Five (V) of Swords

 Five (V) of Swords –

Defeat, Surrender, Aggression

5 of Swords Upright


Change, No-Win, Lose All, Defeat, Surrender, Walk Away, Battle Weary, Loss,  Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Breakdown in Communication, Non-Negotiable, Bully, Intimidation, Forcefulness, Aggressive, Attack, Battle, Serious Conflict, Hostilities, Abuse, Stress, Vicious Arguments, Smugness, Gloating, Looking After Number One, Self-Serving, End Justifies the Means, Destruction, Ruin, Repossession, Receivership, Standing Up For Yourself, Fighting Your Corner, Fighting Back, Overcoming Personal Challenges, Anti-Social, Lack of Conscience/Morals, Integrity, Underhand Behaviour, Threatening, Villain, Mercenary, Violence, Crime, Theft, Trickery, Deceit, Lies, Rape, Murder, Mugging,


Card Imagery Description

Before we enter the imagery of the Five of Swords, we must acknowledge that we are dealing with a very complex card and one that has several ways of being interpreted with varying schools of theories supporting each. We shall be examining these theories to demonstrate how to work with this tricky card.  The final interpretation will depend entirely on which figure you or your Querant identifies with or recognises, as each have a part to play. This is a very interesting card and much time should be given to understanding its varying layers of interpretation.  Tread carefully with this card in Readings as its implications can go from one extreme to another, from being benign to malignant, from being positive to negative.  If you draw this card in a One-Card Reading it would be wise to pull an extra two cards for further insight, as on first glance it can be extremely negative.

In Card Four we left the lone Swords Figure asleep on his tomb where he had retreated to rest, recuperate, re-energise and also re-group his fragmented mental state of being.  After the conflict, pain, upset and stress of the Three, he was worn out and living on his nerves. He knew the ongoing battle, going nowhere, was breaking him down.  His thoughts were confused and he couldn’t think straight from one moment to the next, so he had to do something to protect himself.  Running on empty, he had retreated or withdrawn from the situation before it broke him altogether.  Through reflection, introspection and possible professional help, the time has now come to leave his place or inner-world of sanctuary and face his opponents or life once more.  He has a battle ahead of him now which must be fought if he is ever to feel pride in himself again. He has let too many things slip by and too many people get away with treating him disrespectfully. He now intends to balance the scales or even overturn it entirely.  With a steely resolve he collects his newly sharpened Sword and swipes it through the air  before leaving the silence of the church behind.  The swish of the blade has reignited his hunger for battle and blood.

The Church had been silent and peaceful,  but now a strong cold wind hits him as he passes through the door and out into the open turning his Sword, ice-cold in his hand.

Let us stop here and rewind a bit.  Let us go back to the Figure lying on the tomb.  Maybe he was not there to recover and rest his stressed mind and jangled nerves.  Maybe, others thought he had needed help and sent him to a place where he could get it. Could the Church possibly have represented a psychiatric ward where the Figure was treated for mental imbalances, neurosis or even something more serious like psychoses, hallucinations, paranoia or personality disorders? He may have had to be medicated or sedated. It could be possible that he believes there is nothing wrong with his mind at all and likes the way it works. Those around him may not see it that way and think him a danger to himself or others.  The law may have been involved if he was aggressive, anti-social or threatening in his behaviour.  He may have displayed sociopath tendencies and lack of remorse for any harm he had caused.  If this is so, then the Figure leaving the building with his Sword re-instated, may have a totally different mindset or agenda from the earlier interpretation.

Yes, he may have had psychological imbalances or issues and now after treatment and therapy has recovered sufficiently to move within the community once more, determined to heal his dysfunctional thought processes.  On the other hand, he may just have been turned loose, unfixed, un-mended.  He may have been given medication which he has to remember to take or, he may have given the impression or his word that he would work hard to change his ways. There is a possibility that this Figure has no conscientious at all and will say anything to get what he wants or where he is going.

