While I’m not fully convinced that all things come to an end, I have no definitive proof to the contrary. It’s in this space that the Ten of Swords holds its power; the inevitability that everything we know, whether we adore it, fear it or completely disregard it, will come to an end. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the longest relationship of my life concluded during my own personal journey through the Kingdom of the Swords. But as my marriage was extinguished, so too were certain beliefs that no longer served me. The Ten of Swords can be a brutally painful card (hell, the whole Suit of Swords can feel vicious) but destruction paves the way for creation and it’s important to keep that in mind when surrendering to this card.
The Power, and Sometimes Pain, of Knowledge
The card shows us a series of scenes bringing closure to the tale of Ash’s underworld journey while promising rebirth into further cycles. In the lower right corner of the Ten of Swords, we see the immediate aftermath of the Nine of Swords. While that card showed Ash moments away from being cut down by Zombie Red, we see that he was not decapitated (or, more appropriate to the Suit of Swords, he didn’t lose his head). Rather, Zombie Red’s sword of doubt and fear is driven directly through Ash’s heart without resistance, leaving his head clear. Is it a painful death? Certainly. Was Ash terrified to face a second demise? Undoubtedly. But we see the ghost of a smile on his dead visage, showing that, in his final moments, his eyes were finally open to the truth and he accepted it without regret. The Ace of Swords found Ash reborn into a hell of his own making but with the seeds of new thoughts planted deep in his haunted mind; new ideas that he would need to adopt to move forward. Old ways of thinking are hard to break so the Suit of Swords was almost entirely comprised of stumbling and falling. In the end, Ash chose a selfless path. His guile and evasion failing him, he grabbed hold of the sword of truth and faced his ghosts with honesty, bravely contemplating them instead of fleeing them. The result? Well, they violently murdered him. But, as we can see on Ash’s face, embracing his phantoms held the only promise of freedom from the guilt and fear that plagued his mind.
The Consequences of Unopen Eyes
After running blindly and relying on old tricks for most of the Suit of Swords, Ash sees his demons with true clarity in the Ten of Swords. Though Zombie Red finally managed to get the revenge he lusted after by murdering Ash in the underworld, he is sort of the true tragedy of the Suit of Swords. Blinded by his quest for revenge, he is ultimately left confused and directionless once he has conquered Ash. In many ways, Zombie Red is sightless, making him the perfect candidate for service to the King of Swords as an ever-disoriented Knight of Swords. Here, we find the King of Swords emotionlessly knighting Zombie Red for ridding the Kingdom of Swords of Ash. There is a look of subservient pride on Zombie Red’s bloodstained mouth; a cracked and damage symbol of uncommunicated truths. As with all Knights of Swords, Zombie Red’s helmet is blinding and he is willingly doomed to continue his crude semblance of life, bound, blind and agonized.
The Liberation of the Ten of Swords
In the upper right corner, we get confirmation that Ash’s actions allowed Alexis to escape the capture of House Swords and that she regained the sword of truth that Ash had stolen from her. Her back is to us as Ash’s adventures are now part of her past whereas her eyes are focused on the promise of the future. And here is where we find the silver lining of the big, black cloud at the center of the Suit of Swords. There is a reason for the pain that Ash endured, a reason that he had to look his nightmares in their eyes, a reason for his arduous sacrifice. After a lifetime of outwitting, outfighting, and outrunning his challenges, Ash looked them in their horrifying faces and saw himself. He felt the pain of the guilt, the pain of the failure, the pain of the fear, and, in the end, the pain of the swords. And, at the center of the Ten of Swords, we see the swords piercing him with their guards consisting of lips (communication of truth) opening to reveal an eye (seeing the truth). But the handle that extends from these symbols is a feather, reminding us not only of the element of air but of angel wings and the freedom of flight. It doesn’t come easy or painlessly but we see Ash ascending from his underworld nightmare. His destruction has actually cleared the way for his rebirth; his skin and hair are regaining their color, the dark circles around his eyes have faded away and he is reaching upward with focus.
In the borders, we see the sword of truth standing before a blue sun that could either be rising or setting (both being appropriate in this card). Crescent moons in the borders indicate completion. The dark blue lightning bolt that stands boldly as the backdrop to the Ten of Swords is one final reminder of the power of illumination alongside the destruction necessary to provide the space for creation.