This isn’t exactly our familiar cheery RWS 10 of Cups, is it? It’s always so nice to see the happy family standing under a rainbow turn up in a reading. This one is more in line with my concept of the Tens as transitional/transformational cards. Each one, in fact, is a mini Life/Death/Rebirth card. This one in particular reminds me of the traditional shout when the king has died: “The King is dead! Long live the King!” (Or maybe I just have the events of the past few days still on my mind.)
Here in the Northwest, the salmon cycle of descent and return is one of the most inspiring stories we have, whether you approach it as pure science or as a spiritual metaphor.
Very simply, baby salmon are born in freshwater streams (see the Ace of Water) and swim downriver to the Old Sea where they grow to adulthood. If they’re not eaten by orca whales or caught by fishermen, they make their way back upriver to the same stream where they were born. There, they turn a bright red color as they spawn, laying eggs that will become the next generation. Then they die. Their bodies rot, and what isn’t picked over by ravens and eagles is composted into the soil, turning it into fertile ground.
I took reference photos of the stream and salmon skeletons a couple of winters ago in British Columbia. (What you can’t experience with just the visual of course is the unmistakable smell of rotting fish flesh. Crows & eagles love it. Seagulls too.) I added the spawning salmon because I wanted both parts of the cycle to be represented in this image: the spawning and the dying. But normally one succeeds the other; you wouldn’t usually see them both at the same time. (If I’m wrong, please all you naturalists out there — let me know.)
On to the Ten of Earth.