The Figure on the tomb may not be out in the open but operating under the radar, free to come and go as he pleases and do as he likes.  The church may be his hiding place, den or where he lies low.  In his most negative sense, his tomb may resemble Dracula’s lair, where he sleeps during the day and takes flight at night using his Sword-Like fangs to wreak havoc among the local villagers.  He may be the thief who breaks into your house while all are in bed and asleep.  He may be the vandal who destroys and causes trouble wherever he goes.  He may be the joy-rider who recklessly drives his car with no care or respect for anyone else on the road.  He may be the partner who is abusive and violent, instilling fear into his family.  He may be the Bully boss or work colleague who makes your life a misery and destroys your soul and peace of mind.  He may be the son or daughter who will be the death of their parents, constantly in trouble and upsetting everyone.

If this is the case, then the Figure leaving the Church will also have a completely different mind-set from the first interpretation.  His Sword will not be used to cut away all the negativity in his life or to assert himself in the face of those who enjoy intimidating or bullying him.  This Figure enjoys using his Sword to inflict pain and injury on others. He gets away with it constantly because those around him are too scared to stand up to him.  Because this is the Swords Suit we can assume we have a very clever but highly dangerous adversary in our midst.  This Figure will use his sword (intellect) to cut to the bone.

So, what of the two retreating Figures in the Card? Where do they fit in and who do they represent? If the Querant identifies with either of them then they will fully understand their role for they typically represent, surrender, defeat or not having the stomach for battle anymore.  Generally, there will be a realisation and understanding on their part, that it is a no-win situation they are involved in and they stand to lose more than they gain should they continue to engage.  Sometimes it is better to admit defeat and walk away, rather than be destroyed altogether. Also, the Figures may have been involved in something that has gone against their principles, standards or sense of morals.  Their conscience may have been plaguing them for some time and now they can no longer ignore it. They have handed over their Swords and informed the main Figure that he is now on his own for they no longer want to be a part of it.  They have given up the fight for it is not worth it and defeat is almost guaranteed should they continue.  They would rather quit while they are ahead and while they can still regain their dignity, pride and reputation.

So, we have many levels of interpretation emerging from this card and it very much depends on the Querant involved, who they identify with and what their situation is.  One must always remember that the Suits tell a story that has continuity and builds as it is being told.  Therefore, it is always essential to go back to the previous card in the Suit when interpreting a Reading even if it does not appear in the Spread.  So, viewing it that way, the previous card was the Four of Swords and our first approach should be to assume the natural progression of the story, which was the attempt to heal and recover after a period of hostility, conflict and extreme stress.

As a result we must first look at the possibility that the Five of Swords is representing the same Figure, now in full charge of his mind and taking back his power from those he had given it away to (the collected Swords).  It is all about him at the moment and not letting people treat him as they used to.  He now uses his re-sharpened Sword to cut out and hack off anything that is negative in his life in an attempt to change. He may be standing up for himself, being forceful instead of passive, disarming his enemies by letting them see he will no longer accept their attacks and onslaught.  It may be his victory and salvation after being the loser for a long time. He may be representing the wife or husband who finally finds the courage to stand up to their violent and aggressive partner by fighting back and showing them that they no longer fear them.  He may be the employee who eventually decides to speak his mind or speak out about troublemakers or corruption in the workplace.  He may be the Police Officer who has disarmed criminals intent on breaking the law.  He may just have had enough of his stressful life and walks away, happy to offload his Sword and all that it stands for.

So let us now look at the imagery in this intriguing card.

Like all the Fives in the Minor Arcana, the Five of Swords deals with change, conflict, challenge and upheaval.  However, being the Swords Suit we may assume that they will experience the Five in a severe or extreme manner.  They will probably add to the situation by making it as hard as possible for them to overcome it. We must also remember that where the Swords are concerned, we are dealing with the Element of Air which deals with our psychological state of mind and the power of communication.  Therefore, any battles they are fighting, challenges to be overcome or blood to be let may be entirely within themselves if their mind is dysfunctional or tied up in knots. The Swords fight their way throughout their Suit, mentally and verbally, in an attempt to free their mind from the binds that tie them to self-doubt, low self-esteem, lack of self-belief, paranoia and suspicion.  Their battle must go on to the end if they are ever to achieve the Upright Status of Their Mature Court Cards, The Queen and King of Swords.   Their Swords are suitably double-edged for this purpose.  They work both ways by having the capacity to not only cut down their enemy, but also to cut out any personal negative mindsets that twist their way of thinking.  In both respects, they can be merciless.

