Friday, January 24, 2014

Five of Swords – “Winning, Losing and Weighing the Costs”


If you’ve ever held a sword in your hand, even a ceremonial
The Five of Swords - RWCS
US Games Edition
one, you know that they are   weighty things.  To wield a sword is to weigh the cost of each blow you strike whether the sword is real or metaphorical. Is each swing worth the cost to your strength? Are the transgressions of your opponent so egregious that striking the blow is worth diminishing your own power?  These are just a couple of the questions posed by the Five of Swords.  

Swords are the element of air and the suit’s intent is to show us our state of mind and how we communicate.  The keywords for the Five are, strife, dishonorable conduct and self-interest.  In a nutshell, the Five asks us to consider the nature of wins and losses and how we relate to them.  In the RWCS depiction, we see a sky torn asunder.  In the background two figures turn away from the battle, striped of their swords as well as their pride. They grieve the death of their dreams of conquest.  To the victor, goes the spoils and as a result the losers have lost their weapons, or symbolically, their personal power.  The water in the background gives them nowhere to retreat.  They must stay and face their defeat and subsequent humiliation.  The rough surface of the water expresses their emotional turmoil.

The figure in the foreground of the card is a seasoned combatant used to defending himself against all comers – note the five swords in his possession.  His thoughts are about securing his place in the world order.  He is not a gracious winner. He believes that carrying the day is its own reward and he spares little thought for his defeated opponents, other than to gloat over his victory. You could say that the lesson of the card is to be a gracious winner, or loser, but that’s an over-simplification and the Five’s meaning.  

"Tarot of the Pagan Cats"©
from Lo Scarebo
The Five of Swords is not always an easy card to understand.  It asks the reader (and the querent) to look for a deeper significance in the imagery. Which figure represents you?  Are you being asked to stand and face the unpleasant consequences of losing a trial by combat when you’d much rather quit the field to lick your wounds in private?  Should you consider that self-interest is not always a bad thing? Part of the Five’s lesson is to remind us that there’s no crime in putting ourselves first when the situation warrants it. Do you give up your dreams too easily for the benefit of others? Do you pick your battles carefully, but find yourself unready to commit to the first blow when the trumpet sounds?

Tarot’s job is to make you think – to make you delve deep into the complexities of your life and come out with true wisdom.  It’s not an easy task, but them neither is defending yourself against all comers.  Next time the Five of Swords turns up in your spread don’t quit the field with a glib interpretation.  Ask yourself what winning means to you and when is a battle not worth the cost.


LADY ORACLE  

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