5 of Swords

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The Five of Swords Tarot card is rife with conflict and fraught with a sense of tension and defeat.

In the 5 of Swords Minor Arcana card we encounter the dark side of the suit. The Five of Swords speaks of a less than pleasant situation, revealing a conflict in interest or power, often involving misconception and unfairness on both sides.

The Five of Swords Tarot card often refers to a breakdown in communication between friends or partners in a relationship or in a work context. Either way, misunderstandings abound and there are no true winners.

Five of Swords Tarot card description and symbology

Depictions of The 5 of Swords card vary between Tarot decks, but the essential symbolism remains the same.

The men

The 5 of Swords depicts three male figures. One glance tells us that things are tense between them, and it is clear that they have just been fighting.

The smug-looking man in the foreground holds two blades in his arms while pickinging up a third from the ground. He glances over his shoulder at the two men walking away from the scene, or the battle field, with their shoulder slumped in defeat. One of the vanquished opponents even has his face buried in his hands, clearly distressed.

A wise leader or reasonable warlord would perhaps have engaged in a dialogue with the opponent and tried to reach a mutual understanding. Not so in the Five of Swords Tarot card.

While the man in the foreground might have won an easy victory over his rivals, his victory is superficial and short-lived. In the long-run, dealing with the conflict in a peaceable and honourable manner, and with an aim to restore harmony rather than an aim to hurt, would have served everyone better.

The swords

As the title suggests, the Five of Swords Tarot card features three of these sharp, two-sided weapons.

All of them are in the victor’s possession. He is already holding two and is reaching for a third – three more are scattered on the ground at his feet where they have been left there by the defeated and fleeing party.

Swords are a repeated symbol throughout the Tarot, signifying words and expression, interaction, thought patterns and ideas.

When wielded with skill and practice, these sharp and powerful blades are very useful tools: Whenever we see a character in the Tarot who is holding a sword upright and balanced, it is a sign of masterful communication, rational thinking and diplomacy.

In the Five of Swords Tarot card this is not the case. One character, rather than focusing on balancing and wielding his own sword with grace, is clutching two carelessly while greedily reaching for another. This shows that he is careless with his words and displays a complete lack of tact and empathy when it comes to expressing himself. He is by no means a master swordsman.

The other two characters in the Five of Swords Tarot card are not much better. Rather than holding onto their swords, they have abandoned them on the battlefield.

The clouds

The sky over the battlefield looks ominous, filled with dark and stormy clouds. The battlefield itself is barren.

In the Tarot, the landscape always reflects and underscores the meaning of the card. Here, the gloomy weather adds to the sense of discord and negative energy between the fighting parties. The barren field suggests that nothing fruitful will come of their fight.

Five of Swords Tarot card meanings

While details of the Five of Swords card differ from deck to deck, its meanings remain constant. These are the most widespread interpretations fo the Five of Swords when it appears in Tarot readings in an upright position.

Conflicts, disagreements

The most significant meanings of the Five of Swords card are conflict and disagreement.

Since this is a swords card, these source of the discord is usually rooted in miscommunication; in talking past each other, in mutual misunderstandings, in hurtful words being exchanged and no-one being willing to back down and be the first one to wave the peace flag or suggest a truce.

There is also an implied element of an unfair fight. Mud-slinging, defamation and backstabbing are all aspects to be careful of. The conflict that the Five of Swords card addresses is not always a an open conflict – it might be hidden, taking place behind your back.

Competition

There are two kinds of competition – one is amicable, enjoyable and friendly. In positive competition, there is a spirit of sportsmanship, and of friendly rivalry.

And then there is negative competition, where the parties are coming from a place of envy, disdain and a scarcity mindset. In negative competition, the tone is toxic and demeaning. One person is out to take everything for themselves.

Defeat

When the Five of Swords appears in a Tarot reading, you might be the smug winner in the foreground or the defeated loser walking away in the background.

The Fie of Swords card meaning spells defeat either way. In the Five of Swords, there are no true winners. Everybody leave the battlefield wounded and poorer than before, whether we are talking friendship, money or integrity.

In the short term, we might successfully ignore or even forget the universal law of cause and effect, but eventually what goes around comes around and we will be held accountable for our self-interest and cowardice if we have fought dishonourably.

Victory at any cost

Another important Five of Swords Tarot card meaning is that the victor in the card will do anything to assert their own interests. They will say and do anything to win and take as much of the cake as possible, no matter what.

This kind of person is in survival mode and does not view competition as a game to be enjoyed, but as a battle to be won at any cost to themselves or others. They do not understand the meaning of fair play and will take advantage of any weakness or hesitancy they sense in their opponents.

Reversed Five of Swords Tarot card meanings

When reversed, the Five of Swords Tarot card meanings turn on their head, and we discover a larger view of the Five of Swords. We come to learn that this difficult card can sometimes be a good omen.

Reconciliation

After the conflict and the clashing of swords of the upright Five of Swords, the reversed Five of Swords Tarot card meaning is reconciliation.

The Five of Swords reversed can be a sign that either party to the conflict is ready to put the interests of the friendship or the relationship first and to reach out to the other. Reconciliation is often a process, rather than a single step or gesture.

Forgiveness, making amends

Closely connected to the reversed Five of Swords Tarot card meaning of reconciliation is forgiveness. In order for a mending of the broken relationship to take place, we have to forgive the slights and wounds inflicted on the battlefield.

The magic of forgiveness is that it works both ways. If you can forgive both yourself and the other.

Holding grudges

When the Five of Swords reversed turns up in a Tarot reading, it can sometimes point to an inability to let go of resentment.

It is in your best self interest to let it go, even if you are the one who has been slighted – especially if you are the one who has been slighted. By holding grudges you are only really hurting yourself. You will discover that you are cutting yourself on the sharp blades you have picked up as trophies from the battlefield.

What the Five of Swords means in a Tarot reading about love and relationships

Upright

You are being asked to take a larger view of your relationship. Is the situation loving, supportive and fair? Or is one partner being taken advantage of or otherwise mistreated by the other.

The Five of Swords can be a sign of an abusive connection, where one partner controls or demeans the other, making them feel small and defeated. If you are in this situation, it is time to take a stand, turn it around or simply walk away.

Reversed

When, on the other hand, the 5 of Swords card shows up reversed in a Tarot reading about love and romance, it is often a sign of reconciliation, forgiveness and clearing things up between you and a partner.

What the Five of Swords means in a Tarot reading about money and career

Upright

The career meaning here is that you are in an untenable situation. It could be that your work environment is toxic and overly competitive in a way that puts you down.

Reversed

The 5 of Swords reversed might be a sign of clearing up misunderstandings, mending broken work relationships or setting yourself free from a toxic environment.

Lucius Nothing

Lucius has been slinging tarot cards professionally since 2014. He’s taken the tarot to places most wouldn’t think of: His best-known patrons include Torture Garden, The Dark Circus Party, Handel & Hendrix, A Curious Invitation and The Candlelight Club, where he has been resident tarot reader for the past half-decade. His writing on divination, magic and creativity has been published in Sabbat Magazine and on Medium.

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