In the opening scene of the Five of Swords we are presented with what appears to be the closing stage or end of a battle.  Notice that this card is a Stage Card so bear this in mind, as all the actors (Figures) will be playing important roles.  There may be a hidden plot which will require close observation and deep analysis to work out. Things may not be as they appear to be.

In the foreground stands a man who holds three Swords. Two have been slung over his shoulder while the other is held in his right hand. He wears red leggings and red top, suggesting the passion and energy he has for battle.  His green over-garment in this Five symbolises his need to conquer and gain territory.   The Man looks back towards a Figure who has turned his back to us as he walks away.  The main Figure appears to be gloating and quite smug, as he smirks back at his retreating opponent.  Further in the background and to the right stands another Figure who is bent over. This Figure looks distressed and upset and, possibly crying.

A strong wind blows jagged clouds across a grey sky indicating a stressful and hostile, stormy atmosphere. In the background we see a large body of water or the ocean and beyond in the distance, a mountain range can be seen.  The Mountains symbolise the challenges and conflict that must be overcome in order to succeed, but before any of these figures can attempt to climb them they must first cross the great divide which is the ocean of emotions that govern this situation.

Two Swords lie scattered on the ground as if they have been thrown down in either disgust or surrender.  They may belong to the two Figures in the background but what of the two Swords he holds against his chest? This suggests that others were involved in this conflict or battle but where are they now and what has become of them? The Swords would never readily hand over their actual Sword to anyone unless under very extreme circumstances, as it is very much an integral part of them.  The very fact that he holds their Swords tells us that he took them from them. By the look on his face it was probably by force or foul means. The owners of these Swords may have been injured or killed. They may have been taken away for treatment or have left too sickened by what they have seen.  They may have surrendered to the Main Figure and handed over their weapons, acknowledging him as the victor.  Perhaps some decided that the battle was not worth fighting, the price of victory too high. They may have disarmed themselves not wanting to use their Swords to inflict further pain.

The Swords Suit deals with the ability to communicate through the written and spoken word. The fact that the main Figure is in charge of all the Swords at this moment in time suggests that he has full say in what happens from here on in. He has taken away or closed off any avenue of communication when he took their Swords.  The Two Swords that lie on the ground suggest that their owners have no say or have chosen to shut down, no longer interested in engaging in this issue.   Communication is lacking here as one forces his opinions and ways on the others without mutual consent or debate. The three remaining Figures may be the same three people indicated in the Three of Swords. The time has come to sort out the hostilities once and for all.

The Main Figure has emerged victorious from the battle. He stands powerful and superior, exhilarated by the Outcome.  He is in charge now, he is the Leader and all must obey.  However, if he has won, then where are his supporters, where are his followers, where are his allies? Why aren’t his opponents acting honorable in defeat? During times of war there are certain rules and etiquette that govern the battle field and soldier to soldier combat.  The Victor of this battle may not have played fair or fought by the rules.  There is a possibility he has broken all rules of engagement and people may now view him as dishonorable and Mercenary.  His attitude to them may be that “all is fair in love and war” and that “the best man win by whatever means he can”.   The end justifies the means for this Man and has probably used every trick in the book,  cut below the belt at every opportunity or stabbed them in the back rather than confront them face to face.  He may stand there and consider himself the Superior Victor and Champion but he stands alone as he no longer has any friends or allies. He has won the battle but at what cost? He must also remember those mountains in the distance for there will be more battles to come and he may not always be so lucky.  He may have won this particular battle but not the war, and, if defeated the next time, he cannot expect to be shown mercy after the scant regard he has shown for others. Here stands the triumphant Bully, the Intimidator, The Abuser, The Criminal.

In another Reading, we may see the overall Champion or Victor of a stupendous challenge which may have been internal or external.  He has overcome not only his own limited self-belief, but also the constant doubt and put-downs of others.  No one believed he had it in him or would last the course but he did and now can show everyone his personal strength and superiority in this situation. The glory is all his and his opponents can  skulk away, enraged, jealous and envious of his position.  They have had the power for too long.  They also had exerted power over him too, but now he is in the driving seat and in control.  This may be either a very Positive or very Negative Outcome depending on the Reading and which perspective we are interpreting from.    All the Swords he holds may have originally being his and is only taking back, what by rights, he is entitled to or has, as a result of his situation,  flipped from Passive to Aggressive.  There we have two very different stories.

