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.

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