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The Meaning of
the "Ten of Swords" Tarot Card

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What is the inverted meaning of
the "Ten of Swords"?

The Meaning of the "Ten of Swords"
Tarot Card


The Symbolism of the Ten of Swords

One of the darkest and most negative cards in the Tarot, the Ten of Swords is as close to death and destruction as tarot cards get.

Lying on the ground and partially covered under red fabric, lies the body of a man who has been pierced 10 times with downward pointing swords.

As with other cards in the Swords suit, the direction in which the blades are pointing, is a strong indicator of the positive or negative message communicated by the card.

(This is) literally, as bad as it gets for the Swords suit.

Since the Ten of Swords has the most swords of any Swords card — ten blades pointing down is literally, as bad as it gets for the Swords suit.

Overhead, a dark and foreboding sky sets an ominous tone. In the background we see extremely still and motionless waters — signifying a stillness and peace after what have clearly been chaotic events.

In the distance, under a clearing sky, pale mountains rise from the water, symbolizing challenges ahead. But the clearing sky also offers a message of hope.

NOTE: A common question from tarot students is: Is the Ten of Swords worse than the Death card? Of all the cards in the Tarot, the Ten of Swords is the closest to representing actual endings. Even the Death card of the Major Arcana, while scary sounding and perhaps even scarier looking, isn't nearly as final as the Ten of Swords. While the Death card deals with the end of cycles, and carries an implicit concept of rebirth and expected renewal — the Ten of Swords depicts a far more final and irreconcilable ending. Furthermore, the endings represented by the Ten of Swords can be unexpected and abrupt.


How to Interpret the Ten of Swords

The Ten of Swords represents an abrupt and painful ending. It's typically representative of something unexpected and something final.

The card may represent an unexpected break-up, or a physical loss of some kind — particularly of something valuable or cherished like a mobile phone, a wallet or a handbag.

In a business reading, the Ten of Swords may represent a surprise layoff or the loss of an important client relationship. The card may also represent an investment loss, especially one which collapses abruptly. It may also reflect a legal defeat or a final legal judgement.

The card may represent an unexpected betrayal by an ally. Or, a surprise infidelity in a relationship.

Another interpretation of the Ten of Swords focuses on the 'backstabbing' depiction in the card: The card may represent an unexpected betrayal by an ally. Or, a surprise infidelity in a relationship.

A friend entrusted with a secret may betray that trust, leaving someone feeling like they've been stabbed in the back. Or a business ally may go around someone's back, leaving bruises behind and a deep sense of betrayal.

When the Ten of Swords appears in a reading, it's a strongly negative card. It carries overtonees of trust issues, family strife and periods of deep uncertainty.

As painful as the Ten of Swords may be, remember that the card pictures a clearing sky and calm waters in the distance: This too shall pass.


The Ten of Swords Inverted

The Ten of Swords reversed is often a sign of a 'close call'. Disaster may have seemed imminent and unavoidable, but somehow the worst never came.

We get so accustomed to living with a dark cloud over our heads, that we stop believing there's a chance things work themselves out.

There are times we become so convinced that a disaster is around the corner, that it can be almost surreal when that disaster doesn't come. We get so accustomed to living with a dark cloud over our heads, that we stop believing there's a chance things work themselves out.

In a relationship reading, the inverted Ten of Swords typically means a salvaged relationship: A peace and understanding achieved after a time of turmoil and pain.

In a business reading, the card often indicates a solution to a problem that seems intractable — or a new source of unexpected capital.

When the Ten of Swords comes up in a reading in its inverted position, it's usually a positive sign: Possibility has been snatched from the jaws of defeat.

One potential negative reading, depending on your tarot spread, is that the Ten of Swords may represent a person who can't move on from a defeat; The clouds have parted, the sun is shining, but someone is still dwelling on a loss and can't get back in the game.

In this case, the appearance of the inverted Ten of Swords may be a gentle reminder to get up, and get back in the game. Possibilities are everywhere.

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