5 of Swords

take responsibility for our actions

Five brings confrontation + Swords relate it to the mental realm.

from Touchstone Tarot by Kat Black

And so the Five of Swords asks us what we must confront. The Smith-Waite card shows victory at the expense of others — or a hostile defeat; and reminds us that ethics and conscience fall under airy Swords’ umbrella. Has there been an outwitting? Like a few other cards, it offers the querent the choice of which side they see themselves in (are they the victor or the victim?). The victor here appears selfish and unfair; the others sabotaged and degraded. Gore Vidal said it best with “It’s not enough to succeed; others must fail.” A sense of one-upmanship prevails throughout various interpretations.

I often like to see swords in the imagery as literally representing beliefs, and if we consider this card strictly in this context, it may indicate divisiveness, intolerance of those with different beliefs (or outsiders), arrogance, having the last word, or isolation due to an uncompromising attitude. Are we argumentative?

This card illustrates a clear power struggle (dominance vs submission). Where do you see yourself in this scenario?

in resistance, we avoid confrontation (which can sometimes lead to passive-aggressive acts). We may have a pattern of conceding to defeat, perhaps with self-pity. As Lindsay Mack says, we can either drop into shame, guilt, and excuses or we can recenter and move on. Are there times when you could be more assertive? There is integrity in taking personal responsibility, and sometimes we just need to get ourselves another sword.

Similar to the Five of Wands, we may also refuse to participate in or engage the behavior. In Swords, this may serve as a reminder to choose your battles wisely.

In excess, we should ask if we’re acting with the arrogant traits of the bully. Must we always get the better of others? Take responsibility and make amends if we have hurt others.

Conversely, always playing the victim.

Questions to consider when this card comes up may include

  • Is something so important to you that you must prove others wrong?
  • Is there a situation that you could have handled better? Is there some guilt around this? Is there someone to whom you could make amends?
  • What is the ethical thing to do in this situation?
  • Are you conflict-averse? Where did this originate? What parts enable this?
  • Have you adopted a defeatist attitude?
  • Are you always the victim?

There’s lot going on in this card, and more to uncover. How do you see it? How has it come up for you? Feel free to share your own insights.

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