10 of Swords: Weeping on the Tomb

Image – the Wheel of the Year Tarot

A widow kneels in a graveyard. She has brought flowers and comes to grieve under the full moon’s light. A single crow (one for sorrow…) perches on the headstone. Five swords extend up below her, tangled among roots and vines. Five hang down above, dangling from gnarled branches. Danger lies on all sides, but she is oblivious to all of it.

It’s cold in the graveyard. Snow falls from blowing clouds in the moonlight, and her dark cloak billows around her. She wears fingerless gloves and reaches out toward the name on the headstone (not legible to us, looking on) – but she ignores the cold, wrapped in her thoughts. The bare branches of a gnarled winter tree reach out behind her. The only hint of coming spring that lightens the imagery of the 10 of Swords is in the pale early-season flowers that she has brought to the graveside.

Meaning: The 10 of Swords

This is a card of desolation, the end of the Winter cycle of swords. It can be a card of melodrama, of creating circumstances based on your reaction to events. The 10 of Swords is often interpreted as a card of bottoming out – of reaching rock bottom.

This is the ultimate card of taking responsibility for oneself and one’s future. Will the widow pictured return to the graveyard again and again, lost in grief? Will she continue to give so much of her soul to her grief that she cannot move forward in life, letting life move on without her?

In any case, a hard cycle is drawing to a close and new beginnings are ahead, when the querent is ready to see them. But there may be trials or shadow-work to go through under that full moon before a new day dawns. The end of one cycle is always the beginning of another, and the querent is at a fork in the road. Will the next cycle push upward, back into life and into the world around us? Or will it spiral into addiction, depression, or despair?

Advice for you: 10 of Swords

This is always the most difficult choice of our human existence – give up, or move on? Continue the hard work of being our best selves, or spiral downard into mediocrity or meanness? The axiom goes… “When you hit rock bottom, there’s a silver lining. The only way to go from rock bottom is up.”

If we can live in the current tension of a situation, facing rather than avoiding the most difficult truths in our lives – only then can we see with a clear vision where the way forward lies.

The 10 of Swords offers the querent a recognition of the situation – it’s not good or bad, it just is. This card does not encourage or discourage, it simply presents a choice. What comes next will be a defining movement for you. Reach deep, and choose wisely.

Questions for You: The 10 of Swords

Are you mired in a situation, so lost in the events of your life that you can’t see a way out? The way is there, but it may take a wrenching force of will to shift your perspective enough to see it. 

Can you face the truth of your situation? Are you willing to be fully present in this difficult moment? If you are ready to pick yourself up and take the first steps forward, a new cycle can begin. 


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