Legend: Nine of Swords, Lily Maid of Astolat


But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.​
I am again traveling on business, this time to attend a course. This gave me an opportunity to do a little shopping, and among other music buy Loreena McKennitt's The Visit. The centrepiece of this album is Loreena's wonderfully meditative adaptation of Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott. This is the story of the Legend Nine of Swords, Elaine, the Lily Maid of Astolat.

Like Elaine of Corbenic in the Five of Cups, Elaine of Astolat fell deeply in love with Lancelot, but her love was not returned for his heart belonged irrevocably to Guenevere. Such are the tragedies we weave upon the tapestry of life! The Lily Maid pines her health away, and at last is piloted downstream to appear at Camelot, a cold testimony to her undying love.

In this picture, the Maid peers listlessly over the side of the boat, her long blonde hair stretching into the water, her very substance surrendering to the downward wash of her emotions. It is a calm and beautiful scene, but her broken soul can take no joy in it. If only she could have endured this seemingly unbearable misery, her love and longing had the potential to transform her life forever, to rebirth in her lasting inward peace and spiritual maturity. But despite the wonderous beauty around her which tries to seduce her back to life, she has chosen death as her companion, a dark cowled figure who guides her to her chosen end.
Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.​


I wish these images would scan better...alas.

What strikes me is she is peering into her reflection, caught up in her own pain and carried away by emotion. The person steering the boat looks very much like traditional death, the ferryman and it is he, not her who will take this cargo to the journey's end.

So in a way it's not accepting the responsibility of one's own emotions and the path one takes, but passively allowing ones life to go where ever...to one's own detriment. She could look up and see the beauty of life that exists all around her, she could tell the ferryman what sort of course to steer towards, but she has blinded herself, in an almost narcissistic way, as if she is admiring her pain... see how much you have hurt me?

In a sense she is blaming someone else for her situation, using her pain, her death, her self pity as means to evoke guilt and pity, unfortunately it won't bring the desired result of love. I just want to shake her or slap her for being such a dolt and coward...it takes courage to pick yourself up from disappointment, to be philosophical about it, to carry on and consol yourself, that atleast you still have a life, even if you can't have the one you love, and romance was such a big thing...in love with an ideal rather than the real thing. She had no clue what real love is I think. (Sorry for vehemance, but since I've felt all tragic before... and it changed nothing, but making me a wretch)...SNAP OUT OF IT...Get your own life!!!

Sort of like practicing in a mirror, so see what the effect of tears and sorrow look like, beautiful through her tears... rather than the puffy eyed, red-nosed wretch, that usual greif brings. Pain usually isn't a pretty thing at all, no matter how much you practice in front of a mirror.


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WalesWoman said:
...in love with an ideal rather than the real thing. She had no clue what real love is I think.
Hmm, I'm not sure I could go as far as to say whether or not she knew what real love was. But I think we both agree that her grief could have been an opportunity for her to grow and mature, but instead she was not able or lacked the courage to take responsibility for her life. I also think of how tacky it was to have her dead body delivered to the one she loved - this seems a pretty unloving and disrespectful way to treat him, an act of revenge. I cringe to think how Lance must have felt. So, yes, I have to agree, her actions were not the one of someone who truly loved. A true lover would not try to shame and hurt the beloved, even in death.


sophie-david said:
A true lover would not try to shame and hurt the beloved, even in death.

Exactly my point...no one who truly knew what love is or really loved could punish anyone that way. It truly is an act of vengance and self pity in the extreme.

Fortunately, 9 Swords is for the most part not that extreme, but is being locked by our desires in our emotions, becoming immobilized by them to the point where we lose control of the direction we go with them.
I'm thinking that since the man steering looks so much like death, that it could be the transformations and changes that are brought about by this, creating the paralyzing fear or pain or anger that create this state of being. This card shows a lot of passive/aggressive behavior.

Am I repeating myself yet?