Reflections on The Five of Swords

Q: If there’s anything I would be mindful of today, what would it be?

A: This.V

As we noted the other day, the suit of Swords is, generally, the most troublesome in the Tarot, but as it signifies those darker and destructive impulses that dwell within our psyches, it is one that we must acknowledge and meditate upon in good faith if we are to become fully realized individuals. In addition, the number “5” stands for the physical representation of man—our five senses and extensions—and in that regard, the Five of Swords depicts the state-of-mind of humankind when we allow our ego-identification and our body-identification to become too closely intertwined: A fractured world of victors and vanquished, of “winners” and “losers”—a world governed by a system of false binaries, where the personal “triumph” of one of us must come at the expense of another. To exist in such a state of mind, unfortunately, requires us to maintain a permanent state of separation from others—shown here by the “losers” having turned their backs to the “winner”—and the New Vision card, which offers us a “flip-side” view of this state of cognition, shows us the pain that we inflict upon ourselves when we choose to perceive our existence in such a manner:Scan 1We may have “won the day,” the card tells us, but what is our true reward?

We have all known people who seem to be sources of constant discord in life, or who insist on imposing their will upon others in any kind of social situation. They’re the type of person who simply have to have the first and last word in any conversation, or who incessantly interrupt others before they have finished expressing their thoughts. They can include the boss or coworker who thrives on pitting one employee against another, or who creates factions within the workplace to advance his own agenda. Such a person can be a domineering family member or business associate who literally “sucks all of the oxygen” out of a room whenever he appears (Swords being governed by the element of Air, recall), or any kind of personality who relies on bullying and intimidation to achieve his goals. We often see this personality type in many of our most prominent business and political leaders—and if we look closely enough, we may recognize some of these characteristics within ourselves! (If not at this moment, then, perhaps at some other stage of our lives.) To this end, the Five of Swords can be thought of as the card of the “control freak,” and of the lonely and desolate world he inhabits.

In any event, the Five of Swords cautions us against succumbing to divisive and polarizing thought, or in maintaining a belligerent and “controlling” attitude toward others. In a reading, it can signify the advent or the existence of a conflict in the life of the querent. It could be family feud, a workplace dispute, a legal action, or even an internal/moral struggle within the mind of the querent—and as a rule, it urges us to use caution when fighting our battles. If surrounded by cards suggesting material reward, such as Pentacles, the battle may be worth enjoining; if surrounded by cards suggesting emotions, such as Cups, it might be a good idea to “keep our powder dry”, and to fight another day when our feelings won’t cloud our judgment. We all have our personal struggles to wage from time to time—let’s make sure we don’t project our difficulties onto others, or seek to gain advantage from others who are facing the same challenges. We can help or hinder others in life, and whichever we choose, so we do unto ourselves.

Dante DiMatteo

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