Five (V) of Swords

5 of Swords Upright


Change, No-Win, Lose All, Defeat, Surrender, Walk Away, Battle Weary, Loss,  Sacrifice, Self-Sacrifice, Breakdown in Communication, Non-Negotiable, Bully, Intimidation, Forcefulness, Aggressive, Attack, Battle, Serious Conflict, Hostilities, Abuse, Stress, Vicious Arguments, Smugness, Gloating, Looking After Number One, Self-Serving, End Justifies the Means, Destruction, Ruin, Repossession, Receivership, Standing Up For Yourself, Fighting Your Corner, Fighting Back, Overcoming Personal Challenges, Anti-Social, Lack of Conscience/Morals, Integrity, Underhand Behaviour, Threatening, Villain, Mercenary, Violence, Crime, Theft, Trickery, Deceit, Lies, Rape, Murder, Mugging,


As previously discussed, there are many ways to interpret this card as we know it can be quite tricky.  You will need to take into consideration, several different areas before attempting to interpret its relevance in a Reading. The final interpretation will ultimately come down to :

  1. The Querant
  2. The Question
  3. The Position
  4. The Surrounding Cards
  5. The Figure Identified With
  6. Your Intuitive Response

So let us look at the various ways the Five of Swords could be reflecting our life, situation and the people around us.

When the Five of Swords appears in the Present or Future position in a Reading then you best prepare for some stiff challenge if not a strong battle.  If in the Past position then it will already have happened and you or the Querant will know exactly what it is about for there is no mild or easily missed energy in this card.  It is full-on and forceful so you will need some stamina to withstand it.  The Five of Swords appearing in a Reading asks you to think long and hard before entering into a battle or engaging in hostilities with another for you have little chance of winning this one.  Defeat is almost guaranteed and you may have to sacrifice a great deal. It would be best to cut your losses now and walk away, back out or surrender as the defeat experienced may very well be personally destructive.  You are up against someone stronger than you who is better equipped when it comes to tactics and strategy. They are used to this scenario and you not.  They hold all the cards right now and you would be wise to acknowledge it, even if it dents your pride.  This is a no-win situation you are involved in.  In fact you stand to lose more than you could ever possibly gain by continuing on this course of action. Surrender is not always a sign of weakness but rather being wise enough to know your limitations in a particular situation. You have wasted enough time and energy already so find a new direction to take and one that will move you as far away from this unhealthy environment as possible.  Distancing yourself from the battlefield now will give you time to reflect on where you go from here.

Regardless of what the Five of Swords represents in an individual Reading, you will find that communication or negotiation issues will be present. It is usually a sign that you need to tread carefully with what you say as you may shoot yourself in the foot in the process regardless of how strong a position you see yourself in.  The door may be closed on discussion or compromise right now so you may feel as though you are talking to the wall.  Knee jerk reactions and explosive outbursts will only set you back.  Back off and think carefully about how you vocalise your issues as your current methods are getting you nowhere.

If you are involved in a battle at the moment, then The Five of Swords often indicates it is more than likely nearing an end. There will be a victor when it does end, but when you assess the damage and fallout you will have to ask yourself if the battle was really worth it? The Victor may have won the battle or some ground but it may not have been taken fairly.  Are you prepared to win at all costs? How low are you prepared to stoop? How many backs are you prepared to leave your Sword stuck in or footprints on? How many lives are you happy to destroy?  You may do all this and more and still end up losing.  If you are contemplating entering a battle, be sure you are prepared to accept loss and all that goes with it even if you do think it will be a walk over. You may alienate yourself from all around you in the process.  You may have lost your moral compass and your integrity.

Are you unnecessarily drawing battles to you? Is there a pattern of constant conflict or hostilities in your life.  Do you feel you have to act superior to everyone else or outdo their best efforts. Why do you feel you must always get your own way? In what way are you forcing your views on others?

