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10 of Swords (Symbolism, Meaning & More!)

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In the suit of Swords’ infamous final card, we see a man lying on the ground covered with a crimson cloth, his back violently pierced by ten blades. Is he a martyr or a warrior who found a glorious death? Was he betrayed by those he trusted most?

Bear in mind that the card will never suggest actual physical harm, only a symbolic yet inevitable ending. In the background, blue mountains and a calm sea make for a serene setting, as the dark sky above starts to light up at the break of dawn.

There is no doubt the Ten of Swords is a formidable card that would scare even the experienced reader. Let us dive into the image’s symbolism and potential meaning to discover that the darkest hour is always just before sunrise.

Ten of Swords Symbolism

The Tens mark the completion of one cycle and the beginning of the next. Since the Swords and the intellect cannot depend on lucky breaks, the Wheel of Fortune has no power here, and it might have felt like a ton of bad luck until now. Even so, this morbid scene conceals the solace and otherworldy hope of Judgement: after a painful conclusion, the sun will rise again to flood the horizon with light, along with the promise that life can and will get better.

In the more “occult” version of the Tarot, the Book of Thoth, the Ten of Swords’ name is “Ruin.” Indeed, the picture is an accurate metaphor for a man whose life lies in ruins, a life that will never go back to what it once was. However, there is some relief to be found here; it is a dark and agonizing moment, but the worst will soon be over.

No other card portrays the phrase ‘woe is me!‘ as accurately as the Ten of Swords. Nonetheless, it describes the consequences of a problem, as well as the seeker’s reaction to it, and not the problem itself. It is too late to find a solution, but it might be the right time to pick yourself up and start over. You’ve been through a lot; take a deep breath, and tomorrow will be a new day.

Notice how there is no conflict anymore, and how all activity has stopped; even though the wounds are deep and many, the fighting is over while an eerie atmosphere of serenity and dignity sets in. Believe it or not, this card means there is a chance to transform the trauma into a passion for life and attain wisdom through pain and loss.

Unfortunately, to focus only on the faint light on the horizon and ignore the actual prevalent message of the card would amount to a denial of the facts. The “Lord of Ruin” demonstrates how mindless fighting always ends in destruction, no matter the cause. With brutal honesty and crude manners, the Swords always point at the truth, and the truth of the matter is that nothing will ever be the same.

The card will sometimes hint at betrayal and at the wreck of a man it leaves in its wake; why, it literally depicts a backstabbing, so if it shows up in a reading you may want to reconsider who your allies and enemies are. One of the swords seems to go right through the man’s ear, implying hurtful words and poisonous thoughts, insults, and foul news.

The most important thing to remember about the Ten of Swords is that it’s the bottom of the barrel and the end of a cycle; things can only get better from now on, and daybreak’s new light shall arrive to illuminate the darkness.  Still, that requires a little bit of effort on your behalf, as well as the determination to learn from mistakes, move on, and acknowledge the bright side of life even in the direst of circumstances.

We all fall; even the strongest of the strong cannot avoid the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The events that brought you here may have not been your choice; now, however, it’s up to you to either endure the misery or decide to rise up and fight once more.

In the words of the legendary Walt Disney: ‘Everyone falls down. Getting up is how you learn to walk.’

What does the Ten of Swords Tarot Card mean?

The Ten of Swords means the seeker is having a rough time; they don’t know who to trust anymore, and the pain of traumatic experiences prevents them from moving on. Yet this is the lowest point of their downfall, marking the completion of a vicious cycle. When they realize this, they will soon start feeling better.

This is as bad as it gets; when you see the Ten of Swords in a reading, you should instantly know that quite a lot of different things have gone wrong in the subject’s life, and they might feel like giving up. You need to reassure them/yourself that it will start getting better because the worst is over.

It is not a single particular problem that caused such havoc. Maybe a lot of bad things happened all at once (or consecutively), maybe the seeker ignored those problems until it was too late to find a solution, or perhaps it was impossible to deal with the situation successfully. Bad things happen to the best of us; love turns to hate in the blink of an eye and tragedies seldom arrive alone. But would you resign to a bitter fate or stand up and claim a new life?

Despite its immensely negative connotations, the card depicts a moment of stillness. Should you calm yourself down and think for a moment, you’ll see that no more harm can get in your way. Even if you feel betrayed, abandoned, weak, and defeated, is that something more than a wretched day that will soon be a memory? What could ever bring you down again after what you’ve been through?

All of the Sword cards point at the mind, at the way we perceive, analyze, and utilize our experiences and the world around us, especially when the going gets tough. It is a matter of perception, after all. And since the intellect is capable of such wonders, surely it can manage one bad day or ten. You have been deeply hurt, but maybe you overreacted and read too much into it, overwhelmed by a series of unfortunate events. Take another look; ’tis nothing but a scratch, the sun is rising already, and you will find a way to get over it.

As one story nears its end, another begins to unfold; you could not escape the throes of dismay, but from this moment forward you are who you chose to become.

Ten of Swords Keywords

  • Ruin
  • Painful ending
  • Deep wounds
  • Affliction
  • Destruction
  • Sadness
  • Loss
  • Betrayal
  • Downfall

What does the Ten of Swords Reversed mean?

The reversed Ten of Swords means there is a chance to break free from the ache and trauma of the past. Fortune smiles at you for the time being, but you must be strong and embrace the changes in your life. It could also mean you are afraid of closure; you don’t want to accept that a situation has ended.

When reversed, the card’s meaning is lighter and more positive, as if the swords are falling out of the man’s back and returning into the darkness. The wounds of the past are still there, but you have managed to cope, and now you can look at the future with a little bit of optimism.

The cycle of misfortune is almost over; are you ready for a new start? One of the card’s implicit meanings is that the ego is defeated, the problematic personality that endured so much suffering, pain, and failure is no more, and its likewise problematic patterns of thinking are breaking down. With a healthier mindset, you can turn this tide to your advantage.

Finally, the reversed Ten of Swords could mean you are resisting inevitable changes. Though it’s time to move on and release the hurt of the past, you are still attached to what you have lost and to old habits, unwilling to close the case. Closure can be difficult to embrace, but you need to remember that life goes on; let the pain go, take your time to process the new data, and soon you will start feeling better.

Ten of Swords Reversed Keywords

  • Resisting change
  • Denying closure
  • Recovery
  • Temporary advantage
  • Past trauma
  • Break free from suffering
  • Release from pain
  • Ego-loss

Is the Ten of Swords Tarot Card a Yes or No?

For a “Yes or No” question, the Ten of Swords almost always means “No.” At best, its answer will be “Not yet,” as the card suggests that a stressful situation will soon be over and the cycle is complete; all that remains is for you to accept this timely ending and move on.

Very rarely will the Ten of Swords give a positive answer to any kind of question. The silver lining here is that the cycle of pain and misfortune is complete; even though you’ve had trouble up until now, that’s about to change. Still, the card may not give an absolute direct answer. Perhaps this matter cannot be answered clearly because the outcome depends on your choice; will you keep struggling and dwelling in the past, or will you get up and face the music?