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Top 10 Tarot Cards for Abusive Relationships

By August 8, 2012Top 10 Tarot Cards


Abuse in any relationship is clearly a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with with care and professionalism. Knowing what Tarot cards may represent abusive relationships will help you to identify potential issues and ways in which you can offer your support. However, recognise when you are out of your depth or area of expertise and always have on hand a list of professional sources of help, such as a local network of psychologists, a help line or a shelter for victims of abuse.

Here are my top ten Tarot cards for abusive relationships.

Keep in mind that the appearance of the these cards do not definitely indicate abuse. Look to other cards in your reading and discuss with your client with sensitivity to understand if abuse is a potential issue.

And if you want to discover the top 10 Tarot cards for all kinds of Tarot readings (love, finance, success, travel and more), then click here for my free eBook – Top 10 Tarot Cards. Learn the Tarot card meanings and read Tarot with more accuracy and confidence!

Eight of SwordsEight of Swords – The woman in this card is blindfolded and bound. She is seemingly trapped between eight swords, unable to see her way out. This card often comes up for the victim of abuse and represents the mental torment of knowing you must leave the relationship but also feeling trapped or bound by this person. If the woman were to take off her blindfold and remove her bindings, she would see that there is indeed a way out and while it may not be an easy path, it will eventually release her from her tormentor.

DevilDevil – On first glance, we see a naked man and woman, chained by the neck to an over-bearing devil. Again, it would appear that the devil has a hold over these two people and they are restricted in their movement. Yet, the chains are only loosely fitted around the necks of these people and freedom is there for the taking. So, while this card can point to an abusive relationship that stems from a need for power and control, the victim can again escape this situation so long as they can see it for what it is.

King of Swords reversedKing of Swords reversed – The King of Swords wields significant power. He is often in a position of authority and he uses his status and intellect to seek the outcomes that suit him best. Reversed, this is not a nice guy to have around. He is abusive with his power and he seeks to undermine anyone that threatens his position of authority and control. He may be a partner, boss, father or father-figure, and he is here to make life very difficult.

Ten of SwordsTen of Swords – The Ten of Swords speaks of abuse from a different angle. Here, we see a man lying face down with ten swords stabbed in his back. He has been deceived and betrayed by the people he thought he could trust, and he now suffers deeply as a result. Thus, this abuse is more reflective of betrayal and deception, to the extent that it causes deep emotional pain and hurt for the victim.

Chariot reversedChariot reversed – The reversed Chariot may represent the tormentor or the person who is carrying out the abuse. This card often reflects someone who has anger management issues and who lets their desire for control and dominance get the better of them. They railroad, threaten or bully others until they get their own way. If you see this card in a relationship reading along with other abuse-related cards, then you may wish to raise the issue of anger and the potential for physical violence.


Emperor reversedEmperor reversed – The reversed Emperor is highly authoritarian and domineering. He attains his own power and status by taking away the power of others and undermining them. Thus, the reversed Emperor again represents the abuser – someone who over-uses and abuses authoritative power and status. He may appear as an insecure man throwing his weight around who has a need for control.

Nine of WandsNine of Wands – In the Nine of Wands, a man is bandaged and bruised, but instead of letting himself be defeated, he stands strong and defends himself. This may indicate physical or emotional abuse, but it also signifies that the victim is standing up for themselves and not letting themselves be put down by the abuser.

Moon reversedMoon reversed – The Moon is representative of the psychology of the mind and uncovers the fears and illusions that torment us. Reversed, this card may indicate a very subtle, under-handed form of abuse that is occurring without the victim being fully aware of what is going on. It may be deep psychological abuse that has occurred over a long period of time or abuse that is very subversive in nature. It may also represent childhood abuse that occurred a long time ago and has since been repressed in the memory of the victim. Recommend that the client seek professional help to uncover the deeper issues here.

