Comparing and interpreting artistic impressions of Tarot cards

I had a friendly argument debate with my teen girl about the Ten of Swords card. πŸ™ƒ

What precipitated our dispute deliberation was another person, a youtube tarot reader by the name of Chris. He was doing a Libra reading and came across the Ten of Swords card which he interpreted in a way that is different from how I see the card.

Chris said the person on the card is “clearly dead”.

I beg to differ.

I do not see death in that card.

Now some of you may know me as an *often negative perspective person*. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ I readily admit that my glass is not always half-full, it’s often half-empty. So for me to reject the so-called death in this card is something of an anomaly.

But it got me thinking.

Thinking (for me) leads to over-thinking and the next thing I know I’m involving my teen girl by asking her to describe what she sees on this card.

“He’s dead,” she said matter of factly. 😐

“I don’t see death,” I replied. “There is no blood.”

She looked closer by squinting her eyes and pointed to a red part underneath his head.

“Blood,” she affirmed with that teenage stare that teenagers fix their parents with when the teenagers assume they’re right and nothing anyone says or does will deter their opinionated opinions. πŸ˜€πŸ₯°πŸ₯΄ #GottaLoveThoseTeens

I dropped it.

Actually, that’s a lie. I dropped it at that moment, in front of her, and went to get my cards. I have three decks now, which meant there were three different artistic interpretations of the Ten of Swords I wanted to take a closer look at.

The traditional Rider-Waite deck was published in 1909. All the decks that came after have their own unique and individualistic interpretations. For comparison purposes, I consulted with the Shadowscapes deck and my newest Intuitive Night Goddess deck.

I compared all three cards and hereby give you my personalized interpretation.

Rider-Waite traditional/original Ten of Swords

I see a man who at first glance appears dead. But, as I have learned over my tarot learning journey, there is much detail to consider when reading the card’s symbolic meaning. In this case, I notice the red spot underneath the head of the man who is lying face down and facing away, toward the water. I never considered it to be a pool of blood. I always considered it to be an extension of the red blanket he’s covered with.

In addition, the four swords impaled in the upper portion of his torso, neck and head do not show blood leaking from his wounds.

Therefore, he is not dead.

He is:

  • exhausted
  • beaten down
  • hit rock bottom

I see this person as experiencing an extremely painful ending. Did a loved one die? Did he lose his job unexpectedly? Did he find out he has a terminal illness? Did a cherished relationship end against his will?

I look at the rest of the card. The dark, ominous clouds seem to be lifting. There is bright sunshine on the horizon. A new day is emerging, bringing with it new opportunities and perspectives.

The body of water he’s lying next to is calm. There are no waves. Water in the tarot points to emotions, feelings. Since the water is calm, he seems to have reached the tail end of his painful ending, his exhaustion. With the new day on the horizon, he may very well reach behind him, and pull those swords out of his body.

He is ready to climb out of the abyss.

Shadowscape’s Ten of Swords

This is my relationship deck, the one I use when I seek clarity or read energies pertaining to relationships. It doesn’t have to be just about romantic connections, it addresses every relationship we nurture in life: work, family, friends, lovers.

I’m especially drawn to this deck because my friend Summerhill Lane has gifted it to me. Seems appropriate to use it for relationship readings.

This deck does not depict the Swords suit as a weapon. Because Swords represent the air element, the artist of this deck uses birds for the swords interpretations.

This card does not indicate death to me, either, although it is much less deadly than the Rider-Waite card.

The booklet included with this deck describes the Ten of Swords like this:

Misfortune, desolation, burdens to bear, ruin, the end of delusions. It feels like circumstances have instigated a spiraling and uncontrolled plunge.

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore

I see the spiraling downward motion by the way her veil floats above her. The hope, which is depicted by the coming dawn on the horizon in the Rider-Waite card, is represented by the birds who are flying around her trying to keep her falling.

To me, this is a gentler interpretation of desolation, despair, and painful endings, one that does not imply imminent death.

Intuitive Night Goddess Ten of Swords

My newest deck is still a little unfamiliar to me, but I have taken the time to get to know each card. Again, the interpretation of the artist deviates from the original Rider-Waite card. I don’t see any death here, either.