The Five of Swords is very often associated with Bully Personalities, Bully/Intimidating type of Behaviour or Hostile Environments. Therefore, there is very often a strong sense of somebody getting their own way or what they want at all costs. They really don’t care who gets hurt or destroyed in the process as long as it furthers their aims.  Someone may see themselves as all Powerful and in a situation where they can control others as they please. They may be clinical, sterile and unsympathetic to others unless they can gain out of it.  It is a Self-Serving and Self-Interest Card and can represent a situation where the concerns and welfare of others are not taken into consideration.  Thinking only of Number One, selfishness and power trips will also be evident.  Once you give your power away (the Swords) to someone like this, then it will take a lot of effort on your part to get it back.  You will need to change your game plan and approach with a whole new mindset and attitude for they have you weakened and where they want you at this moment in time.  You really need to get your Swords back but they are never going to let you just walk up and take them. You will have to catch them off guard and then make your move but you have some way to go before you can do that. Unfortunately, they have the upper hand at the moment.


The Five of Swords, depending on surrounding cards, can also suggest criminal violence and sometimes in the extreme. Traditional meanings associated this card with kidnap, theft, rape and murder. This is certainly a dangerous adversary and one would be advised to distance themself from the situation as their personal safety may be at risk.  When this card appears it is would be advising caution and the need for self-protection when out and about or travelling alone for you may be vulnerable.  There could be the risk of attack or mugging so guard your valuables and don’t leave your possessions in the open where they may be a temptation to thieves or opportunists.  Trickery, deceit and lies all accompany this Card so don’t become a willing victim.

The Five of Swords often represents an unsavoury character, group or organisation who gain or profit from the misery and suffering of others.  Like vultures hovering over an injured or sick animal ready to swoop even before the final breath is taken, they prey on the weak and vulnerable.  I can’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands of homes being repossessed by banks and building societies around the world at this very moment in time, due to recession, bad government decisions and corrupt banking systems.  Instead of supporting and assisting people who are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table, they make the already miserable and downtrodden even more desperate and bereft by repossessing their homes and throwing them out onto the street. Instead of helping them restructure their mortgage or take a break from it, they prefer to take back what they consider to be theirs (the Swords).  Greedier still, not only do they want the house back and the family on the street, they still insist on haunting the people for the original debt.  They want it all and to lose nothing.  They care less what the ordinary people in the street have to live on as long as they are making their massive billions of profit each year and getting their fat salaries and pensions.  This is truly a Self-Serving situation.  The Banking systems around the world are all guilty of mis-trading and mismanagement, but instead of making amends for what they have done, they seem to get away with it and continue to exert power and control over us. Up against the System and Establishment, the ordinary person in the street would stand little or no chance of ever defeating them. It is a no-win situation whichever way you look at it and those who make a stand or protest, eventually wear themselves out and walk away just like the retreating Figures we see in the Card.

The Five of Swords can sometimes symbolise the overcoming of inner demons and negative mindsets.  The battle fought for personal freedom would not have come quickly or easily.  Time would have been spent in the scenario of the Four of Swords, resting and strengthening the mind. This battle may have been a personal challenge for you and one that others believed you could not succeed in.  However, not only have you proved to yourself what you can do when you put your mind to it but also others who may have put you down or humiliated you in the past.  You can now hold you head high and own your own Power.

In a relationship spread the Five of Swords would be a card for disagreement, dreadful rows, separation and divorce. Swords are crossed and a parting of the ways may be inevitable. The conflict in a relationship represented by this card is pretty serious and certainly not just a superficial argument. In fact, there may be a pattern of conflict in the relationship with bullying being an issue as one partner forces his/her way on the other. Abuse of all kinds in the relationship may be a regular occurrence. One person has caused a lot of pain and hurt. Taken to its extreme the Five of Swords can suggest a person who is not afraid to inflict physical pain or injury and could very well be a dangerous character especially as a spouse or partner. This person rules the roost through intimidation, fear and possible punishment.

On another level, the gloating main Figure in this card could be responsible for breaking up or interfering in your relationship.  This is the archetypal third person in a relationship who sets out to turn one against the other and then collect the spoils or a spiteful person who is jealous and envious of your happiness.

With regards to Career, like the Five of Wands, this is again a card of conflict in the workplace and very much on a mental  and verbal level this time.  Arguments and tension abound.  Angry words fly and bitterness and resentment released.   The Five of Swords can represent a group or team who cannot work together or have personality clashes. However, there is usually one person who is the ring leader and uses manipulation, cunning or brute force to take what he wants.  He or she can play mind games with their work colleagues and be the instigator of discord or encourage negative attitudes about other staff members or the boss.   This could make for a very intimidating and threatening work colleague or boss.  With the Five of Swords in the workplace, we find an environment where people get set against each other. Employees take pleasure in seeing another colleague make a mistake and will happily bring it to the attention of their superiors.  If ambitious enough they may even encourage their colleague’s mistake before drawing attention to it in order to showcase their own superiority.  There may be a boss who delights in humiliating their staff in front of others or is unapproachable and dismissive of your concerns.