Nine of SwordsNine of Swords – The Nine of Swords shows a woman, head held in her hands, sitting up in her bed. She appears to be very anxious and tormented by her thoughts and mind. I see this as potential for someone who is the victim of psychological abuse or bullying. This may be someone who has been threatened repeatedly and is incredibly fearful for her well-being.

Five of SwordsFive of Swords – The Five of Swords is a card of conflict and arguments. In the context of abuse, this is likely to indicate verbal abuse – the type where both parties are fighting as aggressively as the other and saying hurtful and angry things to one another. In this case, there is not necessarily a defined victim and abuser. Both parties assume both roles and there can only be losers in this type of fighting as no progress is made.


What Tarot cards do you associate with abuse and abusive relationships? Leave your comments below.

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  • Aasheesh Kumar says:

    Very interesting insight. Would be very helpful in relationship readings. Also feel 3 of swords may hint at emotional abuse.

  • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd says:

    The Tower can show a relationship where one person is in need of anger management. As always, it depends on surrounding cards.

    In the very first Tarot reading I did for a friend at age 15, and with zero knowledge of traditional card meanings, The Emperor and the Devil showed up in tandem and revealed that my friend was being abused by her step dad. She hadn’t told a soul until that reading… It gave her the courage to seek help and saved her from further abuse but spooked me so badly that I put the cards away for many years!

  • Lynne says:

    8 of Swords can sometimes come up as the psychological effects of abuse, especially where there has been emotional abuse and the person feels trapped and literally cannot see a way out of their situation. Of course there always is one as this card indicates but the person has been almost broken at this point and is unable to help themselves or to retaliate in some way.

  • Readings by Renee says:

    What about the Lovers reversed? I usually associate this card with cheating/adultery/betrayal, but could it also fall into the abuse category?

    • Brigit says:

      Certainly a possibility! Perhaps more on an emotional level where one doesn’t love the other as much or they just don’t share the same values anymore. Would depend on what other cards came up in the reading, too.

  • Diana Cairns says:

    Thanks for this article, Biddy.
    In my personal experience, the Devil often indicates a co-dependent relationship where one person is addicted to another person who is an addict. The addict can be a substance abuser or an alcoholic, or even a sex addict. Both parties are “ensnared” by each other and their pattern of conflict can be very disturbing to others around them (especially children).
    If I was reading cards and I saw this type of relationship occuring in the reading, I would find it very difficult to advise the querant. The termination of abusive relationships is not at all easy because some people find it better to be abused than to have no love at all. An abusive partner can swing from being very loving to being very hurtful, and the abused person clings to the hope that the abuser will be a lover again.
    If you look closely at The Devil card, it is full of meaning – a very powerful card.
    I agree with Aasheesh about the 3 of Swords. I get the feeling that it can indicate a third party in a relationship. It certainly reflects the deep hurt that results from a relationship gone wrong.
    Well done again, Biddy – it’s good to see what others contribute as well 🙂

    • Brigit says:

      Very insightful, Diana. There is often so much more to a situation like this and such a complex dynamic that is going on.

    • Nessah says:

      First, thank you to Biddy for this post!
      Now, to Diana:
      I’m glad you posted this. I’m currently in a relationship with an addict, and I’ve been seeing patterns of my co-dependency developing with him. When I first clicked on this post and saw the Devil card, something in my subconscious told me to study this card carefully! What was written about it by you and by Biddy has given me a powerful tool to meditate over and to give me reason to re-evaluate my relationship, both my part and the relationship as a whole! Thank you to both of you! Brightest of Blessings!

  • Leigh says:

    I agree with Diana. The Devil is the card that screams abuse at me the loudest. It comes up in my readings whenever there are issues of codependency.

  • Diana Cairns says:

    Thanks Leigh. I know about The Devil card in Tarot readings from first-hand experience. It always used to come up when I was in one of these co-dependent relationships. Now that I have managed to extract myself from that bondage (and it was an extremely painful and difficult extraction), I no longer see The Devil coming up in my readings. The 3 of Swords came up often during the extraction process. Very often, there is a third party involved somewhere in this type of co-dependent relationship, whether it is another person or a substance, or both.

