Margarete Petersen Study -Ten of Swords - Thoughts like Vultures



  • Stop the film. The fluttering, shadowy thoughts have come to rest. They have fallen from the branches of the tree, and are on the ground. You experience fears and pain without being destroyed by them. You have experienced yourself as part of the film, and as part of the projection screen.

    You have the choice and can leave the realm of nightmares. Through mental clarity and the power to make distinctions, stop old thought-programs.

Link to image: Zehn der Federn

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The shadowy figures on this tree look like vultures. From MP's text we learn they they are thoughts. Thoughts as vultures! How interesting - our own thoughts prey on our the mind -- waiting for a weak moment to swoop in and finish us off, to feed on our rotting soul-flesh... how every such predatory thought falling safely to the earth, from our mind's network of branches must give us much needed peace...


What a great card! I like that this image doesn't resemble in any way ten swords stabbing a person in the back (not that any of MP's images resemble the RWS).

Off the subject just a bit, there was a thread going on in the Comparative Tarot group discussing the Three of Swords, and a comment was made (paraphrased), "It's too bad that the Swords suit always appears so negative." Of course, many people learn from the RWS, which does have many of the sword cards with very painful-looking images.

Now, the very nature of the sword is to cut, which people associate with pain. But what if the sword were cutting away something dead or something not working? It may cause pain initially but will eventually yield joy to be rid of that burden.

The other thought I had about swords, though, is the link they have to thoughts and the workings of the mind. True, our mind can play tricks on us and cause us great pain, but our mind can also be one of our greatest assets. Sorry for the ramble, but my point is that by MP using feathers, she puts a positive twist to a normally very negative card.

My first thought is how much I love the colors. This color scheme has been building throughout the suit and finally climaxes to this color combination. The majority of the suit is dominated by very cool colors, mostly shades of blue. Then in the Eight of Feathers we see the hint of red in the dragon. The dominant color in the Nine of Feathers is red, and in the Ten of Feathers we actually have a better balance between these two colors. And maybe the red in the peacock feather is the remnants of the Ten as we begin another rotation.

Ok, enough about colors! :) MP's poetry on this card speaks volumes to me; the first three words set the stage (no pun intended!) for an alternate viewpoint that puts this card in the right perspective.

Firemaiden, I thought it was very interesting that you saw the shadowy figures as vultures! When I read your post, it took me a minute to actually see what you were talking about. Very revealing! :)

When I first glanced at this card, before I paid any attention to the detail, I saw those "shadowy figures" as part of the tree, like big leaves, or tufts of leaves. If these "leaves" are our thoughts, then, as leaves fall from the trees every Autumn, so our thoughts should fall away to allow our mind to rest. At the end of Autumn/start of Winter, the trees' leaves have fallen and the tree goes into hibernation which ends that cycle of life. This card reminds us that we are at the end of a cycle, with the 10, and at the end of a cycle of thoughts (swords/feathers). Has this cycle been beneficial or destructive?

I've been drawing this card often lately. There's nothing more disconcerting to see that body lying there with all those swords in its back. The image is almost too overpowering to remember that swords represent thoughts. That's why I love MP's card. To think of those thoughts as leaves falling from a tree in a natural cycle reminds me that it's time to start anew with a new mindset.

On a personal note, to tell you where I'm coming from on this card, for almost a year now I've been very unhappy having to go to work when there's so much to do in my life, and I just don't have time for everything. (I grew up thinking my life would be like my mother's, and I would be a stay-at-home mom. Naturally, that's not what happened.) So, of course, work would be the first thing to go... except that I have to work to pay the bills. Yes, my husband also has a job, but I make more. But if you were to compare our two jobs, we both make comparable salaries, so neither one of us could leave our jobs and still be able to maintain a home with two kids.

So here I am, wishing I didn't have to work so that I could be home with my kids, wishing I could win the lottery so that I would never have to worry about money, and blah blah blah. After being in this mindset for a year, it begins to show. My boss has mentioned more than once that my work product is not what it once was. "What happened?" he asked.

So, when I see this card, the Ten of Feathers, I see relief. I see a reminder that it's time to change my attitude. Of course, it won't come without work, but it will be worth it to be able to live in peace no matter what my current job status. And of course, a new way of thinking will bring a peace to every part of my life.

MP writes, "You have experienced yourself as part of the film, and as part of the projection screen." This reminds me of something Jon Kabat-Zinn said once in a seminar I attended (author of "Whereever You Go, There You Are: Mindful Meditation"): "Each person's life is a play, and that person is the star. We are not the star in any other person's play but our own." That put my worries in a different perspective and helped me to be more compassionate toward others.

But often we never see our lives as a play or a film; we become totally enmeshed in the pain of our choices and their consequences. By allowing those thoughts/leaves to fall from the tree/our brain, we will be able to see them from an emotional distance. "You experience fears and pain without being destroyed by them."