When the Five of Swords appears in a career reading then one would usually prepare to be leaving their job due to conflict in the working environment. You or someone you know may be the bully and are discovered, forcing dismissal and humiliating circumstances. If you are in negotiations regarding a promotion or pay rise then prepare to be dreadfully disappointed.

If in business, the Five of Swords may indicate the ruin or loss of it.  The Receivers may have moved in and are seizing all your assets or possessions. You may be left with no choice but to walk away from everything you have worked so hard for.

With the Multi-aspect layers of the Five of Swords, you may just be standing up for yourself or standing firm on an issue that you believe is right.  If you have given your power away to others in the workplace, then it can symbolise the need or act of taking it back.


5 of Swords Reversed


Communication, Compromise, Resolution, End of Conflict/Hostilities/Stress, Ceasefire, Peace-Talks, Negotiation, Moving On, Burying The Hatchet, Volatile, All out War, Entrenched, Relentless, Throwing Caution to the Wind, Not Heeding A Warning, To The Bitter End, Gambling Everything, Loss, Major Sacrifices, Blood Shed, Sabotage, Dismissals, Exposing Criminal Behaviour, Disarming, Surrendering, Arrests, Courts, Shame, Humiliation, Regret, Remorse,  Feigned Remorse, Burials, Mourning, Overcoming Major Challenges/succumbing to Major Challenges, Mentally Dysfunctional, Personality Disorders, Serious Violence, Brute Force, Domination/Submission, Abuse, Revenge

When the Five of Swords Reverses arguments, hostilities and conflict begin to slowly resolve or brutally intensify. 

If supporting cards agree, then the Five of Swords Reversed can suggest a laying down of Swords (weapons) as the battle comes to a halt or at the very least, a ceasefire is called. The clearing skies and opening minds of the combattants allow communication, compromise and solutions to become a real possibility. For the moment, the Swords are laid aside but probably still within arms reach, and those involved in hostilities are prepared to listen to the views of others.  This does not necessarily mean that they will agree on matters and happily shake hands, but it has taken quite some effort to bring it to this stage of negotiation.   If you are involved in this scenario then you would be wise to take this brief window of opportunity to sort the situation out as peacefully as possible before it goes beyond the point of return.  You are probably still stinging from the actions, attitudes and accusations of your opponent or opponents but you may have to be prepared to let that go if you want to find a solution.  You may have to make some personal sacrifices here in order to retain your integrity. It might be your only option at present, if you want to put this sorry mess behind you and move on. The alternative is too awful to think about.

So, with the above scenario we may have battle weary warring couples prepared to “bury the hatchet” and learn to communicate their problems and issues in a calm and controlled manner.  Professional help, such as counsellors or mediators may have to be called in to facilitate this.  However, this is still an extremely volatile situation, a ticking time bomb, which could blow at any moment over the slightest comment or poorly chosen words. Only the strongest and most determined couples will come out the other side of this with their relationship intact as there is only a small chance it can be turned around. The Five of Swords, whether Upright or Reversed, will make complete reconciliation very difficult to achieve due to the nature of the people and issues involved.  No one will win out of this situation, even if one does seem to get more than their fair share or feel they have emerged as the Victor.  A parting of the way for couples may indeed be on the cards, but the break needs to be clean and the  Sword, now used to sever all connecting cords in a manner which takes everyone’s feelings and needs into concern.  They may never see eye to eye again, call each other fondly or have anything left to say but they can learn to tolerate or at least be indifferent.  They can acknowledge their clash of personalities, different mindsets and attitudes that were worlds apart and accept them for what they are.  They can also begin to appreciate that by trying to force someone to bend to your will and ways only antagonises and drives them the other way.  If the couple involved can use their Swords wisely now, this will allow them to move on and go their separate ways.

