10 of Swords

Alt names: Ruin, Finality
Keywords: Exhaustion, ruin, disaster, stamina, obsession
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Range of meanings

Light: Seeing the signs that you’ve reached your limits. Paying attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Giving in to the need for rest and renewal. Acknowledging that you’ve hit bottom. Committing to a turnaround. Knowing the worst is over.

Shadow: Accepting defeat prematurely. Driving yourself to total exhaustion, especially mentally. Experiencing a mental breakdown. Obsessing on a problem to the breaking point. Giving up. Refusing to move from thought to action. Deeply unhealthy thoughts.

Questions to ask

  1. Is there a way to extract a life lesson from the trial you’re now facing? If so, what would that lesson be?
  2. Numerology suggests the 10 is the point at which fullness has been exceeded, and the energy of the suit becomes spoiled and over-extended. Here, endless deliberation and over-thinking have exhausted all possibilities for growth. It’s time to try another approach.
  3. What are the signs that the time for debate is over?
  4. How can you tell when interest has given way to obsession?
  5. When your own limits are reached, where can you turn for aid?


Personal Growth: Failure is a cruel but powerful teacher. When possible, make corrections before hitting bottom. If that time has passed, the mature thing to do is accept consequences, resolve to do better, and start the process of making amends. As they say: live one day at a time.

Work: Know when to say when. Continuing to take on more work and more responsibility is not the answer here. Be honest about your limits. If they’ve been exceeded, ask for relief. Diverting some of the work may mean eating some crow, but beats a complete systems failure later on.

Relationships: Preserving a relationship or friendship shouldn’t require self-destruction. There’s a strong possibility it’s time to let this one go. Examine the logic you’re using to justify maintaining this connection. A healthy relationship produces peace, not insanity.

Spirituality: It’s hard to keep your eyes on heaven when you’re face-down on the ground. When darkness overwhelms us, we may be tempted to abandon Spirit entirely. Finding just one thing to be thankful for, though, may provide you with the key to turning things around.

Fortune-Telling: Disaster. Put off plans and do not take action until omens are better.


Astrological: Gemini

Planet: Sun

Fool's Journey: The main character must acknowledge that all is apparently lost.

The Number 10: The End: finality, completion, the end of a cycle, beginning of a new one.

Swords: One of the four suits of the tarot. Also sometimes called blades, knives or athames. Represents logic, objectivity, intellect, and choice. Along with the responsibility such talents bring. Swords suggest logic, clarity, and decision-making. Remember the story of wise King Solomon, who once offered to slice a baby in half in order to resolve a dispute over motherhood? Swords cut through confusion, revealing our agendas in the process.

Swords in Back: Optimistic users of the RWS claim the swords on the 10 of Swords pierce the pitiful figure’s charkas, yielding enlightenment through trial. Other decks show the figure face-up, suggesting the additional agony of seeing a bad situation coming.

Dark Skies: RWS-inspired decks often depict a sunset (or sunrise) in the background of the 10 of Swords, suggesting that a change of some kind is at hand, but only after hitting rock bottom.

Content generously licensed from Mark McElroy via TarotTools.com.