The Ten of Swords

The Ten of Swords is quite a dreaded card: it shows ten swords protruding from a man’s body under a blackened sky. Tens in the Minor Arcana show the very end of the journey. There is finality in the meaning of all ten cards, and this is also true for the Ten of Swords, which displays a scene that reveals what happens with the querent at the end of a conflict-filled life. This can be a card of complete annihilation where the checkpoints have been passed and the querent can finally rest: there is nothing left to fret about or toil for. All tens represent completion and the end results of all of the drama, work, soul searching, and conflict the querent has had to endure in order to earn his rightful place in the underworld.

When more than one ten appears in the same spread, there is more to reveal to the querent. Pairs of tens shows that there are long-lasting, almost permanent losses or gains in the querent’s vicinity while three of them points to ending in terms of a final letting go of past hurts, past friends, and grudges that the querent no longer needs to hold onto. This can imply a distancing of oneself from the people he no longer wants to give his energy to. This seems to be some social housekeeping of sorts, but it does need to be accomplished in a fit and delicate manner. Having four tens in a spread indicates, unfortunately, a massive collapse of the present circumstances. It is like the floor has fallen out from under the querent in this situation, and he is called upon to have a major rebirth and new outlook on life.

The Ten of Swords in an Upright Position

The upright positioning of the Ten of Swords foretells a complete breakdown of everything the querent has held dear up to this point. This is a very saddening card as the querent is seen in a prone position with no escape but death. This is, of course, entirely figurative. There is nowhere to go in the querent’s current situation, and he may benefit from relinquishing all control over the issues at hand to his creator and the air around him. There is a feeling that the losses and misfortune represented by the Ten of Swords will make the querent ‘wish for death’ in that the current issues are extremely depressing, and everything he once believed has failed him or fallen away. This card can also refer to water of some sort, but usually this is reserved for the representation of a large bod of water like the ocean. The querent will find that once he surpasses the downright desolate situation he is in currently, there will be something worth surviving for in his future. Every storm passes, and so to will this one.

The meaning of all Minor Arcana cards can be modified by the cards that surround it. Court cards from the Minor Arcana (Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings) all represent people. They have corresponding physical characteristics as well as their own astrological correspondences. The Ten of Swords here shows complete loss and disappointment. It’s completely up to the querent whether or not he lays down and dies or jumps up and takes the storm on with all of his courage and might. The court cards that surround the Ten of Swords will stand for the individuals that are there to lift the querent up and pull the swords from his body. The querent will quickly come to rely on these people for strength and encouragement, which is much needed in a time such as this.

The Ten of Swords in a Reversed Position

The reversed position of each card of the Minor Arcana is really as it states: an inversion of the card’s meaning. A reversal of the Ten of Swords shows the man above the knives falling onto them. This can be interpreted as a man who falls on his own sword: one who brought himself to his demise as opposed to one who was victimized and forced into this condition by the hand of others. The swords may represent the words and deeds of others, but the querent is the one responsible for the terrible scene before his eyes. This may be true due to overindulgence in drugs and alcohol as a means of escape from the violence, hostility, misfortune, and loss that he has encountered on his journey. However, this is no excuse. Many people have been down that road and were able to set themselves free. Another interpretation of the Ten of Swords reversal is that the querent is being tormented by his mistakes, losses, and personal pain. He is being skewered by the swords in this position and has now reprieve even in death because his entire body has been placed on proverbial stakes.

The most important thing that the querent may take from the presence of a reversed Ten of Swords is that he must attempt to right the problems he’s having today in order to avoid falling on his sword tomorrow. There is no hiding from the things that the querent has done in his life, there eventually comes a day when the querent has to pay the piper and the reversed Ten of Swords reveals that that time has come or is coming to him in the near future. There is healing that can still be done, but this will be through self-exploration rather than resolving issues with other people. The reversal of this dreary card shows that this is the only way to remedy the current depression and existential terror the querent may be feeling. Only he can save himself; much like in the preceding card the decision is the querent’s to make.

Key Terms

  • Depression
  • Death of a situation
  • Victimization
  • Redemption
  • Judgement
  • Karma
  • Endings and beginnings
  • The need for self-exploration
  • Resurrection
  • Self-defeat
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