Five of Swords Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretations
The 5 of Swords is a card of an empty and pointless victory, embarrassing or humiliating situations, quarrels and even violence. 5s are never welcome cards in any tarot reading and Swords are often troublesome. This card especially is a warning not to be taken lightly. In the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck the imagery is one of the aftermath of a battle. The victor picking at the remains. The defeated have turned their backs and walked away. This is a man without friends. There's no real prize here for anyone and the bleak landscape and grey sky sums up the mood of despair for all. What was the purpose of the fight? To strengthen an ego hell bent on it's desperate need to be right? The pitfall of being viewed as sanctimonious? This tragedy could have been avoided through diplomacy, listening to what others have to say, accepting differing opinions and searching for, and reaching, common ground.
The RWS 5 of Swords scene is the aftermath of a quarrel with one person looking very self satisfied and the other two, backs turned, leaving the scene. There are no friends here, no unity, only loneliness and despair. Too often we allow our views of the world, our identities, our religious or political beliefs to drive a wedge between us. By placing less value and priority on these abstract mental constructs we can build bridges between us and create harmony for all.
All the cards in the Minor Arcana numbered 5 are problematic cards. The number 5, in numerology, has the negative qualities of being chaotic, unstable, self-indulgent, irresponsible or careless and Tarot's Minor 5s reflect those negatives. If we look to the 5s in the Major Arcana we find positive cards which offer a solution to this chaos. Card number 5 of the Major Arcana is The Hierophant which represents conformity, doctrine, laws and rules that bring order from chaos. It represents not just the church and religious law but all establishments of authority which people live and work under. The other 5 in the Major Arcana is card number 14 Temperance (numerology reduces 14 to 5) which represents self control. When dealing with the 5 of Swords in a Tarot spread these additional cards maybe the warning, or the solution, of what sort of control will be applied to the unruly behaviour of this card. External control or self control.
The central character in the RWS 5 of Swords holds 3 swords symbolising the numerological link to the 3 Of Swords, the card of despair and heart ache. The 2 remaining swords on the ground are a numerological link to the 2 Of Swords symbolising the ignored diplomatic option which could have prevented this situation from occurring. They also serve as a link to Judgement and Justice in the Major Arcana. Both cards have numerological values of 2 and this symbolic connection may carry a warning of the consequences of his actions.
The Suit of Swords, representing the Element of Air, symbolises the mental and intellectual aspects of life. The storms on the path of life that we have to apply our minds and intelligence to navigate through. Like the steel in the sword we are tempered by the hammer and flames of life's challenges and trials. The negative characteristics and meaning of the number 5, in numerology, are instability, chaos, self-indulgence, irresponsibility, procrastination, thoughtlessness and carelessness. This combination of element and numerology would suggest not focusing on doing one thing well but many things badly. Not thinking things through properly and being forceful in gaining the upper hand, or short term victory, only for it to later turn against you into isolation, defeat and humiliation.
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THE PICTORIAL KEY TO THE TAROT
By Arthur Edward Waite (1911)
A disdainful man looks after two retreating and dejected figures. Their swords lie upon the ground. He carries two others on his left shoulder, and a third sword is in his right hand, point to earth. He is the master in possession of the field. Divinatory Meanings: Degradation, destruction, revocation, infamy, dishonour, loss, with the variants and analogues of these. Reversed: The same; burial and obsequies.
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