Scary Tarot

Scary Tarot: The Card That Checks Your Ego

The Ten of Swords shows up when it’s time to reclaim our agency

Sasha Duncan
Human Parts
Published in
5 min readJul 24, 2019
Photo: Esin Deniz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

InIn the 15th century, a deck of cards called tarocchi emerged in Northern Italy, the very same region my ancestors descended from. This cosmic coincidence didn’t occur to me when I got my first download in Tarot knowledge at age nine, from a Romani-descended family friend — I was simply focused on learning a new card game, one with much higher stakes than Hearts or Crazy Eights.

Of course, tarocchi — or as it’s now called, the Tarot — isn’t an idle game. The cards help us gaze into our futures and selves. Whether they were introduced to the Italians by Romani (as they were similarly introduced to me) or evolved from Islamic or Kabbalist roots, no one knows. Regardless of their true origin, they remain a favorite divinatory tool of seers, mystics, and witches around the world.

In my two decades learning, researching, and performing readings with the Tarot, I’ve come to identify a subset of the cards as the “Scary Tarot.” Eight cards whose presence tends to provoke a visceral, negative reaction in those I’m reading for, and sometimes even in myself. But with witches waking and paradigms shifting, it’s time to unpack, redefine, and celebrate all facets of the cards — and ourselves. Even the “scary” bits.

This week, the Ten of Swords.

Illustration: Lisa Sterle of Modern Witch Tarot

Under anguished skies, a figure, pinned to a blood-stained field with 10 blades, succumbs to their injuries and dies.

For many, many years, the Ten of Swords appeared regularly in my personal readings, almost always pertaining to my flailing love life. It didn’t seem to matter whether I was asking about a crush, a fling, or a full-blown relationship. I’d take the cards out of their box, holding and shuffling to imbue them with my sense of excitement for this new person, then I’d ask what the future held for us. And, without fail, out came the Ten of Swords. A mostly-dead dude who’d been stabbed. Repeatedly.



Sasha Duncan
Human Parts

Offering wisdom and ramblings from my own stumbles, bumbles, fumbles and grumbles