10 of Swords

The 10 of Swords card is among the various scary looking Tarot cards from the Minor Arcana. Just looking at it brings about a whole lot of pain and anguish. And when clients see it pop up in their readings, they often feel scared too.

However, while the 10 of Swords might look scary (and it does talk about a whole lotta pain), it isn’t really all that scary once you get to know it well.

In fact, the card can also be a very important guide and a lesson. And, many a times, the card also tells us a good news is on its way. To understand this, let’s first have a look at the image of the card, and understand its meaning.

10 of Swords – Image

10 of Swords

The image of the 10 of Swords is pretty grim, to say the least.

Right at the outset, we are faced with the image of a man who has been killed – he has not one, not two, but 10 swords stuck in his back. And he lies there, pinned down by these swords. And some might even think of him as dead.

He lies at the edge of a water body, and in the distance, we also see that a new day is dawning, as the dark night comes to an end.

If you look closely, you will also see that his fingers are forming some kind of a sign – if you look a the fingers of the Hierophant, you will see the similarity of this hand sign. It is the sign of benediction, of blessing.

10 of Swords – Meaning

Page of Clouds - Mind - Osho Zen

Let’s look at the meaning of this image.

We know that swords are all about the mind – logic, thoughts, and all the stuff that can emerge from this. Now, if we see the image from a very symbolic perspective, we will see how these thoughts and mind stuff has effectively managed to completely stop this man from moving anywhere. He is pinned down, unable to find a way out his predicament. Thoughts are like that – sometimes the negative thoughts we have can pin you down so completely, that you are unable to do anything at all.
In fact, most of the journey within the Suit of Swords is a testament to the fact that the mind can cause pain and debilitate you completely. And the 10 of Swords is the picture of this complete debilitation. Now, in this card, the journey is, for all intents and purposes, finished.

Thank the Gods that there is no 11 of Swords, eh! 😀

10 of Swords – Hope

But this image also carries within it a few rays of hope.

sunrise and hopeFirst and foremost is the dawn that breaks over the horizon. This clearly shows us that this is the end of the pain and suffering that was caused by the mind stuff in the suit – and that with the new day dawning, there will be a new beginning, and hope that the future brings something good and different. Sometimes, this can also signal something good that suddenly comes into your life.

The second sign of hope is the sign of benediction that the man makes with his fingers. After struggling with his mind till the very bitter end, he finally realizes that this entire experience has been a blessing in disguise. Only after he has confronted these thoughts, and has been completely annihilated by the mind, does he finally realize that he is now free of its tentacles.

The body of water represents the subconscious mind. He lies at the edge of it, close to it. All these encounters with the patterns of his own mind, he has come closer to the truth – he has discovered a path towards his subconscious, which he can only find after he has faced and fought off the mind’s confusing maze of thoughts and patterns.

10 of Swords

So, to sum it up, while the 10 of Swords might convey a whole lot of pain and suffering, it also shows us that this pain and suffering might help you unveil the path to your inner self where you won’t get caught up in the mind’s traps. It also gives us hope that while this may be the pinnacle of pain, the rest of the way is only going to be a lot less of pain. You are at the peak of the suffering, and now its only going to ease up.

In short, the 10 of Swords does look scary, but along with its inevitable message of pain and suffering, it also sows the seeds for hope and blessings.

Your Turn…

The message in the 10 of Swords card is clear – yes, you need to be vary of the mind’s patterns and confusing thoughts because they might lead you to this place where you will be completely immobile and pinned down. But if you are brave enough to see the new dawn and the blessings it brings, you will also find the strength within you to face and deal with these mind patterns and find a new path in life which is free from such debilitating thought patterns.

What is your take on the 10 of Swords? Do you have any other thoughts about this card and its symbolism? Do you have any insights to share? Please do share your thoughts in the comments section. I would love to know. :)


  1. Nicely written Madhavi!! The man faces the new dawn and probably can see it in the distance. Maybe the man can see a brighter future but his fears and past ties do not allow him to make a move.

  2. Thanks Bindiya!
    A very interesting perspective on the card.. I must say! :)

  3. Interesting, like very much

  4. Thanks Swati!
    The 10 of Swords is an interesting card… :)

  5. Shewing this card to a friend, She remarked, “maybe the swords represented the ten commandments.” I found that so interesting. One she had no real knowledge of the Waite book and two, I had made no real comment concerning it. He does seem to make the esoteric hand sign. The sleves and drape match that of the Heirophant.

  6. Very interesting point of view, Brad.
    Yes, the hand sign and the connection with the Hierophant card is pretty interesting, isn’t it, as is the 10 commandments thing… Much to ponder about…
    Thanks for sharing…

  7. I am a novice but am trying to look at what the card is saying “to me”. I drew this card last night and after gulping looked closer. I see all the swords have been thrust at/into him ~ there are no more to come. Could the worse be over? Could he be resting/recovery while gazing at the calm water and coming of dawn after the dark night gave way to grey and then a bright energetic yellow? I see a time of recovery, perhaps introspection or at least contemplation about what has happened and the possiblities that might lay ahead. I feel this card actually somewhat reasurring. Sorry about the errors as the program will not allow me to correct.

  8. Hey Johan,
    Looks like you’ve truly grasped the deeper sentiment within this card!
    Yes, the card does have those shades of hope in it… Many a times, the grim image doesn’t allow us to see that part, but I am glad that you saw it…
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. Excellent take on the 10 of swords card and its secret and positive aspects. But there is indeed a negative aspect to the card: During my years of tarot reading I have found that the 10 of Swords will most usually fall in a position in a reading that indicates by the surrounding cards a Betrayal of mortifying porportions: so mortifying that the mind is overcome with it. An example of this is a reading I recently did where the 10 of swords appeared in the “Recent Past” position and my client was in tears over her the fact that her fiancee had suddenly abandoned her a week ago and married a different woman. 10 of Swords is about ‘ultimate betrayal’ the number of swords is a testament to the magnitude of psychological pain the betryal will cause, and sometimes, it indicates that more than one person was involved in hurting your feelings/messing up your mind. However, the gold sky in the card indicates that the black clouds are slowly lifting..hang in there, better days are ahead and you will be able to move on with your life. =)

  10. Hey Deborah,
    Great insight! It’s true what you said about the number of swords showing the magnitude of pain.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. The way I often read the 10 of swords is as an identity change, because it is in air, relating to one’s thoughts and perspective, and it’s as if the current version of ego-identity has no further to go (10, the highest number), and it’s time to reinvent oneself and have a new version of self that rises from the ashes of what has been “killed” (in the Waite deck picture): the old identity. It depends on the context of the cards, and also where it falls in the layout–in what element. Another reading of it which may be unique to me, is when the 10 of swords is the last card: it can indicate “the end of the matter”, and whatever the previous cards say, all the necessary meaning will be found in them and there’s nothing else but to emphasize what’s been stated.

  12. A very interesting perspective Elissa… Yes, I too have often felt that the 10 of Swords represents the fact that there is no further pain to be experienced – but this connection with the ego-identity is awesome!

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