You might have experienced shame for enjoying something that your demographic typically doesn’t engage in. Maybe you’re an adult who enjoys cartoons, or a man who enjoys knitting, or a teenage girl who likes fishing. Anyone who makes you feel bad about those things is truly immature themselves.

Knowing who you are, and what you like is a powerful thing, and that’s what the Strength card asks you to manifest in your life. It helps you to speak up, to endure when things are difficult, and to be proud and confident in who you are. I hope you can use Strength to live your best life.

Today I mentioned Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack. If you’re serious about learning Tarot, I really recommend this book. She dives deep into the symbolism of the cards, and I learned a lot from her interpretations.

1. The Magician: Bending Lightning

The Magician as seen in five different decks: Rider-Waite-Smith, Sasuraibito, Star Spinner, This Might Hurt, and Modern Witch.

Have you ever seen the TV shows Avatar: The Last Airbender or Legend of Korra? The first thing I think about when I see the typical Magician card is lightning bending. In the Avatar series, many of the characters can ‘bend’ or manipulate one or more of the four classical elements, earth, water, air and fire. Lightning bending is an advanced form of firebending, and it looks very much like The Magician when lightning is redirected through the fingertips. Here’s what it looks like:

Mako from The Legend of Korra redirecting lightning.

If done correctly, it is a very powerful technique, but as you can imagine, if you make a mistake, it could be deadly. It takes a lot of self-discipline and confidence to even attempt to pull off lightning redirection.

The Magician tells us that we have all the tools we need to create what we want. Instead of getting more, achieving more, take time to work with what you’ve got. Make something real out of the possibilities in front of you. The Magician asks us to be resourceful- look at the table in front of him (RWS), he has an item resembling each classical element:

  • The wand- fire
  • The cup- water
  • The sword- air
  • The pentacle- earth

These are the four suits of the Minor Arcana, the 56 cards remaining after we complete the Fool’s Journey of the Major Arcana.

The Magician is also surrounded by flowers, representing creation and cultivation. Ask yourself, what in your life would you like to cultivate? Is there anything you are procrastinating about? If the lightning bender hesitates in using their power, they could be seriously hurt. Don’t let that energy stagnate in your body.

If The Magician doesn’t use that energy within him, he could become depressed or panicked. If you pull this card, be like The Magician and manifest what you want from life, in any way you can. If you look above the Magician’s head you see an infinity symbol. You may have to squint, but he is also wearing an Ouroboros as a belt. The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol originating in Egypt, and depicts a snake eating its own tail. Both of these symbols represent unlimited potential.


I know it is so much easier said than done, but take a moment to think about your own potential, what you have the power to do right now. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, or as impressive as bending lightning, but give yourself that agency to create positive change.

Let’s look a little deeper at the symbolism of this card. There is a phrase commonly associated with The Magician:

‘As above, so below’

This phrase comes from The Hermetica, a set of texts from the 2nd century. It means that what happens in one level of reality, happens in another. Think microcosm and macrocosm. If you zoom in enough, the microscopic world begins to resemble outer space. In the novel Lord of the Flies, a small group of schoolboys begin to form a society not too different from the warring world around them. Microcosm reflecting macrocosm.

How does this idea manifest in your own life? Have you ever noticed that when your surroundings are messy, it’s harder to clear your mind? Or how parliamentary debates sometimes devolve into squabbling that resembles family in-fighting? It can be good mindfulness practice to try to notice things like this. Everything can be put into perspective, and patterns often emerge. How could you use this to better understand yourself and the world?

Just as a fun extra, while I was writing this, I came across this piece of art of Rick from Rick and Morty as The Magician. He’s a great example of this archetype, as he is always creating something out of the world around him.


Let me know what you think of The Magician!