I read once that the Five of Swords is considered to be the most difficult of all of the Fives to interpret. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with this; in fact, I don’t know that the Fives are really any more difficult to interpret than any other tarot cards. Perhaps it is because it can be difficult to look at cards which appear to be so "negative".
Let’s face it, when we use the tarot, we are relating the messages and meanings we derive directly to our own lives and the lives of those in our life patterns. Life is not always good news, neither is good news always directly in the future for us.
That being said, by primarily focusing our attention on the "negative" aspects of a card (and spending considerable amounts of energy either avoiding the message or rationalizing and sugar-coating it entirely) we miss out on all the other lessons a particular card has for us.
I will say it again…the tarot is all about balance. It constantly brings this issue to our attention and there isn’t a card in the deck for which we shouldn’t always bear this in mind.
So, where does that leave us? Well, some people would look at this card and say ‘defeat". The end of a project, relationship, monetary security. Another group would say, no, the card is about little worries and that’s not so good or so bad. Still other people would say, no, this card is all about an increase in mental activity, finding new solutions and that’s a good thing.
For me the answer is that it is about all of these things and more. I would preface this, however, with the opinion that this card is not so much about the actual end/defeat of a project, relationship, etc., but rather, the state of the mind or intellect and the process it goes through as it deals with life circumstances.
Any "defeat" inherent in this card is a defeat of the "mind". It may seem a rather minute distinction, but if you think on it, I can assure you that you will begin to grasp the full import of it. It is quite an important concept because think…we already have cards in the tarot that are much better at conveying the defeat/end of a relationship, project or monetary/material well-being. Which ones are they? The other Fives in the deck!
So again, the defeat, the blockage and resulting upheaval inherent in the Five of Swords resides in our mind …our intellect. Which is where most of our important issues begin.
Let’s look at this Five of Swords. Our attention is drawn immediately to the man with his back to us. He faces a high brick wall. See how he is pressed tightly into the corners where the walls meet. Notice also the total lack of color in himself and his environment. All of his other senses have been turned off. No intuition guides him, no sensory perceptions give signals to him. He hears nothing and no one. Everything has been reduced to the single-minded exercise upon which he is bent. Breaking through that thick wall and moving ahead. His way.
Look at him and you will see defeat. Closed off in that corner, alone with his own intellectual strategies and opinions…he’s going nowhere. The intellectual "route" he has chosen to take has ended in this brick wall and, as yet, he is unwilling to consider other options.
And that is a great pity because he has become so focused and obsessed with his thought pattern that he is completely unaware of the open door just to his right. If he would just backtrack a little, he would see, out of the corner of his eye, that nondescript wooden door. If he would open his mind a little further and backtrack a little more…if he was willing to let go of that firmly entrenched thought pattern…he would begin to perceive an alternative "route". For just beyond that doorway is a completely open road, cutting its way through open vistas and stretching toward a distant horizon. Does the open road have answers? Maybe, maybe not.
But I’ll tell you the most important thing it does have: Possibilities.
Think of the possibilities just in considering a different option, a different thought-pattern.
So, is the Five of Swords bad? Is it about defeat? Well, again, it is all about balance. If I received this card in a reading I would have to ask myself the following:
Depending on the specific situation, these can certainly be unsettling and painful questions. However, they are honest, penetrating and proactive in nature…and that isn’t a "bad" thing.
If I had to use a simplistic analogy to summarize the Five of Swords, I would equate it to a rather large dose of medicine. A medicine that tastes really nasty and may cause some physical discomfort. BUT, a medicine that cures the illness I have.
Yes, you can think of the Five of Swords as Nyquil. It tastes really bad and it burns all the way from mouth to stomach, but boy, when you wake up the next day, your sinuses are clear! And without all the congestion clogging your brain, you now have the clarity of mind to pursue your daily activities with a lot more ability.
If I had the choice of avoiding the bad-tasting, but "medicinal" qualities of the Five of Swords or taking my medicine, clearing my head and moving forward, I know what I would choose.
Please pass the Nyquil…I mean, Five of Swords.