  • Auset Ra Amunet says:

    I also think the 7 of swords, as someone who is very shady, always up to no good cannot be trusted to tell the truth, I usually get this card when I’m reading for a woman who’s husband lies about money, usually has money hidden and pretends to be broke to financially abuse her, also a man who is unfaithful. I have even seen this with a fellow priestess friend of mine who taught her husband rootwork and he was always in the basement doing various rituals to off her, he always came up as the 7 of swords when he’s being shady. 3 of swords usually also indicates a third party in the relationship or someone unable to heal from past wound, so they close their hearts off, or I have even seen lying about a health condition in a relationship.

  • Christy says:

    Was doing a reading over the weekend and was reminded of another card that can indicate abuse in a relationship in one of two ways (depending on other cards). The Six of Pents reversed has come up in readings where the partners are not equals in terms of resources- and the “wealthier” partner gives to the other in order to control (look out for Emperor, Chariot rx, King of Swords rx, etc.)- NOT out of kindness or love. This card has also come up to show the opposite scenario- a user. Someone who takes advantage of the other partner’s generosity/kindess, but has no intention of ever giving anything in return. I think this goes into abusive terrority when it comes along with the Seven of Swords and some of the other cards Biddy noted (Eight of Swords, Moon reversed, Devil.)- which would indicate that the “giving” partner is being deceived, manipulated or pressured somehow.

  • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd says:

    Diana, on my Love Dove Tarot website where I offer in-depth interpretations for each of the cards specifically for love and romance, I have covered the 2 of Swords here:

    I also write about codependent and abusive relationships on Love Dove Tarot here:

    Psychic cord cutting is often indicated.

    For any reader doing love and relationship readings (that’ll be all of us then lol!) I recommend researching codependency and other forms of abusive relationships and then forming a strategy for how to deal with them when they come up in readings.

    Sometimes, it’s necessary to suggest that the client seek medical or legal professional help.

  • Diana Cairns says:

    Yes, Christy – you are right that manipulative relationships are “abusive” and do exist.
    How do Tarot readers advise a querant who appears to be in an abusive relationship, as these are the most difficult relationships to get out of?
    The Swords seem to come up quite a lot – what exactly does the Two Of Swords indicate, or can it only be interpreted according to other cards which are drawn with it?

  • Diana Cairns says:

    Hi Lisa
    Thanks so much for your links to your LoveDove site. I will look at it in more detail later – I adore doves and they are always the ones who give me feathers in my path!
    Will let you know what I come up with once I have looked at your website in more depth.
    Once again, thanks to Biddy for coming up with these ideas. I am very isolated so it is a great gift for me to be able to find out more about Tarot online 🙂

  • Delphilou says:

    Hi guys, thanks for all these useful insights. For me it is not one particular card but the overall “feeling” I get when doing a reading. However saying that, all the above cards certainly point to abuse and it’s certainly good to share thes ideas/meanings. Thanks Biddy.

    • Brigit says:

      Good point about needing an overall feeling. Seeing just one of these cards is probably not enough to suggest abuse straight away, but if you do have an underlying feeling that something is wrong, then speak up about it with your client.

  • Lisa Frideborg Lloyd says:

    Glad I was able to help, Diana! 🙂

  • Diana Cairns says:

    Hi Lisa
    Yes, your interpretation of a co-dependent relationship on your website is very accurate. And yes, I now understand 2 of Swords in terms of a relationship. Thanks for your help!

