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.