Five of Swords | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

5 of Swords

Keywords for the Five of Swords

DEFEATHUMILIATION
LOSSCONQUEST
BETRAYALHOSTILITY
SELFISHNESSDESPAIR
DISHONORBETRAYAL

In the image on this card, we see three people arranged in a disturbing scene. 

Dark storm clouds streak the sky over troubled waters. Nearest to us we see a cruel-looking man displaying a savage grin on his face. He seems proud of himself, gloating about his recent conquests, clearly proud of his acts of violence.

In his hands he holds three swords, while two more lay strewn on the floor by his feet.

Behind him, we see another man walking away with a defeated look on his face. Beyond him is yet another, who stands facing away from us, his head in both hands in a gesture of sorrow and deep grief.

Interpretation of the 5 of Swords in a Reading

When the 5 of Swords appears in a tarot reading, it can signal the experience of loss or defeat, one where we may have lost out against a stronger or more cunning opponent.

However, it often speaks to a more disturbing dynamic at play than a simple loss. It is usually more concerned with losses that result from unethical or even criminal motivations. This card also refers to circumstances filled with betrayal, open dishonor, outright aggression and hostility.

It is what results when one (or more) of the parties involved have lost their moral compass, and instead determined that the ends justify any means used to obtain them.

The 5 of Swords in a reading can also indicate power plays motivated by selfishness and a desire to “win” at all costs, without any regard to ethics or integrity.

It is motivated by a desire for dominance that often has little to do with the value of whatever object or material benefit is obtained by use of force. Here, a logic of cruelty and ruthlessness rules the day.

If you look at the image on the card, you will see that the victor now possesses five swords, more than he is even capable of holding himself. We see in evidence here the logic of exploitation, which seeks to amass power and wealth above all. 

It is done for the sake of meeting the ego’s needs, rather than to alleviate any true material deficiency or want. It displays a “survival of the fittest” and “winner take all” mentality that we are only too familiar with in this era of late-stage capitalism.

Finally, it must be noted that this card does not only refer to the devious acts of other people. At times when this card appears, it may be we ourselves that have been acting dishonorably. 

We should always consider the option that we have not been acting with integrity, and if so, resolve to more clearly examine our behavior and make whatever changes may be necessary.

Four of Swords | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

4 of Swords

Keywords for the Four of Swords

RETREATMEDITATION
WITHDRAWALCONTEMPLATION
RESTCONSERVING ENERGY
RECOVERYDEVELOPING INNER STRENGTH
TIME OUTHEALING PAST WOUNDS

In the image on this card, we see a person laying down flat on his back in what appears to be the inside of a church. He holds his hands up together in prayer, letting us know that he is in a kind of meditative state here. He embodies a spirit of rest, withdrawal and deep contemplation.

This is reinforced by the stained-glass window we see above him. It shows an image of Jesus giving a healing blessing to a supplicant at his feet. From this, we can know that this withdrawal is intended to be only temporary. 

It indicates a period of rest, recovery, of gathering strength and healing from any past wounds we may have sustained during the course of our lives.

This window scene is also the only source of light in this darkened room. Even though he has removed himself from the regular course of daily life, these outer circumstances still concern him, and it is only a matter of time before he returns to them.

Interpretation of the 4 of Swords in a Reading

When the 4 of Swords appears in a reading, it can indicate a time of withdrawal from our typical engagements in the world around us.

We may feel compelled to take time apart from our everyday concerns in order to rest, reflect and prepare for what comes next.

This card indicates that this may be a useful time to engage in quiet reflection, meditation or other contemplative practices. These can help us gain clarity on the events and experiences which have transpired in our past. We may then be able to address certain areas of inner wounding, and develop a new vision which can carry us forward into a new future.

It is important to remember that the withdrawal we see in this card is meant to be only temporary. The energy of the 4 of Swords can be thought of in terms of the concept of the “therapeutic isolation” of psychological healing. 

It is a place where we go to develop strength, not to escape or avoid the troublesome outer world.

We should be careful not to remain in this state longer than necessary. Instead, we must remain only as long as is required for our inner transformation and healing to take place.

Three of Swords | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

3 of Swords

Keywords for the Three of Swords

HEARTBREAKLONELINESS
SORROWBROKEN TRUST
BETRAYALLET DOWN
ANGUISHSEPARATION
DISAPPOINTMENTREJECTION

The imagery on the Three of Swords is quite simple: amid a background of dark gray storm clouds and bitterly cold rain, a single blood red heart is pierced through its core by three shining steel swords.

Interpretation of the 3 of Swords in a Reading

When the 3 of Swords comes up in a tarot reading, it often indicates an experience of intense emotional pain. It can speak to the feeling of being hurt or betrayed by the ones we love. 

We may feel heartbroken or betrayed after discovering an unpleasant truth about someone we care about and thought we could trust.

The experience represented by the 3 of Swords is not an intellectual one, but rather a visceral emotional experience stimulated by the pain of knowing a difficult truth, one which often cuts to the very core of who we are.

When the 3 of Swords appears, it can refer to feelings of rejection, abandonment or isolation. We may feel that we have been left out in the cold, helpless in the dark, stormy night we see depicted here on this card.

Embrace the Chaos

Someone asked me recently on Instagram what I thought about chaos magic, which I thought was an excellent question.

The truth is that I don’t have a lot of experience as a practitioner, but I’m intrigued by the core principles of its philosophy, and the little chaos magic I have done I’ve found to be very effective.

Like in many systems of magic, one of the core principles of chaos magic is that our beliefs create our reality. Chaos magicians hold that there is no absolute truth or reality which exists outside of us: instead, belief is viewed as a tool which we can utilize to channel the raw energy of the universe or of consciousness (sometimes referred to as kia) to achieve practical results.

