Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.
It’s been several years since this rather infamous card came visiting. Is it only coincidence that it last showed up the week of the devastating American presidential election of 2016?
Well, for better or worse, this week, we’re presented again with the gifts and challenges of the Ten of Swords.
For people with even the most casual exposure to the Tarot, this card is one they never forget. One of the most grisly looking cards, the Ten of Swords is often dreaded and admittedly not the happiest of all the Tarot images.
So, yes, fasten your seat belts, my loves; it could be a bumpy week. But with all the events that are already in motion (the impending Mueller report, Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress, and the summit between CRWH* and Kim Jong Un.. just for starters), it doesn’t take a psychic genius to predict drama, does it?
The Tens of each suit are the overflowing of that suit’s energy. With the Cups, for instance, it is the overflow, the zenith and then some, of love, emotional harmony, and happiness.
But in the Ten of Swords, it is the conflicted mentality of the Swords suit that is over the top — so much so that it is almost ridiculous. One Sword is quite enough to kill someone. Ten swords, stuck in the back, no less… well, you might say, “over-kill.”
But remember that Swords correspond to the Element of Air. They tell us about our thoughts – not literal, flesh and blood reality, but how we interpret our reality.
So, grim as it looks, this card is almost never about any sort of physical death (and only then, if it is in a spread with other cards that would indicate this).
The Swords suit tells us about perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, communication, and the stories we tell ourselves; especially the ones we believe about ourselves.
This is certainly how it looks sometimes, when we have been so wounded in some way, that we can’t believe anyone has ever suffered as much. The Ten of Swords seems to portray complete, absolute despair. It can even be when we have decided that life itself is over.
Overwhelmed with this extreme ending, we face the absolute death — dead as can be — not of our physical being, but of an idea, mindset, project, aspiration, or point of view with which we have lived for quite some time. There can be no doubt, no revival, no spin, no restoration, or repackaging.
This card tells us to let it go; it’s really, really over.
Then, and only with that acceptance, traumatic as it may be, you will receive the secret gift within this card.
Unlike other Swords cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck that come with turbulent, stormy seas, the Ten’s waters are calm. And, in contrast with, for instance, the Nine, with its completely black background, the darkness here is passing, and day is breaking.
Even more telling, the victim’s right hand is making a sign of benediction and peace. In the last throes of this brutal death, forgiveness is given, understanding is reached.
Endings That Seed Beginnings
As countless astrologers and (even non-astrologers like me) have expounded, since 2008, Pluto in the sign of Capricorn has pointed to the downfall of some of our most entrenched institutions, and the upending of systems that we have taken for granted, for hundreds of years.
To get an idea of the kinds of profound changes this transit can bring about, think about the ways our world was transformed in the years 1762 to 1779 — the last time Pluto, which rules destruction, the underworld, and transformation visited Capricorn, the sign of government, politics, and rulership.
We are clearly in a pivotal time that is exposing and releasing our corrupt systems and institutions, especially those that are rooted in privileged, greedy patriarchy.
My friend, astrologer Elisabeth Grace, has written at length about how Chiron’s shift into Aries last week is likely to initiate a true reckoning and “healing [of] toxic aggression, masculinity and leaders.”
Echoing this message, the Ten of Swords offers a vivid depiction that something has to go, because it is already quite dead. No matter how painful it may look, this is what is necessary for healing to begin.
When this was the guidance that appeared during the week of the 2016 American presidential election, it was clear that a sea change had occurred. I have friends who wept for weeks over the (debatable) election of the CRWH.
That week, we, as Americans, were stung by the evidence that the way we’d imagined ourselves as a people was no longer true. And the fallout of that ending goes on, as our allies and adversaries continue to adjust to the vastly different role we play in the world.
But, as with the Ten of Swords, perhaps it’s not the end of the story; only the end of a long, difficult chapter in history.
These rude awakenings have jolted many out of the lethargy of ignorance and comfortable complacency. We have been given a visceral reminder that our freedoms, democracy, and forbearance for one another must never be taken for granted, or left unguarded.
From this painful lesson, a new wave of activism and civic participation has risen. Especially among the younger people, I am seeing a fervent kindling of speaking truth to power that I’ve not seen since I was a teenager in the tumultuous 1960s.
Closer to home, what difficult ending might you be undergoing? Is there some situation where it’s time to admit defeat? Perhaps it seems to have been a very unfair loss, or even a betrayal.
What in your life needs to go, and go now, because all the goodness in it is gone? Who is the current “you” that needs to yield to the potential of what you yet might be? The Phoenix will rise, but to do so it requires the ashes of its own demise.
Distressing as it may be, only by this complete surrender will we ever be able to take the next step, which is born of forgiveness. What looks like a terrible ending may be, as Mr. Rogers has wisely pointed out, the beginning of something else. What might that be? What would you wish for?
This week, a big finale may be at hand. In its wake, there is light and peace on our horizon.
With new respect and awareness, let us prepare our welcome for what is yet to come. We need only let go of what is already gone.
*CRWH: He whose name I shall not speak, nor title bestow, but simply call “Current resident of the White House.”