Tarot Tuesday: The Five of Swords


The 5 of Swords from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.

The Fives of any Tarot suit tend to be difficult, painful cards. As you can see, the Five of Swords does its utmost to live up to that reputation.

But let’s start with some good news: nobody’s dead. That’s not always a given with Swords.

Yes, there’s a bully-like, triumphant dude with a smirk on his face. He’s holding three swords; two more lie on the ground near him. Did the two retreating figures drop those swords and forfeit them?

That’s my best guess, though there still seem to be more swords than swordsmen in this scenario. Were there more people involved in this fight? People who already fled? Maybe. But even if there were, there are still no bodies around. (I’m calling that a win.)

I think the triumphant dude vanquished these other two figures. But the other two react differently to the defeat. One of them is unbowed; the other looks inconsolable.

Either way, triumphant dude seems content with his spoils. He’s not harassing or pursuing the retreating figures. He sure looks like he’s gloating, though! And judging by those jagged clouds in the background, there’s a lot of anger in the air.

In most Tarot decks, Swords are connected to the element of air—and the domain of air is the mind. So it makes sense that this battle didn’t turn deadly. Maybe it was as much a battle of wits and of focus as it was of physical prowess. Likewise, it makes sense that the damage done is more mental than physical. Triumphant dude has crushed the spirit of at least one of his opponents—the one furthest away from us.

But he hasn’t crushed the other one—the unbowed one.

This is a rich card for writers. Substitute any conflict for the sword fight and start with these three characters. Where does triumphant dude go from here? Does he get his comeuppance? Does he ever learn that there’s more to life than victory and gloating? Does he figure out that he doesn’t need to crush someone else to validate himself?

What about the inconsolable figure? Does he (or she) ever make a comeback? Will he confront triumphant dude in the future, or is he so crushed that he’s paralyzed?

And the unbowed figure—he (or she) might be the most interesting of all. He has no reason to gloat, but he’s not crushed either. One way or the other, I think he’s learning from this experience. Maybe he’s learning to fight better. Or maybe he’s done with this whole pissing contest . . . maybe he’s just figured out that there are more important things in the world.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this card, and whether it resonates with any characters you’ve written or any characters you’ve read about. And if it inspires a story or poem or other work of art, please leave a link here!

Meanwhile, time to draw next week’s card: The Tower. Oy, that’s one of the toughest cards in the deck. It always reminds me of 9-11. I better start preparing early.

About Jenn Moss

Author * Web Serialist * Virtual Addict
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9 Responses to Tarot Tuesday: The Five of Swords

  1. I like the 5 of swords because of the story it tells, well all the cards tell a story. But I always interpret it as achieving glory at the cost of stepping on your friends (Be careful who you step on, on your way to the top). Is it truly great at the top? How long can that smirk last? How is he going to carry all of the swords home without cutting himself? I really enjoy Tarot Tuesdays! I’m always so happy to read them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      Ooh, I like your interpretation! I never thought of these three guys as (previously) friends, but that can work. Those swords are definitely not worth wrecking friendships over. Hope Triumphant dude figures that out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Quintessential Editor says:

    Another awesome tarot addition. I always love Tarot Tuesday!

    I see it as a spoils of war kind of deal. The battle has ended, there are some survivors who are shattered, but someone always profits from the chaos of battle. In a global sense, this guy could be a modern day fat-cat who send young men into battle to support their own endeavors (from the comfort of his home that was provided by the taxpayer). If I look at it like this, that smiling buffoon represents the vultures who scavenge the field of battle and profit from the bloodshed. In a more micro sense, he could also be a war profiteer. Selling weapons to the highest bidder and collecting them back up after both side have successfully slaughtered each other.

    As someone who has unfortunately engaged in warfare, I also get a feeling about war in general from this image. The idea that a battle has been fought and people were destroyed matters little to the people who orchestrate the battle. To them we are weapons to collect and use as they see fit. In this sense, the man collecting the swords reminds me of the saying, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Despite the outcome, the weapons will remain and evolve and more battles will be fought. The endless cycle will continue into infinity. Perhaps he represents the essence of combat and war.

    Regardless of the interpretation, it got me thinking and that’s why I love these posts. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      You’ve given me a new perspective on this card! Thank you for allowing your own experiences to speak through it.

      It never occurred to me that Smirking Dude might not have risked himself in the combat–that he just found a way to profit from it instead. I love it. (Um, I don’t love that he would do such a thing . . . er, you know what I mean.)

      Wow. I’m always amazed at how many different stories one card can suggest!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I liked a lot your thouyghts on this card. Ther’s not much left to say after your words, but interesting the idea exposed by From Rad to Dad in his comment. I never thought of the characters as friends, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cloverclancy says:

    5s are always difficult to navigate, freedom through discipline I find is the lesson behind the number five. Lots of energy which needs to be applied cautiously or you will find yourself burnt out or beat.

    Liked by 1 person

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