Exploring the Five of Swords

Welcome to Tarot Thursdays! This week we will be exploring the Five of Swords and how it can be used as a prompt or brainstorming in our writing.

Tarot is an interesting thing. It’s based upon symbolism and metaphors through imagery. With these images the subconscious mind is tapped into through the story provided. Not everyone gets the same thing from a piece of art. Each piece will influence each person in a slightly different way.


Introduction of the Card

s5

The Five of Swords is card number 54 in the deck and the fifth card of the Swords Suit in the Minor Arcana of the Tarot.

Let’s take a look at the following examples of this card below.


Card Examples

L-s5Notice the similarities between them and take note of their differences. Do any of these move you more than the others? Take your time and allow these cards to tell you their story.


My Analysis of These Cards

So here in each of these cards we have various scenes of conflict where one has the upper hand and the other side is clearly the loser. Even in the Tarot of Dreams you can see this if you look closely in the bottom right, there is a woman laying on the ground in a defeated pose. There is a sense of superiority and smugness in the winners with each of these cards.


Themes of the Card

Each card has a set of keywords associated with it that serve as themes for its image. These keywords will vary somewhat depending on who you ask.

According to the Learning the Tarot website, the keywords associated with the card are:

  • SELF-INTEREST
  • DISCORD
  • OPEN DISHONOR

You can learn more about what this site has to say about this card here.

According to the Biddy Tarot website, the keywords associated with the card are:

  • CONFLICT
  • TENSION
  • LOSS
  • DEFEAT
  • WIN AT ALL COSTS
  • BETRAYAL

You can learn more about what this site has to say about this card here.


What this Card Means to Me

This card isn’t about being sneaky, but it is that negative quality that can come with ambition and competition. When it’s no longer about the process and it becomes all about the end game to get the prize. Sometimes you need to do that. Sometimes you have to put your foot down and focus on that goal in order to get where you need to be. But be aware that it also comes with a price.

Remember the lesson of equivalent exchange we learned from the pentacles. If we crush people on our way to reach our goals, what have we truly gained and what have we truly lost? If we only think about our needs, at some point people will stop giving. No one wants to be the losers all the time. You don’t want to be the loser all the time.

This card really is about the imbalance between the needs of the one and the needs of the many. Someone’s needs are not being met. An equivalent exchange is not occurring here in the eyes of those involved. The winner believes they got a “free lunch” in some way while the loser feels like got screwed out of the deal.

Once again, even though it’s a bit more complex to explain, we have a card that makes for great storytelling because this is something all of us can relate to just like in the Three of Swords. We all have moments where we have been the underdog and we have all had moments where we have had the upper hand. They may be small things, but we’ve had them. They are the thing we gripe about. They are the things we brag about. Especially when it comes to work and school settings.

The key phrase I choose for this card is: NEGATIVE AMBITION.


Music Playlist

In this spirit of all this, these are the songs I have picked out for this card.


The Writing Exercise

This exercise is a free write. Permit yourself to write whatever comes to mind based upon the theme of this card. Choose a keyword or key phrase and run with it to see what you come up with.


I would love it if you linked or pinged back what you wrote so I could see where you went with this.

Happy writing!


Mythic Tarot by Liz Greene (Author), Juliet Sharman-Burke (Author), Tricia Newell (Illustrator) © 1989
Dragon Tarot by Terry Donaldson (Author), Peter Pracownik (Author) © 1996
Universal Tarot by Lo Scarabeo (Author), R. De Angelis (Illustrator), A. E. Waite (Designer) © 2001
Tarot of Dreams by Ciro Marchetti (Author), Lee Bursten (Author) © 2015

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