However, The Reversed Five of Swords appearing in a Relationship Spread can act as a Red Flag if the couple involved are not seeking to resolve issues.  The surrounding cards would definitely need to support this but we are more than likely looking at a very  abusive relationship. One of the partners may be a dangerous bully and uses brute force to control or get their way.  There is bound to be psychological abuse and the possibility of physical force. This person rules their partner through fear, intimidation, threat and punishment.  It will be an extremely dominant/submissive arrangement.  The submissive partner will probably try to hide the abuse from family and friends out of fear and shame.  However, those close enough should have spotted the obvious signs and sensed the tension and control in the air.  It may be hard to get them to confirm your suspicions or speak out against their partner. There would be much concern for your Querant if surrounding cards included a few of the following: Reversed Swords Court Cards, Four, Eight, Nine and Ten of Swords. Also look out for the Devil Upright or the Magician Reversed. 

As we have just read above, The Reversed Five of Swords can bring the extreme energy of this card come into play.  If the opportunity for resolution and peace talks have not been taken or failed, then we may very well see an escalation in battle.  All out war has now been declared and you may have got too entrenched in the situation to get out of it now.  You are stuck in hostilities and will have to battle on to the bitter end.  You may have to pay a very high price for your part in this because of the pride that would not let you walk away.  Any loss of defeat now will be immense. You have entered an all or nothing in this win/ lose disaster.  You have not listened to the advice of others who told you to get out when you could or that you would lose the support of friends and family should you continue on your course of action.  Red hot angry blood surges through your veins and there is no stopping you now. As Swords are sharpened on both sides there is bound to be a lot of blood shed.  You are taking a massive gamble as disaster and ruin could be waiting for you around the next corner. However, you may be driven forward by the refusal to give in and accept defeat.  You would rather die than surrender your beliefs and principles. This may be seen as either a Heroic move or total insanity.

Linking the associated violence of The Five of Swords to the Reversed aspect highlights the aftermath of battle. In the cold light of day, there is no escaping the damage that has been done. The fallout comes home to roost and you may be shocked into realising that you are directly responsible for the disaster and misery that surrounds you.  Take a good look around you, for what you will see is the consequence of your action.   You should be feeling deep regret and intense remorse for what you have done as you clearly see the error of your ways.  Shame and humiliation can follow.  You may have no one to stand by or support you.  You will have to confess your part in this mess to those you have brought hurt or injury to.  If you have broken the law then you will have to do the right thing and turn both your Sword and yourself into the police.  If criminal behaviour has been involved, then arrests and courts may be involved.

However, remorse may be feigned as problems are buried deep in the subconscious, causing mental imbalance. The person involved probably endured a dysfunctional childhood and upbringing.  He or she may have a severe personality disorder which more than likely came from an abusive background.  Serious professional help is needed here.  If you or someone you know has been the victim of violence, then revenge may be indicated. The Five of Swords Reversed can also represent the exposure of criminal activity.  The culprits may have been caught and disarmed by the law.  They may also have been found with stolen good on them. If you have been the victim of theft, then you may get your possessions back.

The struggle to find mental balance by cutting out and ridding the negative influence of inner demons and mindsets in the Upright Four of Swords may have failed when The Five of Swords Reverses.  Mentally you may never have regained your strength and are too weak to deal with what is expected of you and any stress that surrounds you.  Paranoia and suspicion may find you triggering rows and causing discord wherever you go. Entrenched psychological conditions may be diagnosed with the need for constant monitoring or medication.

The Five of Swords is also traditionally associated with funerals, burials and mourning. It is a time of sorrow and loss and knowing that nothing will ever be the same again. If a death (surrounding cards or the Querant would need to support this) has occurred, there may have been an accident or violence involved. Regret and remorse may be evident as the one responsible realises the damage they have caused.  However, this remorse may be feigned if the person has psychological imbalances or criminal tendencies.

In the workplace, any conflict or hostility begins to resolve as workers come to the table for talks and everyone gets a chance to air their grievances.  If there was a disturbing and negative personality influencing staff or making the work environment unpleasant, then it may have been brought to the attention of Senior Management.  A warning, demotion, move or dismissal may have occurred.  On the other hand, there may be multiple job losses or sacking of work colleagues. This will more than likely done in a cold and callous manner.  Jobs could be lost overnight. With little notice, staff may be asked to clear their desks, hand back their swipe cards or keys and leave the building.

