Legend: Ten of Swords, Camlann


The Legend Ten of Swords is a grim card indeed, an image of Arthur's final battle at Camlann, resulting in the death of both adversaries and the end of the age of Camelot. The card's imagery is very chaotic and melancholy, the forms of the horses and men broken and disorderly as they hack away at each other, friends against friends. Note that the colours in the card are much more subdued than those depicted in the scan.

The focus of the scene is the fallen knight at the front, his body twisted, and his head inverted with respect to the viewer, like a tormented hanged man. A vicious dog, his heart enraged by the blood lust of the battle, growls at the man, even though he may be already dead. This card is in quite a different category from the overblown and unreal imagery of the RWS Ten of Swords, this Legend card looks all too real, the Armageddon which irrovocably disintegrated the noble brotherhood of knights.


...so true.


I look at this card and my first thought is... oh heck, everything's going to the dogs. Dog Day Afternoon, just when you think it can't get any worse, it does.

I was not happy seeing this card come up this summer while we were out fishing, not the happily ever after successful season we were hoping for, and it just felt like we were getting our butts kicked, by weather, no fish, lousy prices, no tenders and problems with oil leaks and engines, not to mention the price of fuel becoming outrageously expensive. So... it was quite true, we did a lot of feeling sorry for ourselves and complained a lot about the unfairness of it all, pretty much like this sad tale, trying to do the right thing, but failing utterly.

Not to mention I had made Capt'n Al a "Lord of the Kings" sweatshirt, in hopes that it would become true and about the only Kings/Chinook we caught were too small to be legal or only bit the hook when it wasn't the right time for us to keep them, so 'twas the fall of the King for us. Boo!

So that is a pretty literal way of looking at this card in this circumstance, most of the time I think of the price you pay to engage in conflict of one sort or another. Choose battles wisely and CYB (cover your butt). I suppose to try to put a more positive spin on it is, It's a good day to die for what you believe in. Nah... it's sometimes you just can't win, whether you are right or not... everything will prove futile in the end.

Not waxing poetic yet, I'll leave that to you Sophie-David. You do it so much better anyway.


Actually WalesWoman, I found your post very intense and poetic. I'm sorry things turned out that way for you. I'm not a fisherman of course, but living in a fishing community I know a bit about how rough it can be. Its not an easy or safe way to make a living, but fishers of the sea generally have an integrity, spirituality and vision about them which is rare. They are very much connected to the elements of the environment and to thus, to themselves.

BTW, in my computer business, I have never, ever had a bounced cheque from a fisherman, even though I know many of them are struggling: they have always been responsible and appreciative - mind you I am getting pretty good at filtering out rude customers of all occupations by finding myself suddenly busy and unavailable.

After reading your post, I will now always have your experience to relate to this card: a battle fought honestly and well, but ending in loss. Yet at the very least, these trials are a part of what strengthens and ennobles humanity, and makes fishers the people who they are.


Ok, now that I read your post David and re-read mine it also reminds me of the tendancy to... exaggerate the degree of duress to the point where it may not have been that bad, but may have seemed that way. The truth is, it will not be cushy, but my hunch is he will push himself harder to prevent the hardships of skinny bank accounts and do the very thing that follows in the next paragraph. Drive himself until he drops because he doesn't need to consider our welfare out on the boat and fishing grounds by stopping early or avoiding rougher seas. LOL

Or making the ultimate sacrifice to ensure everyone knows you put your all into it... martyring oneself by burning out. So I guess martrydom by not sparing oneself for the greater good is in one way unselfish desire, where the exaggerated self pity, being overwhelmed by obstacles and making others feel guilt for the that sacrifice is most definately a selfish desire to prove one's importance... as a petty King.
Swords is fire is this deck, so it could very well be mentally burning out or physically driving oneself to collapse just to prove a point more than anything. Which makes me think that it could refer to the end of hope with the loss of the will as well as the desire to see something through to the bitter end.

It sounds like I'm contradicting myself left and right but I'm looking at this from different viewpoints, guess that would reflect the upright and reverse of this card. I guess it is a fine line between what makes it noble or ignoble, and that is the attitude and in some ways the ulterior motive of the action that is the driving force underlying the source of conflict.

