Ten: Cycles and Endings

Borderless Rider-Waite-Smith

Card 10 of the Major Arcana is Wheel of Fortune, which represents how your fortune changes, how you can be doing great one day and then be at rock bottom soon after. Have you ever been stressing out and dissatisfied with life, and then the next day something truly terrible happens and you wish you could turn back time to when you were just dissatisfied over nothing important? I’m sure the character in the Ten of Swords wishes they were the Ten of Wands, who in turn wishes they were the Ten of Cups or Pentacles. It’s all relative.

Take a moment to appreciate what you have today, because one day it will be gone. That doesn’t have to be a depressing thought. Without the changing seasons, the seed can never grow into a tree. If the leaves don’t fall to the ground and decompose, new plants can never sprout. 

The number 10 is an end to a cycle, and what happens when it ends? A new one begins. Rebirth.

Ten of Wands: The character in this card is clearly overburdened. They can’t even see in front of themself. It reminds me of the feeling of burnout, when you’ve taken on so much sensory input, used up all your spoons and you feel like you’re about to drop. Sometimes it’s just not worth it, and you have to drop what has become too overwhelming for you. The person in this card could delegate their task, give some wands to someone else. They could have said no before taking all the ones they have. There is choice. Sometimes we don’t feel like there is a choice, especially if we are taking on all these responsibilities for the sake of someone else. But you can’t fill someone else’s cup if your own is empty. 

There’s a story from Buddhism called The Raft Parable. Someone discovers he must cross a river and decides to make a raft to get to the other side. He puts a lot of work into it, and succeeds in crossing the water. When he gets to the other side, does he leave the raft or take it with him on land? He should leave it right, otherwise he will be overburdened. When something is no longer serving you, even if it was useful before, let it go.

Ten of Cups: This is like when you get to the end of a story and the last line is ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ Do you ever wonder, what does that even mean? What did they do next? 

If you pull this card, take a moment and ask yourself: ‘what is my end goal?’ What would be your happily ever after? Does that even exist in real life? This card asks you to find joy in life, appreciate the love and friendship you have, and never stop cultivating it. Life takes constant effort, and as stable and harmonious as the people in this image appear, they have to keep supporting and appreciating each other to keep that harmony going. 

I also think these characters look like when actors bow to the audience at the end of a performance. Don’t let your life be just an act. 

Ten of Swords: When we hit our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change — Avatar Aang

This is a pretty disturbing card to look at. It probably feels like there’s no coming back from that. Remember though, that in the tarot, swords represent thoughts. They could represent having negative thoughts about yourself, thinking that you can’t possibly move on from whatever bad things have happened. Remember that as 10 is the end of a cycle, it means a new one will begin. Now you might be at the bottom of the Wheel of Fortune, but tomorrow maybe not. If you can change your perspective even a little bit, you might find a way to move forward. Like the phoenix, you can always be reborn and change your path to a better one. 

Ten of Pentacles: We see several generations here enjoying their time together. The old man has achieved material wealth and abundance, and as his life cycle comes to an end, he can pass that on to the next generation, allowing them stability and comfort. I think the dogs look like greyhounds, which are famous for being lazy and loving to relax. Because the pentacles represent the material world, this card may be asking you to consider what else do you want to achieve if your physical needs are met? Sometimes it’s so hard to get to that level of stability that you might not have thought about what comes next. 


I hope you have enjoyed my exploration of the numbered cards of the Minor Arcana. Next I will be writing about the Court cards: Page, Knight, Queen and King, starting with the Wands suit. If you have any ideas for what you’d like me to talk about after the Minor Arcana is finished, please let me know!

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