The 10 of Swords is a card of ruin, murder, and liberation. Often feared as one of the worst cards in the deck, it indicates absolute finality. What was is no more and there won’t be a renaissance. With that said, it is not the end of the world and can actually be unabashedly positive depending on its position and surrounding cards.
In most decks the 10 of Swords is figured as a face-down corpse with ten swords in its back. In the Universal Dali, the image is a painting detail from La Morte di Cesare by Vincenzo Camuccini (1798) representing the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar on the Senate floor. The ten swords pierce the entire group as three rudimentary birds fly overhead. There is no other representation to distract from the scene of murder.
This stark representational choice on the part of Dali is a very fine one. Julius Caesar was the anomalous “dictator in perpetuity” of the Roman Republic who was incredibly beloved by the masses. Fearing that he might fancy himself a king and overthrow the Senate, 60 senators conspired to murder him and thereby preserve the Republic. Caesar’s body was stabbed 20+ times by as many senators within the Senate hall.
The 10 of Swords is an ambivalent card that is well reflected by the circumstances surrounding Caesar’s death. The senators most probably did save their Republic from a tyrant — and yet the death of this dictator resulted in his official deification by the Roman Republic, just before the Republic ended (all the same) following a string of civil wars which were the murder’s direct consequence.
This card’s most fundamental message is: “Too late!”
If the 10 of Swords has a “natural” equivalent, think of several vultures circling a dying animal or a pride of lions taking down a water buffalo. It is neither “good” nor “bad,” so much as over. There can be no forboding and no anxiety when this card is pulled, as that which is feared has already come to pass. You shan’t have to carry it with you in the future and it will not haunt you. There remains only one thing left to do — let go!
**While all manner of comments are welcomed, any further information pertaining to art history, symbolism, myth, cultural reverberations, and Tarot card meanings that traverse decks or lend especial light to the Universal Dali deck, specifically, are actively sought and encouraged. I’m not using a book for these descriptions, so I may miss a reference that bears mention in relation to a card. If you know something, please share it!
Conversely, I actively negate the astrological significations of the Trump cards within the Universal Dali deck in favor of the more traditional Thoth. My plan is to tackle the astrological significations of the Universal Dali Trumps and their overt divergence from all norms in one article… after having described each card. That’s a ways off. ;)
To visit the Tarot card library, click here.