Rush and Tarot
Wizards Tarot Review

10 of Swords and the Origin of Tarot

RWC 300 In her lively Living Tarot group on Facebook, creator and moderator Ferol Humphrey asks daily questions of the group, probing the Tarot--and our minds--for associations, answers and insights.

A few hours ago, Ferol asked one of her "big questions" of the Tarot: What is the origin of Tarot?

She drew, of all cards, the 10 of Swords.

Now many get spooked by the 10 of Swords, even calling it a "negative" or "bad" card, but I truly see all 78 cards in the Tarot as having a Light/Shadow continuum. The supposed "positive" cards have a detrimental or extreme side and the "negative" cards have a redeeming, helpful side.

In answer to Ferol's question What is the origin of Tarot?, I wrote:

The pain of being human forces us to look for answers and solace wherever we can find it. Tarot, filled with symbols and meaning, became what is is because of humanity's need.

Tarot is often used in the "bad times"--when seekers need insight into heartbreak, strife, loneliness, confusion and boredom. We may ask "Is there all there is?" or "Why do I seem to run into this relationship dilemma on a recurring basis?"

And Tarot is always there to answer. To be sure, its answers aren't always clear or straightforward. But that's when we dig deeply and begin to connect our own innate answers to the image on the cards--a partnership replete with an ongoing dialogue of symbols, phrases, motifs and messages.

PK 300 This conversation reminds, surprises, reveals and comforts us in both "good" times...and the not-so-good times.

One of the messages I relate to the 10 of Swords is "it can only get better from here"; after all, in the Rider-Waite-Smith version, there's a sunrise in the distance. It's a "bottom of the barrel" place where we turn to something greater than ourselves--or, at least, something/someOne with a higher perspective than ourselves--for a bird's eye view of our condition.

Tarot has the amazing ability to serve both the macro and the micro. We can use the cards to get "above" our situation, enabling us to see patterns or discover clues to navigate life's mazes and forests. On the other hand, we can also zoom in to the tree itself, examining the bark, moss, leaves and critters that populate this beloved, and living, metaphor.

The 10s are "the end" so to speak, before we spiral back to the Ace of promise. But at that place between the 10, and before the Ace, ah...that's the crucible or fullness where we experience some of life's greatest burdens and pleasures.

And before The Wheel turns to another season heralded by the Ace, the Tens may very well be the origin of humanity's yearning for meaning and belonging.

Card images from the Smith-Waite Centennial Edition Tarot (published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) and the Pictorial Key Tarot (published by Lo Scarabeo).

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot 

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