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10 Swords

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 06 Aug 2001, and now archived in the Forum Library.

Yarnie  06 Aug 2001 
Ok, I'm getting back to an in-depth analysis of each of the cards in my deck (Smith-Waite aka Rider-Waite). Today, I'm looking at 10 Swords and, in my usual close observation mode, I noticed something I'd never noticed in this card before. Hopefully, some of the more experienced people here can help and/or shed light on this.

The hand of the dead man seems to be making some sign. To me, it looks a bit like that used by a priest when conveying a blessing. It seems to be this: Index and middle finger held upright and held together, with the ring and little fingers curled over the palm and held under the thumb.

Is this a subtle symbol within this image? What is it supposed to symbolize? Is it related somehow to Arthur Waite's affiliation with the Masons?

Any input and/or comment will be very much appreciated! 

MeeWah  06 Aug 2001 
Yarnie: Interesting observation! Offhand, I do not recall coming across any references to that detail & I do not know if any of the following will be helpful to you.
The hands represent the two principles of active & passive. The right hand has long been associated with "right" or good; active, masculine, positive, the earthly world. The left with bad or "evil"; passive, feminine, negative; heaven or the spiritual.
According to Papus in "The Tarot of the Bohemians", the Pope (5The Hierophant) is "making the sign of Esoterism". I think Papus (a pen name the author used) was a member of the Golden Dawn, an occultist as was Waite, Crowley & others. Elsewhere in the book, he states the position of the hands "[correspond] with the two columns Jakin & Bohas [boaz] of the temple of Solomon & of Freemasonry."
According to Allyson Walsh in "The Sacred Tarot Unveiled": "the right side of the body is considered masculine... energy sent out the right hand is Thought manifest. The first and second digits are held together, as though a decision was given...representative of the two pillars; two finger digits or two pillars represent decisions made on the journey of life."
Two pillars or columns are present in 2The High Priestess, 5The Hierophant, 18The Moon.
As well as like a blessing, I see "the sign" as a depiction of the symbol for Mars (a cross above a circle)--pertaining to action, being decisive, "pointing the way", receiving benediction or guidance from "above" or of the spirit. 

Yarnie  06 Aug 2001 
Thanks, MeeWah! That's a lot to think about and I'll mull it over during the next few days. The hand symbol seems to be the same one (as well as the same hand--right) being given by the Heirophant #5.

HOLY COW!!!! Looking at those two cards while typing this post, I've noticed something else!!!! If you've got a Smith-Waite deck, pull those cards (10 Swords and Hierophant #5) before continuing to read this post....

(waits for the reader to pull the cards)

Compare the body in 10 Swords with The Hierophant. Note the clothing.

It seems to me that these are supposed to be the same person. They both are giving the same hand symbol with the right hand; they both are wearing a long-sleeved white smock with tight cuffs; and they both wear a bright red outer robe (or vestment).

Maybe 10 Swords can also represent some kind of completion (10) or change in religious thought/belief/conflict?

Just thought I'd throw this additional observation into the mix. Anyone care to comment on this seeming correlation between The Hierophant #5 and 10 Swords?

Looking forward to the discussion! 

destinyawaitsme  06 Aug 2001 
Interesting observation!

The Heirophant can represent understanding..and the 10 of Swords represents the feeling of victim mentality and hitting rock bottom...a time when understanding is far far away. It looks like the card is just saying (pardon my language) "Screw understanding" For example, why put ten swords in someone's back when you can kill them with one...that's hard to understand.

Also the Heirophant can be associated with being in groups and obviously the 10 of Swords represents large PERSONAL pain.

Going back to the graphic depiction on the cards, the Heirophant stands for doing what's expected, and being conventional...and this person's demise (pictured in the 10 of Swords) is anything but what can be expected or what can be considered conventional.

Maybe the Heirophant, or a Heirophant-like character was put on the 10 of Swords to put emphasis on the martyrdom aspect of the card. That's my take on it. 

MeeWah  06 Aug 2001 
Yarnie: YES!! The Major Arcana cards represent Life Lessons or Man's journey on multi-levels of material-physical, mental & spiritual realms. Each card represents a concept, a stage or aspect encountered by Man's journey beginning with 0-The Fool stage or as The Fool, an "innocent", Man in the "infancy" of development.
5-The Hierophant represents traditional or conventional belief or thought; spiritual understanding or awakening; societal mores, conditioning or the lack of any of the foregoing. Being able or not being able to work within an established framework. Going with the flow or striking out on one's own path; rebelling against authority. Part of The Fool's development involves dealing with those type of factors, embracing those ideas & knowing when to deviate from the "beaten path".
10-Swords is the completion or end of a cycle as all 10's are. As a minor card, it gives details or another part of the story of the journey of The Fool. On one level: in order for a new beginning, the old way of thinking, attitudes or life have to be discarded. On another: the old self has to die before the new self can emerge; hence, the "dead person". The hand sign hints at "rebirth"; life after death; the phoenix because it refers to the active principle or movement.
Destinyawaitsme: 10-Swords can represent "overkill" (flogging a dead horse), excess, against all odds, putting something to rest, martyrdom, among other things. As with all other cards, its particular meaning would be modified by surrounding cards &/or the moment. 

Marion  07 Aug 2001 
Yarnie (07 Aug, 2001 07:09):

The hand of the dead man seems to be making some sign. To me, it looks a bit like that used by a priest when conveying a blessing. It seems to be this: Index and middle finger held upright and held together, with the ring and little fingers curled over the palm and held under the thumb.

Hi Yarnie,
I have the read the other comments with much interest, however they did not seem to completely answer your original question. That is a Christian sign for the Holy Trinity. Saint Cecilia, after her death, was found with her hand like that. The thumb plus the first two fingers represent the Trinity.
All the best, 

Yarnie  07 Aug 2001 
Thanks, everyone! This is a great exchange of information! Looking forward to more input.

Marion: Thanks for the info on the hand symbol. Not being Catholic, I did not know the origins of the hand sign. Thanks again! 

Kiama  08 Aug 2001 
Well, I was told that the hand signal represents peace and was often shown being used by The Christ. Any help?


Yarnie  08 Aug 2001 
Thanks, Kiama!

Anyone else want to take a stab (ooooo, that was a bad pun) at the 10 Swords/5Hierophant connection? 

Kiama  09 Aug 2001 
WOW! I just saw what you meant about him looking the same as the Heiropahnt! Cool.... It seems there may be more to the Smith Waite deck than I first thought.... Thanks, Yarnie, for pointing that out to us!


The 10 Swords thread was originally posted on 06 Aug 2001 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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