And when MP says, "... stop old thought-programs", this is what really made this card workable for me. To be able to see that this card doesn't mean THE END or a possible death (which I've read from some interpretations using the RWS), but simply the end of a thought-program, relieves the stress I feel when I pull this card.

On an end note, and then I'll shut up ;), I also thought it was interesting that MP chose feathers for the swords. Swords are so rigid and sharp, cutting through and away (as I mentioned at the beginning). But feathers are light and delicate. Thoughts can shift with the wind, sometimes making us wonder what is or is not reality. Feathers are like that; one small puff of air, and the feather takes a whole different path to the ground.

I also have a question about this one card in particular (if anyone has gotten this far in this essay I've written! :) ). Do you notice at the top of the card and the top right corner that it looks as if this image is on a canvas? I see this as emphasizing that this card represents a film; a film that portrays real life but isn't. What do you think about this?

Thanks for your patience!! :D


* - edited for grammer :)


Wow! what a post! I sure enjoyed hearing your take on this earthangel.

I was especially interested by what you said about the colours
And maybe the red in the peacock feather is the remnants of the Ten as we begin another rotation.
- relating it back to the peacock feather of the Ace of feathers. The peacock's tail is also mentioned in the Father of Feathers and I learned that in alchemy the "peacock's tail" is code for the stage in the alchemical process where a dazzle of colours occurs, tempting one to think that the goal is reached. See my discussion of the peacock's tail on that thread.

Diana also talked about the necessity to not give up to soon in her game thread for the ten of swords. where she quoted Nelson Mandela. (Very worthwhile to read the thread for Diana's comments and also for the Mandela quote)

In Diana's concluding post she quotes and translates from "L'interprétation des Arcanes Mineurs des Nombres et des Quatre Eléments by Alain Brêthes,"
"(.......) one cannot stop and rest to savour the fruits of one's work, because the 10 [of Swords] incites us to go even further in our accomplishments. (.........) If one halts one's progression, even momentarily, one can lose sight of a part of what one has already acquired. One has chosen a path that cannot be abandoned. (........) One could ignore [the objectives], but the light of these that is glimpsed, and which shines with such intensity, means that one cannot resist it......."

So the with your colour analysis, you have tied the ten back to the Ace, and that is really meaningful in many many ways.

I enjoyed your personal take on the card. (This seems to be my card for the week too, LOL)


Thank you, firemaiden.

And isn't it funny that the color passage I wrote was the one part I thought nobody would really care about! That just reinforces what I've heard before: mention anything you come up with in a reading, because even if it doesn't make sense to you, it might make a lot of sense to your querent. :)



Thoughts are at times described as birds, for thoughts are flighty - but are they like vultures?

I personally do not see thoughts, nor the images on this deck, as vulture-like. Vultures call to mind the eating up of cadavres - with Plato, I would see written words as the cadavres of ideas, and thoughts as the means of reaching out, putting out one's hand and partaking of this Living fruit.

The flighty bird, resting upon a un-leaved branch, may very well depict the barren-ness of the word. The older thought patterns which, solidified into frozen words, have lost their ability to have the warmth of lofty life and flight, and thus sit upon branches devoid too of living cells.

There is much in this thread which is wonderful to reflect on - thank you both :)


firemaiden said:
I was especially interested by what you said about the colours - relating it back to the peacock feather of the Ace of feathers. The peacock's tail is also mentioned in the Father of Feathers and I learned that in alchemy the "peacock's tail" is code for the stage in the alchemical process where a dazzle of colours occurs, tempting one to think that the goal is reached.

Although I wrote these notes in connection with the Juno/Priestess card you may nonetheless find some interest in the mention of the peacock symbolism:

THE PEACOCK made complaint to Juno that, while the nightingale pleased every ear with his song, he himself no sooner opened his mouth than he became a laughingstock to all who heard him. The Goddess, to console him, said, "But you far excel in beauty and in size. The splendour of the emerald shines in your neck and you unfold a tail gorgeous with painted plumage." "But for what purpose have I," said the bird, "this dumb beauty so long as I am surpassed in song?' "The lot of each," replied Juno, "has been assigned by the will of the Fates--to thee, beauty; to the eagle, strength; to the nightingale, song; to the raven, favourable, and to the crow, unfavourable auguries. These are all contented with the endowments allotted to them."

We may relate the fable to the concept of wealth (I am thinking here of the peacock on the Juno/priestess card, attributed to Gimel/Jupiter/Wealth in the SY) in that, although dissatisfied with its lot the Peacock is nonetheless endowed with those gifts, attributes and powers that are to sufficient to fulfil its nature. From which we may consider that the gift of the 'wealthy man' is not in gold and rubies but is a metaphor for the powers and attributes physical, mental and spiritual that are required to fulfil our nature.

