All the base ten numbering systems in existence from ancient times such as Hebrew and Greek systems use the number ten as this natural transition between the numbers that come before into the numbers that come after. A look at the number values assigned to the Hebrew and Greek letters show that the letters were given values from one to ten, then increasing in tens to 100 then increasing by 100's and so on. Numbering by tens is natural for us given our ten fingers which are quite useful for adding and subtracting. You have to re-use fingers when you get past ten, so it starts a new "order." So ten represents "completeness of order." It symbolizes a cycle has completed and all is where it should be. As such it represents the perfection of divine order.
But if nine represented the end with nothing but "the void" beyond it, how does it make ten "completion?" Well, think of it this way, nine is the act of completing and ten is looking back on all you've done and knowing it is finished and looking forward to your next adventure.
Ten is one of the perfect numbers, and signifies the perfection of Divine order, commencing, as it does, an altogether new series of numbers. The first decade is the representative of the whole numeral system, and originates the system of calculation called 'decimals,' because the whole system of numeration consists of so many tens, of which the first is a type of the whole.The number ten is significant in several religions and cultures of the world. Buddha is possessed of ten noble states, ten powers, understands ten paths of karma and is endowed with ten attributes of arhatship. In the Ottoman Empire, the aura of the fabled sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was enhanced because he was the tenth son of the tenth generation of his dynasty.
Completeness of order, marking the entire round of anything, is, therefore, the ever-present signification of the number ten. It implies that nothing is wanting; that the number and order are perfect; that the whole cycle is complete.
---Ethelbert W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1967), 243.
In Judaism there are one of the most ancient and obvious uses of the number ten in the scriptures, the Ten Commandments. Both the Greeks and Hebrews held ten to be the perfect number. Pythagoras considered that ten comprehends all arithmetic and harmonic proportions, and, like God, is tireless. All nations calculated with it because when they arrive at ten, they return to one, the number of creation. Pythagoreans believed the heavenly bodies were divided into ten orders. According to the Kabbalah, there are ten emanations of numbers out of Nothing. The emanations form the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life, which contains all knowledge and shows the path back to God. Associated with Malkuth on the Tree of Life, it is the number of manifestation, the only number that corresponds to the material world through which we experience life - in this association, it is thought of as 3+3+3+1 - the one sphere in the realm of Earth. Ten is considered a magical number, produced by the addition of the first four numbers, 1+2+3+4, important in Pythagorean and alchemical philosophy.
So what do you do when you've done all you can do on one thing but have yet to start something else? Sit idly by and twiddle your thumbs, I suppose. Which is why there really isn't a lot of energy in the tens. They're kind of stagnant and need the impetus of an Ace (or The Magician, whose number is One in the major Arcana) to get things moving again. In some ways they embody the zero aspect of The Fool, a directionless time that may leave you floudering for a bit. While there's no going back, there really isn't a forward to go towards just yet. So the Fool's aimless wandering fits with the zero part of this number. The one indicates the beginning, but the zero is like, but what? Where? I dunno. This transition can be difficult or more easy, depending on the situation, and tarot gives examples of both.
Ten is the number of The Wheel of Fortune in the Major Arcana and if there was ever a wild card, apart from the Fool, this one is it. Pretty much anything can happen with The Wheel, good and bad and indifferent. It's all about Change, that card, so with tens you just kinda have to roll with whatever happens to see where the next Ace will present itself. But just as tens are a unique combination of earth and ether, so as with the Wheel one sees a stable core or hub around which the wheel spins. In life, too, there are things that stay the same even while other things cycle through their changes. As such, the tens really are about how these changes can affect us and how to best approach them.
The Ten of Swords. Ugh. What a card. This card is undeniably graphic and there's just no quibbling when it appears. Done. Overdone, in fact. The card is shocking, even to those who are familiar with the cards and speaks with a finality that is rather unique to this one card. The sword suit tells us that the subject is a matter of thinking, communicating, and actions based on those thoughts and this card says the issue is dead. You've done as much as you can with it and it is quite enough. In fact, you've probably beaten this dead horse, as one sword was plenty, but now there are ten in the guy's back. As graphic as this card can be, try to remember that the swords represent not literal death but the end of a particular way of thinking, a particular issue or conversation. In many cases this card can show the end of worry, and in that aspect can come as a relief. The anxiety of the nine of swords is fully realized in the ten and you "give up the ghost" so to speak on the source of the worry. You've basically done all you can, said all you can, thought all you can on it and it is time to stick a fork in it because it's done. The transitional aspect of the ten is seen in various signs and symbols in the card. In most Rider Waite versions the dawn is breaking in the distance so it signals that, while this issue is dead, there can be hope and a fresh start. The dead man's hand is posed in the same sign of blessing as the Hierophant's hand, so there is the feeling that this ending is a blessing, though maybe in disguise. Often our minds refuse to let go of old thought patterns and some of us are very dogged in our need to win an argument, so this card really shows the consequence of clinging too tightly to outworn notions and stubbornness.
