A victory parade on a sunny day: A conquering sovereign has returned home from battle. His head is crowned by a laurel wreath, and he rides his white steed erect, his eyes fixed intently ahead of him. He holds high his battle staff, to which another wreath has been affixed. He is accompanied by the adoring throng, who are cheering and waving their staves, five in number.
Most Tarot decks title this card “Victory,” or something very similar, and now it’s clear to see how the discipline of the child imposed by the Five—the five staves now seen in the background—comes to fruition in adulthood: by goals set and met, by battles fought and won. One lesson this card teaches is that we should pick our battles carefully—that is, when we have the best chance of winning them. The leader pictured here was wise in his choices, for neither he nor his ride is the least bit bloodied or bruised: perhaps the enemy, caught unawares, surrendered on sight! This card teaches us, too, not to get too “carried away with ourselves” if we should find that we are riding some kind of personal “winning streak,” be it in our career, our love life, or in our personal achievements. To coin a sports phrase, no one goes “undefeated” through an entire lifetime, and that is the reason why—as we discussed earlier in our review of The Chariot—the Romans employed escorts to remind victorious generals that they were only mortal men and not Gods. It is also a sign of a “good sport” to be gracious and humble in victory.
Meanings in a reading can include: The triumph of self-discipline, objectives met, obstacles overcome, a “winning” attitude is contagious, and graciousness in victory; but also poor self-discipline, objectives abandoned or betrayed, unfocused effort, and battles poorly chosen. The famed Chinese general Sun-Tzu wrote: “All warfare is based on deception.” Let us deceive, then, only when we have no other alternatives; otherwise, as we will discover tomorrow, we may end up deceiving ourselves instead, and walk straight into a trap of our own making.