As Mercury and the Peacock are both connected with the Juno/Priestess card it may be relevant that the two are also connected in the Myth of Io. Jupiter fell in love with Io, a priestess in the temple of Juno. Jupiter descended upon Io in the form of a cloud. Juno became suspicious and found out and to protect Io from Juno's jealous wrath Jupiter changed Io into a heifer. Juno was not deceived by the disguise however and asked Jupiter to give the heifer to her as a present. She placed Io, still in the form of a heifer, under the guard of Argus Panoptes "who sees all”, as he was a giant who was "all eyes". Some eyes always remained opened even when Argos slept so that he remained 'ever watchful'. Jupiter asked Mercury to help Io escape. Mercury disguised himself as a shepherd's boy and made friends with Argus. He succeeded in charming the giant to sleep and close all his eyes with the sound of his flute and then cut off his head. To honour Argus Juno placed his eyes on the tail of the Peacock. The wheel shape of the Peacocks tail when fanned is said to symbolise the sky; its 'eyes' the starry vault of heaven. The head of the all seeing has been separated from its body and its eyes distributed from the One to Many.

The star symbolism is enforced in the esoteric [GD] title of the Juno/Priestess card 'Priestess of the Silver Star'. Where the Sun symbolises God as Transcendent and the Moon as God Immanent, Stars are said to symbolise souls (every man and every woman is a star) as 'sparks of God'. The souls of all those to be incarnated are said to be 'on a curtain before God', which we may consider as the 'Peacock Veil of ISIS', Infinite Space and the infinite Stars thereof.

The souls to be incarnated are said to feel sorrow at having to leave God to incarnate, and to have to suffer the purgation of the 'dark night of the soul' on return. The incarnation of the Soul and its return to the One we may relate to the description of Gimel as 'running and returning'. Sorrow we may relate to Binah through the numeration of Gimel (3), the 'dark night of the soul' to the fact the path of Gimel crosses the abyss on the Tree of Life (Kircher/GD).

In Judeo-Christian tradition the 'abyss' is consequent to the 'fall of man'. For eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge Man is given a 'coat of skin' and is exiled from the Garden of Eden; and to Gimel is given the divine appellation 'God of Retribution'. The 'knowledge' of the tree is that of birth and death. Thus the path of Gimel is the first to connect the Supernal Triad to the Hexad; a crossing into manifestation.

In comparison with Gimel as 'God of Retribution' we may note the darker side of the Goddess as nemesis, and that Juno and ISIS for example both have cruel and vengeful aspects. Juno in particular, as a figure of Jealousy, Vengeance and Wrath, may be said to have much in common with the Old Testament YHVH. However, Juno is also she 'who makes the child see the light of day'; and the connection of Madonna and Child with this path makes it a channel for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and a means of reparation. The Child Horus is to seek reparation for the death of Osiris, and Christ reparation for the sins of man. Continuing the theme of Retribution and Reparation by Aiq Kbr Gimel 3 = Lamed (30) which is attributed to the card 'Justice', and to Shin (300) which is attributed to 'Judgement'.

In esoteric tradition, the peacock is a symbol of wholeness, in that it combines all colours when it spreads out its tail in a fan. It is frequently portrayed with a serpent in its mouth and the beauty of its plumage was considered to have resulted from the transformation of the poison it had absorbed in its battle with the serpent. "Peacocks" in Hebrew is TVVSYM = 131. 131 is the number of Samael, the Poison of God, a title of the Angel of Death. Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel of the Yezidi 'who existed before all other creatures" is also know as Azrael the angel of death, and was depicted with a number of eyes on its wings. 131 is also a number of PAN. The Peacock was originally sacred to Pan, but he gave it over to Juno. While the Peacock may represent 'death' as the 'retribution' of God, it is also symbolic of the immortality of the soul. Possibly the symbolism of the transformation of poison (death) is related here to Alchemy as a process of spiritual transformation.



Thank you kwaw for sharing this fascinating background and mythology, wonderful material, and much food for thought. I'll be chewing on it for a while...


The fickle and shadowy thoughts have come to a rest. They have settled on tree branches and come down to earth Petersen LWB

These thoughts seem to be in the form of ravens, the most intelligent of birds with cognitive processes not unlike those of humans. Perhaps this means we can transform our thoughts to something of higher value? I like this possibility. We can change our situation by changing the way we think, our attitudes. In some mythologies the Raven is the intermediary between earth and the heavens.

However in our culture the raven is more often seen as the harbinger of doom, bad news, even as a trickster. Must we always be aware that our thoughts can trick us? We can become deluded. Here is the Edgar Poe poem which alludes to this:

Maybe ravens are purifying agents. They clear the rubbish away from our minds -- mediators between heaven and earth. Perhaps they have been scapegoated by our culture on account of their intellligence and their blackness? For some reasom XIII in the Marseilles comes to mind. Death as change and renewal appears as a skeleton. Bare as these trees on which the chorus of ravens sit. Maybe they are waiting for a poem to the human spirit not a dirge. 10 Feathers promises transformation, after all.

I couldn’t find one really positive allusion to ravens anywhere apart from zoological sites. It sure looks as though ravens carry the heavy load of doom and gloom and sheer malevolence in most of our literature.


Here is a good photograph of ravens. Hope it is small enough to uplift.