Someone’s blind devotion to the company may be causing distress for others as they fail to see any faults or refuse to listen to staff problems. You may feel that someone is trying their best to sabotage your advancement.  There may be someone promoting them self to the boss by running down your work or bad mouthing you.

All in all, The Five of Swords, whether Upright or Reversed can be difficult and disturbing whichever way you view it. It is wise to extricate yourself from its energy as soon as you can.

*When we return to the Swords in card Six (VI) we shall see if the battle is still raging or if they have managed to sort out their differences and move on.  Have they decided to turn their back on the conflict and hostility in either their life or mind and replace it with peace and harmony? With the Swords involved, they will probably find this hard to achieve, but the power of the mind is both wonderful an amazing when put to proper use.   We shall have to wait and see.

 Back to Lesson 7

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The 78 Cards – Detailed Study Version (Card Description, Keywords, Upright & Reversed Meanings)

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14 replies »

    • Whoa,
      No, not selfish at all. I have to read through my notes but as far as I know, I have included interpretations regarding how empowering this card might be depending on the circumstances of your life. I suffer a lot of health problems and have to battle my way through each awful phase. Every time I think I can’t do this anymore and it has got the better of me, but somehow I pull through and climb out of the cycle of pain once more. This card comes up for me regularly, in different positions and I react to it differently depending on where I am at that point in time. Sometimes I see the gloating figure with all the swords as my health issues that want to take me down and destroy me, and when I have pulled out I see him as me fighting back, reclaiming my swords and territory that have been forcefully taken from me. I am not going down without a fight and that’s for sure. The Five of Swords, and don’t worry about Upright or Reversed, could see you over-coming a bully, adversity, or internal/external challenges. You take back what has been taken or forced from you. Possibly others have written you off and think they have succeeded or got the better of you, but in the Five of Swords, you may very well have the last laugh. This card can suggest your fighting spirit and refusal to just roll over and let others walk all over you. The Seven of Swords can also show the non-quitter, the survivor spirit, staying ahead of the posse, playing the enemy at their own game, taking back what is yours form those who would rather you didn’t. The Five of Swords, could suggest overcoming a serious illness or disease through grim determination and tackling the enemy head on, especially if this landed in an Advice/Way Forward Position. In its positive sense it does not see you fleeing the battlefield. You are standing your ground and fighting for what is rightfully yours. Even if you feel scared and vulnerable, you do not let show. It is a time for baring your teeth and showing others you are not going to take any of their shit. Yes, it has many negative associations, but it can be a great card for empowerment and finding the strength to fight another day. Surrounding cards should support this. The Chariot would show will power and determination to see the battle through for example.

      I hope this helps.



  1. Loved your comment Vivien!!
    Your approach seems far closer to my reading than any other “common” view… Cheers!


  2. Although you are my go to tarot teacher, I found something in my studies that I’m surprised I don’t see here for this card.


    As part of our dualistic nature, we are always comparing. Comparing the weak vs the strong comparing the winners vs the losers or the haves vs the have nots. The men walking away are shameful in comparing themselves to the stronger man who has taken their swords, but are they really any less worthy or powerful? Just an illusion from comparison.


    • Hi Nathan, thanks for sharing this information. I believe I do cover the concept of comparison in my interpretation but not obviously using the same wording. Winning v losing. The perceived victor in this card believes himself to be superior having defeated his opponents. One of the key messages of this card is that there is no shame in defeat, surrender is not always a sign of weakness. Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away. When we compare the supposed victor in this card to those defeated walking away feeling shame and humiliation, what do we feel, who do we support? What glory is there in victory if you have destroyed others to achieve it. There is strength in walking away from battles that are not worth fighting or battles that risk compromising personal principles, values and morals. In this card those who appear defeated are to be applauded for their efforts and their ultimate decision to walk away at this point in time for they are not battling on a level playing field. Their opponent did not employ the rules of engagement, played dirty. The end justified the means he employed. He threw many under the bus, destroyed lives to get to where he stands now. Those who walk away, apparently defeated, played by the rules, used the proper channels, retained their integrity. They have nothing to be ashamed of, whereas he has plenty. If it comes down to comparing this self-declared victor and the figures who walk away defeated, there really is no comparison as we are not comparing like with like at all. For the defeated, their day will come as the just will eventually win out. The victor may have won this battle, but he hasn’t won the war.


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