The Ten of Cups is all "Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!" Often featuring the idyllic scene of a family gathered together in warmth and love and happiness with a rainbow arching over them as a promise of continued blessing, this card is representative of those golden moments in life when it just doesn't get any better than this. These moments really feel like bottled sunshine and we so wish they could last a lot longer than they do. But tens are transitory and are meant to be a rest stop, not a destination. While the Ten of Swords often arises from resistance to change, the Ten of Cups shows a kind of resistance as well. When things feel this good, one is reluctant to fix what isn't broken, mess with perfection, or dare make a move else lose this glorious feeling. Let's not eff it up, shall we? But rainbows only last so long. In time, storm clouds will gather again and life won't feel so grand. Sometimes this card shows up in a reading to say, "This is the best it's going to be." In that respect, if you had future hopes for something to get better or develop into something more, this card kinda says well...no, this is it. This is as good as it's going to get. It can also signal that the stormy times in a relationship are over, at least for now, that all is well between you again and you can move on from here together. I don't often see this card literally represent marriage, although it can symbolize the end of the courtship phase and moving to the next level. But it just as often can show that the relationship has reached its natural conclusion and everyone is ok with that. Nobody is heartbroken or grieving, it's quite alright.
The Ten of Wands conveys such heaviness. Unlike the Ten of Swords which at least shows relief from a taxing mental trial, the Ten of Wands displays the resistance to change of responsibilities. There come times in life when one must recognize one's limitations. Maybe you used to be able to juggle two jobs, parenting, and being president of a local club, but it's really gotten to be too much. You're tired, you're aching, and your head is so buried in your daily responsibilities you can't see anything or anyone else. You may have an overactive sense of commitment which won't allow you to let go and so you drive yourself to go on and on even though your health and your relationships are suffering. As a ten, this card signals that something is going to break, something will end this insanity, and if you don't choose to put some of those wands down, something will force you to. I'm always struck by the way the figure's face is buried in the stack of wands and it reminds me of someone burying their head either in the sand or up their arse, depending on the attitude. It's as if this person thinks they are the only one who can do what it is they do and the world will just collapse if they don't do it. Not. More likely he will be the one collapsing. Though the card often seems to be saying, "Press on, you're almost there," I see it more often showing someone putting too much on their own shoulders that causes them to lose focus on what is truly important. Thus, when they finally are released from their burden, one way or another, they find a sense of freedom and are open to being creatively inspired in a new direction. Until they complete this journey, though, no new firey wands energy can enter in.
The Ten of Pentacles, like the Ten of Cups, shows a scene of contentment and ease, but this one is based more on the material comforts of life rather than an emotional high and as such are less fleeting, though not entirely secure either. For as we have seen in the progression of the pentacles numbers, wealth can be gained or lost suddenly or by measure, depending on circumstances and your own choices. This ten focuses more on reaching the place in life where you've established yourself in such a way that you can now begin to start new ventures, share your wealth, connect with others to help them get started on something new. Here in this card you can relax for a time, but maybe you can look to ways to use what you have, spread it around. As with the Ten of Cups, too, this card can tell you you've reached as far as you're going to go with a particular job, venture, or project. If this card comes up in a career reading about your current position, you may want to start sending out your resume because you're not likely to see much more increase in your salary in your present job. While it can bode well for future plans, when seen in the present it indicates that something has reached its potential and other seeds must be planted for new growth.
Tens can indicate endings, but they also show new beginnings as well. They really are kind of like that Ennead the Greeks believed lay beyond the nine because there is a sense of not really doing much but possibly tying up the very last loose ends of things and yet not having moved on to the next thing, stopping a moment in relief, grief, happiness, contentment, or some combination thereof. This is that time between and sometimes it can feel somewhat of a void as we move from one phase or cycle to the next, but the time is essential to get our bearings, a breather, and to reflect on the previous cycle. You never know when the next unexpected Ace will pop out of the clouds, so use this ten time wisely before you "level up" to the next phase of your journey.
Tarot of the New Vision by Pietro Alligo, artwork by Raul & Gianluca Cestaro Published by Lo ScarabeoTarot of the White Cats by Severino Baraldi © 2005 Lo Scarabeo ISBN# #073870463-6
DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington Published by Connections 2004
The Fey Tarot Deck and Book Set Copyright © 2002, LoScarabeo Book written by Riccardo Minetti Artwork by Mara Aghem Published LoScarabeo ISBN 0-7387-0280-3