Ending. Betrayal. Sadness.
The Ten of Swords is about endings (and of course the beginning of something else). In meaning, this card is similar to the Death card, and it also has a regenerative aspect, but to get there, pain is likely.
Perhaps you’ve been defeated in some area of your life, or you may be facing defeat.
As the image shows, it can literally mean being stabbed in the back—a betrayal. Desolation or disaster are possible. However, all is not necessarily lost. There is brightness of the horizon (as the image shows). Although the dark sky shows the pain involved in reaching that bright horizon.
And sadness is quite likely.
In a relationship reading (depending on other cards drawn) this could suggest the ending of a relationship; it can sometimes suggest the uncomfortable ending of one phase of a relationship. If drawn with very positive cards, then any sadness is reduced.
In a career reading, it might mean being fired or quitting your job. Possibly a failure to get a job, promotion or pay rise you had wished to get.
Your plans or projects have probably been disrupted, or at worst, destroyed.
The Ten of Swords can indicate hitting rock bottom.
You may be forced to accept a situation you had hoped to avoid.
This card can show a feeling that something or someone is not worth respect or consideration.
Someone may have much to say, but their words are not beneficial or worth serious consideration.
In all of this, it's important to remember that the ending of a situation can sometimes be in your best interest because it clears the way for better things to enter your life.
The Ten of Swords reversed holds a number of meanings. Opposites to the upright meaning are possible, and some improvement can be indicated. There may be a release of the negative pressure of the upright card. Perhaps a beneficial circumstance is indicated.
Perhaps a way with words is being shown.
As always, reversed cards can also indicate similar meanings to the upright card, but with an internalisation of energy. Blockages are possible.
Perhaps an ending is being painfully delayed. Sometimes (and this can apply to the upright meaning too) an ending to a situation is simply the best option, even if there’s pain involved, because it allows you to clear the way for something better.
Sometimes the Ten of Swords reversed indicates success (although perhaps not a great one), or it might show an advantage being gained (again, not a great one).
The Ten of Swords shows a dead man lying on a beach, stabbed in the back by ten swords. The sky is stormy and black, but on the horizon the clouds are disappearing, and the sky is becoming brighter.
A great many tarot decks follow the RWS imagery. The imagery of the Marseilles Ten of Swords, although very different, gives a similar feeling because of the sheer quantity of curved blades making death feel inevitable, yet the appearance of two flowers outside the encircling swords gives the feeling of hope that is suggested by the brightening sky of the RWS tarot.
The esoteric title of the Ten of Swords is Lord of Ruin.
Astrologically, the card represents the Sun in Gemini.