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What does the Ten of Swords mean?

February 23, 2016

Ten of Swords RWS2.0 Tarot eCardsHere is a pithy meaning for the Ten of Swords:
Pain can be very distracting.

This pithy meaning might make immediate sense to you. If not, however, here are some thoughts about it that might help when this card comes up in a reading.

First, we may relate it to the old saying “Hurt people hurt people,” which I have assigned to the Three of Swords. People in pain (psychic, emotional, or physical) can be distracted by the pain to such an extent that they aren’t paying attention to what’s really going on, and as a result, they may react quickly and thoughtlessly.

Second, this pithy meaning can suggest that someone who seems to be acting in a rather senseless manner may be distracted by some sort of pain.  (The person in question may be the subject of the reading or someone in his or her environment.)  The advice here can be to address the pain—discover the source and fix the problem—because you’re at a dead-end until you do.

Note that I associate this meaning with the Ten of Swords due to that card’s common depiction of someone being pincushioned by ten swords—that’s gotta hurt!  However, you might find that it works better for you when associated with that other very painful Swords card: the Three of Swords. It’s up to you how you make this association.

Note: Each of these pithy Tarot meanings is just one facet of its card. Find more of them on my Card Meanings page.  Also, get my Pithy Tarot eBook and LIKE my Pithy Tarot Facebook page!




  1. I like this meaning very much and your nuanced discussion of how pain can lead to more pain and so on. Instead of the song “Chain of Fools,” we now have a “Chain of Fools in Pain causing Pain.”

    Thanks for your sharing the wisdom in this fashion,

    Elinor Greenberg

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