When we run into great suffering, what do we often do? Chances are you have experienced more than one great tribulation in your life, but it's our response to it that often defines that experience. When we get sick, we are quick to call others to let them know how terrible our illness is. When a friend stabs us in the back, we quickly spread word of it between all of our other friends. It can sometimes be hard for people to resist these urges, but where do they come from? The truth is they come from a need for sympathy – if we don't believe people understand our plight, we see understanding and a comforting hand. All too often, however, our trials and tribulations get ignored because we sing about them from the mountains. This is what the Ten of Swords card is all about.
On the Ten of Swords, we have a flat plain with a distant mountain – over the mountain, the sun is setting, barely a glimmer on the horizon. Before us is a man, face down on the ground, his cloak (or is it blood?) all around him. In the man's back are ten swords – not one, not two, but ten swords. Each one is planted firmly in his back, each causing a grievous wound. There is little chance of recovery for the man.
This card can signal real and true pain. You break your leg, a family member is hospitalized, you lose your job... there are so many ways for us to hit rock bottom that it's impossible to list each. Note that there are ten swords instead of only one – this could mean that your trials and tribulations have been piled on top of each other, one after another. You might have heard the saying that “Troubles come in threes”, but in this case three would have been a welcome number!
This card can also signal the feeling of going as low as you can go. Welcome to the bottom – population: you. You might feel that this point in your life is the very lowest. Thankfully, there's one well-known truth in this world: from the bottom, you can only go up. Look for chances to get a foothold on your life again.
There is one fascinating possible alternative meaning to this card, and that is that the anguish, suffering, and pain is a bit overdramatized. Not that there isn't pain, and that the person on the card isn't suffering... but there are ten swords in the back of the man. Wouldn't one have been enough to kill him? There are times in our lives where we are so blinded by our troubles, that we tell everyone within earshot of how badly we are doing and how much we suffer. It's understandable to want sympathy, understanding, and comfort from those that you love... but remember that they have their own set of worries and pains as well, and that if you ramble on about yours you should give them time to ramble on about theirs.
If you're looking to understand the Ten of Swords better, here are a few questions you can ask yourself. Do you feel like you're at the bottom? Why? How did you get there? How can you get back up on your feet? Do you feel that you might be feeling a lot of self-pity? Don't beat yourself up for it – simply acknowledge it if it's present. Sometimes we need that stage in order to progress to the next – true healing.
The Ten of Swords is a bit unique in it's message, but there are still some cards that have a few elements in common with it: namely the Eight of Swords and the Nine of Swords, the two cards that come before it in the suite. Both the Eight and Nine culminate into what the Ten card represents – the fear and worry of the Nine, and the helplessness and frustration from the Eight.