The gruesome imagery found in the Ten of Swords denotes its inherently negative characteristics. It represents the “perfect storm” of unhappy occurrences coupled with an inability to properly react to the inertia of the universe. Plans fall through, ideas are ridiculed, and projects disintegrate before one’s eyes. To struggle further is to strangle oneself. An entirely new approach is necessary to achieve success in a specific endeavor.
This card has been named “Defeat” by various authors on tarot, and though the title is not inappropriate, per se, the card more effectively implies submission and withdrawal from an overwhelming and possibly dangerous situation.
A peace-loving mediator attempts to counsel two people enraged beyond reason. No matter how logically sound, their gentle words of wisdom fall upon closed ears. Knives are drawn instead.
A local mom-and-pop business advertises and offers competitive prices, but is somehow unable to cultivate a regular clientele. Barely making their rent payments each month, they pull out and search for a better location.
Ultimately, the five of swords symbolizes the failure to apply sufficient strength to succeed against the odds. A protracted struggle would prove utterly disastrous. The only logical choice is to retreat and reevaluate one’s strategy.