Ten of Swords At A Glance
Keywords: Ruin, betrayal, exhaustion, back stabbing, dead end, letting self down, rebelling against the plan, survival, lesson learned, disaster avoided, relapse, step backwards
Element: Air (thoughts, ideas and communication)
Ten of Swords Tarot Card Description
The Ten of Swords is the tenth card in the suit of Swords within tarot. The original card features quite graphic artwork and so this card is adapted in modern decks more than almost any other card in the deck. The traditional art work shows a man lying face down in a dirt street half covered in a rumpled red cloth. 10 swords protrude from his back in a scene which depicts back stabbing in its most literal sense.
The red cloth conceals and symbolizes blood shed and the the rest of the scenery in the background is stark in black and white which stands for binary thinking (right and wrong, true or false etc.) This implies the back stabbing has at least somewhat been caused by previous actions of the victim or a long term situation which has escalated to this point.
Ten of Swords Upright Meaning
Receiving the Ten of Swords card in a tarot reading can be quite a shock, especially if it is the first time a new reader has seen this card. Regardless of what version of the deck or artwork we may have on our own personal cards it is often still portrayed as strikingly intense. This makes the meaning of the Ten of Swords card very clear to us on an instinctive level even before we learn its meaning logically from the guidebook or other tarot resources.
Though it is important not to worry. This card may depict a morbid scene but the specifics of our situation are likely to be very different and nuanced. The Ten of Swords depicts back stabbing in its literal sense but how this betrayal manifests in our lives can be much more subtle and so its meaning is applied hypothetically or at least, non-literally. The art work is made so intensely on purpose so that it provokes a strong instinct reaction in us.
The Ten of Swords warns us that if we do not change our actions this is what we could be heading for. It suggests there have been signs about this all along but we have ignored them. Therefore the imagery is stark to shock us and make us sit up and pay attention.
“It was a mistake,” you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.” - David Levithan
Ten of Swords Reversed Meaning
Though it is not all bad, hang in there and don’t panic because we’re about to learn all the good things that the 10 of Swords has to say. When reversed (the artwork appears upside down to us) it suggests healing from a point which at the time we believed there was no coming back from. This can look like unbelievably beating the odds. Having every hardship stacked against us and the situation looking hopeless and yet somehow we manage to come out on top.
Sometimes it can suggest being in the middle of a very bad situation and coming out of it with only (non-literal) scratches and life lessons learnt. Seeing the Ten of Swords implies that a dire moment we face may finally shake us awake making us realize that our actions were taking us down a bad path for us. A good, if somewhat extreme example, of the energy of the Ten of Swords reversed would be a prisoner reforming and turning their life around once they have served their time.
Or even someone having a near death experience which makes them value life and feel more grateful for all the things they used to take for granted. The situation for the reader is probably not as grand scale as these examples but it gives us a rough idea of the ‘turning life around’ power that the Ten of Swords reversed has.
“Forgive yourself for the blindness that let others betray you. Sometimes a good heart doesn't see the bad.” - Unknown
Ten of Swords: Yes or No
The Ten of Swords is always a no card. It says this is a terrible path for us to even think about at this time. It says we already have a very good plan and we need to follow that instead of diverting off course.
It says this in both its upright and reversed positions.
Let’s Break Down the Ten of Swords In Our Lives
How the Ten of Swords changes when it refers to different areas of our lives.
Ten of Swords In Love
The 10 of Swords sends a very clear message when it is drawn in a love reading. There is betrayal within the relationship in question though not always in the way we think. Though it could be referring to infidelity more often than not it implies we have drifted away from prioritizing our relationship.
In this case the betrayer in the relationship could actually be the reader themselves. This card could be suggesting that the reader pay attention to their relationships with renewed vigor to keep it flourishing.
Reversed it can signify that we are finally beginning to heal from a past betrayal by a loved one. Often the hurt done to us by ex lovers follows us into our new relationships. If someone has betrayed us in the past it is easy for us to have low self-esteem and/or suspect new people. The Ten of Swords reversed suggests we are letting go of these feelings and that we have healed from the emotional trauma on a deeper level.
Ten of Swords With Money
To receive the 10 of Swords in a financial reading suggests an incredibly harsh blow to our finances. It looks like the end of the road for this particular plan. This could be a business going bust or a loss of investment. We should do our best to salvage what we can and move on knowing better and implementing the lessons we have learned.
Reversed the Ten of Swords suggests we will narrowly avoid bankruptcy or some form of financial ruin. It will be teeth-clenching hard work but we will survive this and prosper in the future because of the hard won lessons this situation gives us.
Ten of Swords At Work
The 10 of Swords in career readings can suggest we are working in a field or industry which no longer aligns with us. It has become apparent to us that the role we are paid to fulfill doesn’t serve us well and to turn up everyday feels more like a betrayal of our true selves. It’s time to make drastic changes which might include leaving.
There could be elements of the role that we still enjoy so we could ask our superiors if we can focus on these and have our contract emended but if this isn’t possible we need to support ourselves and what is best for us and begin looking for work elsewhere.
Reversed the Ten of Swords suggests healing from stressful workplace environments. Maybe because our environment at work changes or because we make changes to our schedule or other components we have control over. Either way these changes have a big effect on our mental health and we begin to recover.
Ten of Swords With Others
When we receive the Ten of Swords for questions referring to the world or society in general it can suggest we feel abandoned, disenfranchised or otherwise feel a complete loss in faith for humanity. This is likely because we have just experienced the very lowest point of our particular situation. Things will turn around and we will smile again, but at the moment we are in the very eye of the storm and feel like we have no one trusted we can turn to.
Reversed this card can mean we are soon going to experience a rekindling for our love of life and the world around us. Perhaps a stranger is kind to us or we have a great conversation with a loved one which goes on to improve our mind frame for days. The result is that we are able to feel directly in the moment the point where our life begins to turn around. We feel renewed and revived with hope that sparks within our heart and encourages us onwards.
Ten of Swords With Self
When we have asked introspective questions about ourselves the Ten of Swords suggests we are betraying own plan. The plan that we spent time creating and following up has been working for us. Yet somewhere along the way we have fallen off the wagon.
We might feel tempted to make changes and try something else but this card asks us to give the original plan one more try committing to it more fully than we have before.
Reversed the Ten of Swords is congratulating us on staying the course of internal work we have been doing. It says we have healed on a deeper level than we even realize. This card suggests we have avoided a terrible situation because we took decisive action in our recent past to care for ourselves.
Ten of Swords As Feelings
Ten of Swords as a feeling is the sickly jolt of our stomach dropping as the true extent of the betrayal against us truly sinks in. It can also be the giddy feeling of relief as we avoid the worst of a dangerous situation unscathed.