10 of Swords

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The Ten of Swords Tarot card reveals a scene of pain and defeat, but it also offers the first glimmers of renewed freedom and the hope of a new beginning.

The Ten of Swords is one of those Tarot cards that have a visceral impact when it appears in a reading – at a glance, it becomes clear that it addresses dark, heavy subjects. The Ten of Swords often addresses experiences and feelings of loss, endings, defeat and personal crisis. Yet it also reminds us that it is during the darkest hour that the light begins to come through once more.

Hitting rock bottom is a deeply painful, challenging and sometimes lonely experience, but it also offers us a breaking point, a potential turning point. If we are able to accept the loss, defeat or betrayal we have suffered, we have already taken the first and hardest step towards recovery, towards a new dawn of hope and possibility.

What the Swords mean in Tarot

The Swords is one of the Tarot’s four Minor Arcana suits. Each of the four suits governs one of the four elements and the aspects of life that are associated with it.

The Swords are connected to the element of air and deal with the intangible yet vital realm of thought and communication, including thought patterns and beliefs, intellect and self talk, and how we communicate with others.

The Sword – our mind, our intellect – can be either our most powerful weapon our greatest liability. Words can create stories or convey important information, but words can also cut to the bone. Our beliefs can either give us wings, or cripple our progress.

Numerological meaning of the number 10

According to numerology, the number 10 represents union and fusion. The number 10 is the connecting link between the tangible and ethereal realms, as well as between ending and beginning.

In itself, the number 1 expresses a great vitality and energy, and is the sign of a new beginning, while the number 0 represents the unformed, the state of pure potential.

Ten of Swords Tarot card description

Depictions of the Ten of Swords Tarot card differ between different Tarot reduces. In some, we see a figure precariously balancing ten swords in his arms as he picks his way across a barren landscape, his posture hunched over, defeated. But the most familiar depiction by far is the one made familiar and popular by the classic Rider-Waite Tarot. This is the one we will be looking at here.

The man

The Ten of Swords shows a figure laying face-down on the ground, pierced by ten swords. He is slumped in a somewhat unnatural position and his skin is an unhealthy yellow colour; we can only assume that his wounds are fatal. Since his face is turned away from us, towards the horizon.

The swords

Ten sharp blades protrude from the man’s back. Their point of entry suggests that the attack has come as a surprise, a betrayal of trust.

The assassination of Julius Cesar comes to mind. The Roman general and statesman was lured into a surprise attack and stabbed in the back by his own senators, one of whom was his own flesh and blood.

The cape

The lower part of the murdered figure’s body is shrouded in a scarlet red cape, the same colour as the puddle of blood forming under the body. In the dark landscape shown in the card, the scarlet colour has the effect of an exclamation mark.

The scarlet colour represents vitality, passion, essence. Here, it has been stamped out and spilled on the ground. Something very vital has been lost or destroyed.

The landscape

The Ten of Swords shows a dark landscape. The sky is all black, the body slumped by the edge of a large reflective body of water which perhaps hints at the mystery of death.

The figure’s face is turned away from us, gazing out over the lake, and towards the first glimmers of sunrise on the distant horizon. There is hope and a promise of renewal, even in this dark and desolate place.

Ten of Swords Tarot card meanings

The Ten of Swords Tarot card encompasses a range of meaning, most of it neither pleasant or easy. Here are the most familiar Ten of Swords Tarot card meanings and interpretations.

Painful endings

When the Ten of Swords appears in a Tarot reading, it often points to a painful and unexpected ending. Something that you thought would last – and wanted to last – has come to an inevitable end, not through your choosing. The outcome is suffering and a sense of despair.

Betrayal

The scene depicted in the Ten of Swords strongly hints at disloyalty, backstabbing. When treachery comes from a source you thought you could trust or rely on, it is all the more painful. The only way to triumph over betrayal is to not allow it to make you bitter and cynical.

Loss

A great sense of loss envelops the Ten of Swords Tarot card. When it shows up in a Tarot reading, it is often a sign that something vital and irretrievable has been lost. It could point to the loss of a close family member, an important friendship, a promising career, a romantic relationship.

Fatal wounds

The Ten of Swords points to deep wounds, wounds that could be fatal to your future development and journey. Disloyalty or loss can make us bitter and closed-off to new and positive experiences.

When the upright Ten of Swords makes an appearance in a Tarot reading, regardless of context, it is a sign of an unhealed would or emotional scarring which needs to be tended to, so it can heal and so you can move on.

Dark night of the soul

The Ten of Swords represents the lowest point, a personal crisis, a dark night of the soul. All is darkness – almost. The sun is already rising anew in the distance. If you can just hang in there, you will experience the light, warmth and freedom represented by the sun once more.

Reversed Ten of Swords Tarot card meanings

When the Ten of Swords appears reversed, its energies are either blocked 0r pushed to their ultimate tense. Here are the most vital reversed Ten of Swords Tarot card meanings.

Resisting an inevitable loss or ending

When the Ten of Swords Tarot card comes up reversed, it can be a sign that you are resisting the inevitable. For example, in a romantic relationship where one partner wants to end it and has his or her mind already fully made up, the other power the other person has is to accept it and begin to work on their own healing. The reversed 10 of Swords might point out an unhealthy clinging to a past which has already slipped away.

Rebirth and recovery

In some cases, the 10 of Swords reversed can constitute a great omen, as the card’s meaning is pushed to its extreme. In these cases, the hint of sunrise on the horizon turns into a full-blown dawn. The light and warmth of a new day chases all of the shadows away.

The reversed Ten of Swords can signify a recovery from illness or depression, or it can suggest that pivotal moment when the inner gloom begins to lift and the magic of hopefulness and optimism sets in.

The reversed Ten of Swords can signify finally letting go of the shadows and ghosts of the past, deciding to move on. The figure on the ground rises up, pulls the swords out of his back, bandages his wounds, dusts himself off and carries on with his journey.

What the Ten of Swords means in a Tarot reading about love and romance

Upright

The 10 of Swords Tarot card is bad news in romance. You may be the victim of a cheating or disloyal partner, or you may be the one left behind, crushed, in the wake of an unexpected breakup.

Reversed

You may still be feeling the burn after a past relationship ended badly. The reversed Ten of Swords can be a sign that you are struggling to let the wounds heal and move on. Daring to trust and to love again after we have been fatally wounded or betrayed is not easy, but it is one of the most powerful lessons we can learn in life.

What the Ten fo Swords means in a Tarot reading about career

Upright

The 10 of Swords career meaning is not a good omen. You may find yourself trapped in a dead-end job, devoid of future prospects and possibilities. If you are not an employee but are in business for yourself, you could be facing financial ruin or some other great obstacle.

Reversed

The 10 of Swords reversed could represent a new sense of optimism in relation to your career. You may have been forced to make a difficult decision, such as leaving a stable job that was making you miserable. You may be in a precarious spot financially, but you may also finally be free to choose a better direction, something more aligned with your spirit.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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