Which is beginning to give me a headache and I want to lie down. LOL


Of course fishers have all the weaknesses of everyone else, but nonetheless I do stand by my observations that there is a noticeable ennobling that I a have seen in so many and that seems to go with the job. For one thing, so few average people are exposed to both the blessings and dangers of nature which are part of life on the seas. This direct contact with cold reality is transformative, and in comparison with their urban counterparts, many more grow up to be adults. Living in the artificial womb of the city can be very stagnating, the greater part of the world a theoretical construct only hinted at through television and movies.

But I can also appreciate what you are drawing out of the card, the black comedy of overkill which is so well expressed in the RWS version with its pincushioned victim. From that humour it is a short step into a higher perspective, in which life can become a well played game which shouldn't be taken too seriously - for in being overserious we can totally miss the point. Yet here again, I remember my experience of fishers, for it is exactly that humour which so many seem to have learned. It is the humour which starts with the exaggeration of the Ten of Swords and ends in the Fool.

None of which is any reason to stop you from lying down! :)


Wouldn't you just know, I did a spread yesterday and this card came up, again.

So I had another look at it, because the dog may look fierce, notice his ears aren't laid back as if they'd be if he was in snarl/growl attack mode, but pointed forward... listening, sensing, guaging what is going on. His tail is lifted, mid-wag... it may not be as bad as it looks, he hopes.

I think this is Arthur's loyal, faithful warhound, a battle dog, one who'd hamstring anything that would threaten his beloved master. I think he's keeping everyone alway from him, maybe he's whining a bit... asking "are you ok?" Yep, worrying that someone is overdoing it, driving themselves to exhaustion admidst the fierce competition and conflict around them.

So in a sense this is concern, worry, and again that sense of frustration, what's a dog to do? What can he do besides stand by and offer what support he can, his faith, his love, his loyalty and doggy kisses, dog sense... intuitive, picking up on things that humans can't.

And maybe, the notion, I think it's from the Book of Job, that God will never give us a test that is too much for us to bear, even tho' it may be heavy and feel it is beyond bearing, there is an inner strength, as yet unsensed within ourselves that can endure and survive it. That loyalty and faithfulness that no matter how bad it seems, it will be surviveable and somehow you can get throught it.

So this goes with your insight into fishers as well, I've heard it all season... as they've made the daily scratch... "Any day now... they are still coming", that faith and hope, that keeps them from giving up and tying up to the dock in discouragement and despair.

Oh and from the last report... they are, just like I knew it. Soon as there's no deckhand, he needs one. LOL


Hi WalesWoman

Oh yes, I see you are quite right about the dog, the ears are upright, the tail somewhat raised. He is investigating rather than attacking, and as you suggest, probably belongs to the knight and is concerned for his safety. The adds a layer of poignancy to the scene.

I didn't think of the fallen knight being Arthur either, but again, I think you have got it. He looks rather like Arthur in The Emperor, and very much the same as Arthur in The Chariot. So that really gives the card extra impact - we are seeing the fall of the hero of the mythic cycle - this Ten is a card of high tragedy.

Namaste - David


Looking at this card again, I've noticed for the first time that there are two bodies, one draped over the other. Presumably these are Arthur and Mordred, who have done a "Darwin awards" and killed each other, wiping out their line.
The dog - my first impression was that he was about to take a bite out of the dead bodies (yuk); but I've also just noticed that there is another dog behind the first one, snarling at him.
To me, this card speaks to the utter futility of war. I have to say, I don't find anything redeeming about it. I agree, it's a lot more realistic than the RWS 10 of Swords; this card captures the real, fierce chaos of battle and shows (to some extent) the truth of its consequences.
The snarling dogs say to me that all restraint on aggressive instincts has been lost and when people descend to this level of bloodlust the consequences are always death and destruction. It reminds me of the famous Yeats poem:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

Sorry to put such a downer on things..:)


This will be my first post in the discussion :)!
I always see this card is The End. It's so brutal and painful an image but in a way it is also a relief. It sort of shows the end of a battle - things can't get worse than this - and when things are at their worst it can only get better.
I never noticed the dogs as faithful or loyal! I always saw them in a negative sense- biting and snarling -cruel. But I like that we can see that they are loyal - waiting for their owner to get back up.
At the same time - this is not the end of a war but a battle. So there is still a war and fighting going on around Arthur (or Mordred? - ugh my knowledge has left me here!)
Also - as a minor card - whatever painful stressful event you are going through now is minor and not a life-changing event.