As a reminder, the suit of swords is driven by masculine energy and channels the power of the intellect and mind, including all the concepts, knowledge, and beliefs that it holds. Scholars and academics have connected the suit of swords to the classical element of air, and most of the cards from that suit embody the symbolic attributes of this element, one way or another.
Ten of Swords card: Traditional meanings
Like many of the numbered minor arcana from the suit of swords, the ten of swords is an extremely bad card to find in a tarot drawing or spread. Even when dealing with something that has not happened yet, the negative message is so strong here that it will hardly be possible to fully avoid it. Something important is about to come to an end, and something dear to the subject of the reading will eventually probably be lost in that final struggle.
Other cards in the drawing might offer a way to lessen the blow or deal with the consequences as smoothly as possible, but only as a way to cushion the blow, not avoid it altogether.
Upright: Ultimate defeat, betrayal, pain, loss, and final moments.
Reversed: Denial, drama, inevitable end, and ruin and despair.
Upright Ten of Swords card
The Ten of Swords concludes the series of negatively charged cards found in the numbered minor arcana from the suit of swords. This might be the most depressing image in the series, with the corpse of a young man lying on the ground, stabbed through and through by ten swords still planted in his flesh.
The sky itself has ominously been painted black in the Rider-Waite tarot version of this card as if the horizon itself turned into a shroud for the victim. Thematically, some of these swords have probably been planted by former allies, in a situation echoing the feeling of betrayal embodied in Caesar’s final moments.
It might once again have been more suitable to divide the meaning of the ten of swords minor arcana into regular and reversed meaning instead of positive and negative. Echoing the image of the man stabbed to his death on the picture, the core message behind the ten of swords in a reading represents the ultimate loss and defeat, where anything that might go wrong does. This is the ultimate crisis, with defeat leaving an even bitterer aftertaste after the betrayal and abandon of someone close.
The best way to deal with such a disastrous situation would be to acknowledge defeat because any further struggle or attempt to fight back would only prolong the inevitable agony, or cause even further collateral damage that might have been avoided.
It should be noted, however, that this loss and final ending are figurative, the weapons used were the swords from the suit, representing matters of the mind and intellect. This card from the suit of Swords does not represent any actual violent death, only the death of a project, concept, or hope, and the ten of swords meaning is defeat, not death.
Reversed Ten of Swords card
When the already extremely negative Ten of Swords minor arcana card appears reversed in a drawing, it brings about an almost melodramatic emphasis to the situation. This is what happens when the subject of the reading refuses to let go against their inevitable defeat, prolonging the inevitable without any hope to change what is bound to happen.
As such, a reversed ten of swords often embodies the concept of denial, the refusal to accept an ill-fated end, no matter what happens.
Ten of Swords and love
The painful and final sentence found in the meaning of the ten of swords also applies when it is drawn in a tarot spread focusing on love and romantic relationships. In context, it often deals with the rather violent end of a relationship, when communication has broken down between former lovers and partners, turning pleasure into pain and good memories into painful reminders. This could represent a long drawn out legal battle for a divorce where no agreement could be found between former partners and where the courts had to be involved.