  • Meri says:

    almost too obviously – the cards I would add to this list start with the 3 of swords…
    The 10 of wands sometimes for me indicates one partner carrying too much weight in the reading, feeling burdened and overwhelmed. And the six of swords, showing, at times, a possible seperation. The six of cups for me though is not always linked to a relationship issue – but is one that definately indicates problems for me (with other cards like what is here – I would include it). There is something so strange about the Waite image of that card. The artist obviously draws people well – but the scale is off on that card. It’s the card that says “you can’t go home again”, but because you have a large child, a small older woman, and the oddly out of scale cups – it’s odd. And the cups are not empty – but have been filled up with dirt and used as flower pots – not as receptive to new things, “stuck in the past”, maybe hooked on someone else. Reversed – it’s often an indicator for me of childhood abuse of some sort – of something going wrong early on that is affecting the relationship. Again – context is everything – the spread and surrounding cards can fine tune things immensely. 🙂

  • Wendy says:

    This may sound weird but I have always had issues with the Knight of Swords. He seems so menacing with his sword raised. He seems totally out of control. Could represent verbal abuse if surrounded these other cards. 🙂

    • Brigit says:

      Wendy, I like your thoughts! Yes, he seems quite on edge, doesn’t he? Ready to pounce! And if that energy is not directed in the right way, it can result in verbal abuse or impulsive, damaging behaviour.

  • Jo says:


    I just ended a psychologically abusive relationship Friday. Prior to that, the two of swords kept coming up. I meditated on the woman being blindfolded but capable of seeing and taking action if she put the swords down.

  • AWoman says:

    I pulled cards ONLINE, was not happy with them so pulled out my own deck and got mostly the same cards in the same spread. So now I’m confused, wondering if my ex is stalking me again. It was just a general weekly spread.

    5 of Swords R and Up
    7 of Pentacles
    7 of Swords R and Up
    Knight of swords
    Moon R
    Ace of Swords R
    4 of Cups R
    8 of Cups R
    3 of Cups R
    3 of Wands R

    • Brigit says:

      It depends on what spread you’re using. I’d say with all those reversed cards, it looks a little under-handed to me, especially with the Moon reversed and 7 of Swords.

    • Alexsandria says:

      What general wkly spread is this hun? It’s possible that he is 8 of cups rx is the RETURN of something, but it’s also dependent on the spread and proximity of the cards like Brigit

  • Alexsandria says:

    Magician rx (esp with these cards) will show verbal and mental abuse.

  • Carrie says:

    I’m currently reading ‘Tarot and Psychology’ by Arthur Rosengarten. He actually did an experiment, completing Tarot readings for both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. He found that for perpetrators, the Hermit reversed came up frequently. For victims, reversed Knight Cards were common.

  • Monika says:

    This is a great discussion. I would like to add my 2 cents. I once pulled 2 of Cups Rx for a relationship in which a partner was cheating. Moreover, he was being secretive, lying to her, and he stopped being loving to her – he brought her gifts, but he sort of kept his distance too… I know cheating doesn’t qualify as abuse, but perhaps if 2 of Cups Rx comes with the cards mentioned above, it can work as an additional indicator that the relationship isn’t healthy.

  • tineke been says:

    and what about swords seven?i thought that was also an outstanding card for abuse in the mind or psyche of the woman.dancing arround the bush pretending nothing is going on.we call that card list en bedrog.meaning cunningness?and deceit.what is your take on that?

  • chris says:

    I did a reading on my day to come. And it showed the lovers card in reverse the death card then judgment in reverse and finally the six of swords. I got a bad vision from it but I’m hoping I’m wrong can you provide your insight please

  • Tami says:

    What about The Six of cups reversed? Would it be like emotional blackmail? I feel one person is willing to fulfill their emotional needs despite the other’s feelings. This card came up when i was doing a reading for a couple i suspect has an unhealthy relationship.
    I pulled Justice from the Major Arcana deck, im not sure what it could mean in this situation. The 10 of swords reversed as well. Perhaps the querent is still healing from past hurts? Or has some legal problems with a partner from his past? I dont see how it could be this, since Justice sets the tone of this current relationship….appreciate any help

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