Ten swords protrude from the body of a man lying dead on the ground. A black or night sky hangs overhead with a desolate landscape. In the middle distance, we see the sea and ground illuminated by the breaking dawn.
In terms of dramatic imagery, the ten of swords is one of the most dramatic cards in the tarot. Forboding, stark and brutal are apt descriptions. To understand the ten of swords we must recall that swords are related to our mental facilities.
The most glaring suggestion from this is the death of an idea. Our query may be in relation to a proposal we were considering or a path or action we were thinking of taking. This card warns us we should proceed no further with it, that it is literally ‘dead in the water’.
The ten of swords can also relate to how we feel at present. We may be feeling hopeless about a situation or feel that we have no options left. We cannot see past the immediate trouble we face. When we are this low, we should remember the only way is up! We have reached a turning point and we can either dwell on our current predicament or rise up and look to the future. The ten of swords is a reminder to us to look past the darkness and into the light. That light illuminates the sea and landscape in the distance. The sun is rising and dispelling the darkness in the imagery. It is a new day. There is an aspect to this card that says we may be unable to affect change ourselves. We must just ride it out and wait for dawn to break.
The ten of swords also warns us of a possible attack. The victim in this card is face down, the swords protruding from his back. As swords are related to our mind, the attack we should guard against is not a physical attack but one of deceit, lies, slander and untruth. We may not be aware that it is occurring, just like the victim was unaware of the swords attack until it was too late. The card may be warning us to pay attention to emotional or slanderous attack.The card is warning us to literally beware of being ‘stabbed in the back’.
Reversed: The ten of swords reversed emphasises an ending we may not wish. It warns of tough times ahead and a painful period of time. Reversed, the card suggests that the ‘new day’ is being blocked. Perhaps we are allowing ourselves to wallow in self pity or we refuse to leave our current predicament and move forward.
We may be playing the victim card and unwilling or unable to gather our courage to move on with our lives.
The card reversed may also indicate we are refusing to accept an inevitable outcome. Our venture may be at an end but rather than close the door and open another, we are struggling to keep the first door open. We are prolonging the night rather than looking forward to the next day. We need to accept harsh outcomes in life, as much as they pain us.