Chaos magic takes a postmodern approach to magic. What this means is that it views any system of signification of meanings as viable for use in shifting beliefs and creating realities, without particular attachment to the cultural ontology of which that system is a part.

As Peter Carroll, author of Liber Null & Psychonaut has said, “When stripped of local symbolism and terminology, all systems show a remarkable uniformity of method. This is because all systems ultimately derive from the tradition of Shamanism.” In other words, the particular cultural package a symbol/belief comes in is irrelevant, as long as it’s effective in conveying that particular idea. 


One of main practices of chaos magic involved the use of sigils.

I created my first sigil as part of an assignment for a course on practical magic I took with Carolyn Elliott, INFLUENCE.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Write a sentence in which you set out your magical goal or intention.

For this course, Elliott suggested we set the intention to be free from all shame and insecurity around our “witchiness and sexuality.” So that’s exactly what I did.

2. Eliminate all the vowels from your sentence, leaving only the consonants.

My sentence was something like: “I EMBRACE AND EXPRESS MY WITCHINESS AND SEXUALITY FREELY AND WITHOUT FEAR.”

Which then became the letters: M B R C X S W F H N L T

3. Draw a symbol using the shapes of all the consonants that remain once.

I recommend using a piece of scratch paper to play around with a bunch of different ways to draw your symbol. It might take a while to get a final result you really like. Then you can draw your symbol with a higher quality paper and pen before you get ready to charge the sigil.

Here is how mine came out:

In Elliott’s assignment, she recommended we charge the sigil by opening sacred space and meditating on the desired outcome as if it had already happened, as if we were creating a “precognition” of an event already determined in the future.

I chose to charge this sigil differently, by doing some solo sex magick (which is probably the most common way to charge sigils in chaos magick).

Basically, you concentrate on your desired intent while you bring yourself to a state of gnosis (in this case, orgasm). When you get here, focus all of your energy and intention on your desire and release it into the universe. [This is sometimes known as creating a “magickal child,” or in chaos magic terms, a “servitor.”]

Some say that after charging the sigil, you should repress all memory of it. In the words of Austin Osman Spare, there should be “a deliberate striving to forget it.”

I didn’t take this advice literally. I’ve written about it here, so I didn’t forget (I don’t think I could have done so if I tried).

What I did do was leave it alone, though. I didn’t think about it or worry if it had been or would be effective. I just let it be, trusting that it would come into effect when the time was right.

And now it’s been over a year since I performed this ritual, and I can say with all sincerity that it’s one of the most effective pieces of magic I’ve ever done.

This doesn’t mean that everybody now responds well to my witchiness or my sexuality. That’s still not the case.

What it does mean is that whenever I experience anything less than positive from people around these issues, I have very little reactivity around it. Now I’m just like, “Oh, you don’t like it? Okay, that’s fine. :)” And I just keep being as witchy and sexy as I feel I want to be in that moment. No fear and insecurity necessary.

If you want similar results, I recommend you try this practice. I had good results with it, and I hope the same for you.

If you do decide to try it out, drop me a note in the comments! I’d love to hear how it works for you.

Two of Swords | Tarot Card Meaning & Interpretation

2 of Swords

Keywords for the Two of Swords 

BLOCKEDIMPARTIAL
STUCKUNEMOTIONAL
IN DENIALSTALEMATE
GUARDEDAT AN IMPASSE
BLINDCONFUSED

In the image on this card, we see a waterfront by night, lit by a sliver of a crescent moon. The night is quiet, you can almost hear the soft waves whispering to each other as a lap against the rocky shore in the middle of the night. 

In the background, a green coast appears in the distance, only just visible to us from where we stand.

The ground in front of us is made of smooth, unbroken gray stone. Here we see a woman in front of us seated on a stone bench. She is dressed in a robe made of similarly light gray, and she has a blindfold over her eyes. 

She bears a sword in each of her hands, holding them tightly across her chest. The swords, as a symbol of the Air element, represent the forces of reason and logic. 

She covers her heart with these weapons, in effect blocking access to her feelings and deep intuitive knowledge. Each sword points in a different direction, similar to the way in which her mind is divided. Each conflicting train of thought she follows leads to an unclear or undesirable outcome. 

This card often appears when we have reached the limits of rational deliberation. When the Two of Swords shows up in a reading, it is evidence that we may be rationalizing, overthinking, or confused, and unable to come to a clear and decisive conclusion.

Interpretation of the 2 of Swords in a Reading

When this card comes up, it often means that we have reached an impasse in our current situation. We may have turned the issue over and over again in our minds, only to remain unsure and undecided. 

It may be that we are rationalizing away someone else’s questionable behavior (or our own). 

Like the woman in this card, we may simply be unwilling to see the truth. Rather than using logic and the mind as a tool to arrive at truth, we may be using the powers of the intellect to make excuses for what we already intuitively know.

Notice the woman’s blindfold: if you look closely, you can see the bottom edges of her eyes peeking out from under the bottom of the white fabric. This is an indication that she has seen, and knows, but is unwilling to acknowledge the truth. 

The 2 of Swords is clearly reminiscent of the High Priestess of the Major Arcana. In some ways, she is her opposite, as she shows what the opposite of vision is. 

We know that the High Priestess is deeply connected to the waters of the unconscious and the intuitive wisdom that arises from it. In contrast, the woman here is disconnected from her truth, and unable to access her inner knowing. 

When this card appears it is asking us to put our swords down, and to drop our intellectual defenses. The Two of Swords asks us to be still and go within to find the truth that is always already available to us if we should become willing to see.