The key words associated with this card, taken from the accompanying booklet, are:

things will get better

Notice the last point? I saw that in the Rider-Waite card with the sun coming up, as well as the calm water.

In this card, the ten swords seem lit up and appearing to be raining down on the goddess. Typically, when swords point upward, it refers to seeking divine enlightenment or guidance. The big rock behind her might point to obstacles she has recently faced, or hurdles she has tried to overcome, leaving her tired and overwhelmed. The look on her face shows surprise, perhaps because she got a hold of one of the floating swords. In the background we also see calm water, a sign of things getting better.

Nobody died. Nobody is dead. There is no death in these three cards. That’s my interpretation.

What’s yours?

Thank you for stopping by Tarot Days. If you like to follow more of my tarot readings and interpretations, you can subscribe to my youtube channel, or head on over to my TikTok profile where I do almost daily tarot messages. Be forewarned, there are occasional Tucker appearances, especially lately… Feel free to head over to the tarot tab for a collection of my articles.

Thank you for reading my post. See you in the comments.

15 thoughts on “Comparing and interpreting artistic impressions of Tarot cards

  1. I found the idea that different tarot card “artists” (I’m not familiar with tarot, so apologies if I butcher the terminology or say something offensive – so not my intent) for lack of better word, design the cards differently based on their interpretation. In a way, it kind of reminds me of bible commentary and how different scholars/traditions translate and interpret the text in different ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s is all interpretation. I think the intent in the original cards and game was to base it’s drawings and symbolism on universal life lessons.

      My view on religious scriptures is the same as what you say about tarot – I take it to mean x but someone else may have a variation on x.

      The general interpretation of the Ten of Swords is one of desolation and its variants. Some people say something/someone died, some see it as a cycle ending, no death (although that’s a for of death).

      Your interpretation is yours and valid just as mine is, or someone else’s.


  2. To me the original and 2nd interpretation look like death or at the very least torture. The first looks less like a blanket and more like a river of blood. The second one the woman has what looks like slit wrists and the birds are attacking her..the last interpretation looks like a saint.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My deck has a Snake as 10 of Feathers (swords) with Keywords: Recovery and Transformation

    It talks about the Snake shedding old skin and moving forward.

    I agree with your interpretation of the card. Also, each “suit” starts at 1 or Ace and goes thru to King… representing to me a leveling up thru the powers represented by the elements. Not necessarily a linear leveleling up, but acquiring more “mastery” through the journey (if that makes senseπŸ€ͺ)

    GET OUT OF YOU HEAD!! Keep going with your “gut”, trust your instincts. Especially with something so subjective like tarot! It’s just a tool to help you tap into your instincts… no matter how many Sword cards you pull😝

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The snake is a great way to describe transformation but I never saw that in these card of my decks, not for the ten of swords. Very interesting! I like the message.

      Did you see what Deb wrote about the colour red in all 3 cards? Leave a comment there, tell me what you think.

      I will have to take a closer look. Sometimes butterflies indicate transformation, as does the zodiac sign Scorpio (off the top of my head).

      Yes, agreed about getting out of my head but actually, I am not in my head currently. πŸ€ͺ I’ve been reading for the collective, asking specific collective questions, not personal situations. I did a separate reading for myself the other day and didn’t like what the cards told me so I walked away in a huff. πŸ˜‚ Hope I didn’t piss off spirit. 😳

      Yes Angie, it’s a tool, but a great tool. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Do colors have any meaning? The red stands out to me in both the first two decks. The third, while much more subtle does show the pinkish hue in her dress and the roses. I ask out of curiosity for the symbolism in using some form of red in each card. Viewed from either extreme- deep red perhaps indicating life flowing outward/difficulties leaving a person cleansed (I’m thinking the old medieval notion of “bleeding” sick people) or the softer pinks in a feminine card associated with a sacred female concept of new life/rebirth and moving forward. Not sure why this struck me at this moment- I was taking a break from packing for tomorrows trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Colour absolutely does have meaning, but this wasn’t an in-depth analysis of the card. The Rider-Waite deck often mentions the colour and style of the clothing in symbolic terms

      Thank you for pointing it out. I can, and will, store away your thoughts for future energy reading.

      Everything will be just fine tomorrow. Update us when you can.πŸ’Ÿ

      Liked by 1 person

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