10 of Swords


Where is the man in this card laying?

Just wondering what the blue in this card is...
land or water?

If it is water that would bring emotions into this
card. I was always thinking he was on land, and
now maybe a beach. (don't know)


I've always thought this represented water, that this card deals with the emotional response to perceptions...it feels like you were stabbed in the back, you feel like you could just die because it hurts so bad, anger, depression, etc. Feeling like a martyr, feeling persecuted, feeling lilke the everything has gone against you. Every description I can think of begins with a feeling, so it could be the mental state grounded (on the land) on the edge of emotion (water)


"Timing is Everything"

I've always had the feeling if the person shown on this card
had waited until the coming of the dawn we see occurring
now in the background, their message of peace would have
been received as welcomed good news ~ but because they
rushed ahead before the proper moment... this violent end.

We see by the gesture shown being given with the right hand,
As Above, So Below ~that this envoy came from high places.



Fulgour said:

I've always had the feeling if the person shown on this card
had waited until the coming of the dawn we see occurring
now in the background, their message of peace would have
been received as welcomed good news ~ but because they
rushed ahead before the proper moment... this violent end.

Some one told me swords is about action, mental intent behind that action perhaps, so your comment really struck me and makes a lot of sense, waiting for something to complete itself before acting on it. I have to reconsider my thoughts about this card.

Cat Eyes

Meaningless Death

Wow, really cool interpretation with "timing is everything". I appreciate the color post too. Most of my books are b/w and I don't want to be shuffling through my deck to find the 10 of swords. Why can't there be more thoughtful readers like you? Thanks.

My take? I see the card as "meaningless death", especially death of all emotion via the swords of thought. It is the extreme version of the 3 of swords (heart with 3 swords in it, clouds of thought surrounding it). The water and horizon will soon vanish as the oncoming black cloud of death consumes the picture. The card should warn us not to make any rash judgements based solely on "logic", but to consider our inner voice and follow our heart. Look for the High Priestess.


Cat's Eyes comment on "meaningless" death and Fulgour's "rushing ahead before it's time", just made me think of this as corresponding to the Fool Rx. Leaping without looking, willfull recklessness and immaturity, that false sense of invincibility and security, when just a bit of better timing and caution could have prevented this.

How about over compensating and over exaggeration? Taking everything to it's extreme.


That is a very interesting take on the 10 of swords, that he needed to wait for the cycle to complete, for the dawn. Rushing ahead caused him mortal trouble. I was contemplating 10's in general just previous to seeing this thread. It's interesting that the 10 of cups is so very positive and the 10 of swords is so very negative. Is the completion of a cycle of heart, emotion, the grail, love, all that one could wish, but the completion of a cycle of that is based in air, in thought/idea only, ungrounded, ends in disaster? The 10 of wands is so burdened, so the completion of this cycle burdens one rather than uplifts?


Interesting interpretations. I'm looking at the "Original" version, however original or not its coloration is. What impresses me is that the victim lies by the ocean or a lake, on land separated off from the water. The 10 swords have nailed him to the earth, through his back. He is overpowered by the weight of thought, divorced from the water of heart and imagination. The swords plunge earthward out of the black, black cloudbank, out of negativity of mind. A streak of golden hope or optimism is pressed under the melancholic cloud, like honey beneath an immense mass of coal. The 10 swords, cold steel-blue, cover over the golden gleam. This is the morosely pessimistic mind that has given up all hope, self-undermined. Self-crucifixion by Self-condemnation. Abandon hope, all who enter this scene.


Its strange how some meanings stay with you. In one of my tarot books, I can't remember which one but its got a modern take on the tarot, and it said that the 10 of Swords can mean actual back pain. I suffer with bouts of back pain from discomfort to crippling pain so I started to take note of when I get this card - I know its not the traditional meaning of the card but for me it does work.

I usually get this card just before I start to over-do it. And it acts as a reminder to slow down before something gives. :)


I use the 'original' Rider Waite deck:

In my deck there is no sunset. A man lies, face turned away with a literal river of blood running from his back. The swords look as though they have been carefully placed, staged almost, on his back. There is no struggle, he has not been thrashing about in agony but laid there and allowed it to happen. His hand is clawed, almost into the shape of a crab. The water he is facing is black, merging into a sky with no stars. Near the shore is a murky yellow.

It is a ten representing completion and a new cycle.

The dominant colours are black - the void before light, a dark night of the soul where everything seems insurmountable. The yellow merges with the black: zest for life, light, energy, communication are murky and diluted in this dark unfathomable subconsciousness.

The red: vitality, passion, direction and optimism flow outwards, away from the body.

The grey of the swords and sand represent indifference, naivety, uncertainty or even deliberate indifference. You have allowed yourself to get stabbed in the back or you are indifferent, hence the exaggarated martyredom.

The swords are facing down, into the earth, grounding their upright meanings of protection, defense, knowledge, clarity and freedom. They can also mean victory - this person has failed or feel they have failed. They have given into their fate without a whimper.

The readings where this card has come up have given it many interpretations depending on the position and spread. One has been a feeling of martyredom, a camp, staged sense of victimhood. It is a message that life is not as overwhelming as it is perceived and it is mostly in your head.

The other main meaning, has been a literal stabbing in the back that you could have prevented had you been perceptive enough. It could have been stopped given caution. And as someone said earlier, it is almost like the Fool reversed, you should have looked before you leaped or, it is a warning to watch out. Yet it is a ten and the damage has already been done.

It represents betrayal by someone close to you, such as infidelity, a friend talking behind your back, someone ripping you off.

It also represents a feeling, unfounded, of victimhood, neurosis and martyredom.

Edited to say: the meanings as they have come up in my spreads.

lmao! To answer the original question - he's lying on a shore, on sand.