The better side of the Five of Swords
The Five of Swords is one of the cards that people really don’t like to see come up in a reading. It combines the difficult aspects of the number FIVE (which I call the homework assignments of life) with the stressful suit of Swords. However, there are valuable lessons about dealing with difficult people in this card, and that can give this card a positive spin when it needs it.
First of all, sometimes this card says that it’s best just to walk away from an argument because it’s likely that the other person just wants to argue. Here’s an example of what I mean:
Years ago, someone who was unavoidable in my life constantly wanted to argue about things. He would confront me with a statement like, “What do you think about such-and-such?” where the topic was one that he knew would spark disagreement between us. An argument would ensue in which he would fire off a stream of talking points (he obviously only asked about things for which he had ample ammunition at the ready), and he would talk over any responses I tried to make. Inevitably, I ended up feeling verbally battered and abused. (Consider the Rider-Waite-Smith version of this card — I felt like those two guys in the background.) Finally, I wised up and said, “You know, if I thought you really were interested in hearing my opinions on this subject, I’d tell you what they are. But you don’t. You just want to argue, and I’m not interested in playing that game anymore.” And I walked away, for once not feeling bruised. This was a Five of Swords moment in a good sense of the card.
In a similar vein, this card says that when a situation becomes hopeless, cut your losses and get out while you can. Sure it’s hard to walk away – it’s an ego thing – but when this card comes up it can tell us that sticking around to argue or fight won’t do any good and may do more than a bit of harm.
Sometimes, however, the Five of Swords indicates that you are the offending party instead of the one who has been injured. Perhaps it’s an indication of the insensitivity or hostility that sometimes contaminates our arguments, or it may be about nasty gossip or petty politics. In any case, the good news is that you can change bad habits like this once you become aware of them, and this card brings such awareness to your life. In this case, its advice is to try to understand the destructive consequences of your bad habits and then to stop yourself from engaging in them. To help you do this, you might consider this question: “Which would I rather be – happy or right?”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that when this card comes up, it’s just telling you to shut up or to surrender. The important thing is to consider how you are arguing. Are you arguing abusively — not listening to the other person, belittling their points, or patronizing them when they make a point? A powerful way to keep yourself from acting like the jerk in the foreground of the RWS Five of Swords is to take to heart one of my favorite quotes from Ram Dass: “Do whatever you need to do, but never put someone out of your heart.”
Finally, I can see another source of encouraging advice when this card comes up. The Five of Swords may indicate that you have (perhaps inadvertently) hurt or wounded someone. That bit of information is valuable, but what do you do with it? To find out, it can help to consider this card’s contra-positive card: the Six of Pentacles. That card is often seen as an indication of charity, but in this context, I can also see it meaning that you need to make amends. Sometimes it’s not enough to just apologize; some sort of atonement may be needed for healing to occur. This will both indicate the depth of sincerity in your apology and it will help you learn to be a better person.
1. For more perspectives of this card, see an article on this blog that discusses the Five of Swords using several different decks.
2. If you want to further explore this card–or any other Tarot card–you can find links to a wealth of card meanings here.
3. This post has proven to be one of the most popular on my blog, so I’ve decided to do more of this type: the “good” side of “bad” cards and vice versa. Keep your eye on this blog for these new posts, and you can also find them listed here: https://jamesricklef.wordpress.com/category/card-meanings/other-side-of-cards/