Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
~ Abraham Lincoln
In pulling this week’s card, I have to admit my heart sunk.
For this most juicy week that features the Full Harvest Moon, the turning of the Wheel in our Mabon/Equinox celebrations, our own local Pagan Pride weekend, and so much more, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with having drawn the unhappy Five of Swords.
Maybe it arrives to illuminate the more challenging event this week. Pluto, which has been in retrograde since April, and which is currently in an intense, three-year confrontation with Uranus, stations direct Friday (or in the wee hours of Saturday, depending on your time zone). When it does, the regenerative aspect of Pluto retrograde will likely give way to its more overtly destructive nature.
In any case, as is the tendency of the Swords of the Tarot, and especially the Fives of the suits, there is likely to be imbalance or conflict.
Even renowned Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack calls this “one of the most difficult cards..one of the reasons some people find the Rider pack too negative.”
The sky is stormy, with jagged, threatening clouds. The man in the foreground gloats as the others retreat in defeat, perhaps even humiliation. At his feet are their two swords, the spoils of his victory. Yet he bears three already – an unfair advantage that tells us his victory is less than chivalrous.
Although unpleasant, this card happens to most of us, sooner or later. Are we going through some particularly sharp challenges these days?
The question is, who do you identify with?
Do you feel more like the two figures near the water, who have suffered a painful loss? Yes, they had more manpower. But the smirking winner was more heavily armed, perhaps due to some kind of trickery, almost certainly some unfair advantage.
Despite your best efforts, this card unpleasantly indicates that you may lose out to someone who opposes you. Have you been defeated or cheated by a wily and cunning opponent?
Do you feel you have suffered a defeat because of someone’s cowardliness, manipulation, or malice? Perhaps now is the time to walk away while you can. But do not despair, or give in to bitterness. Learn from this setback, and remember that tomorrow is another day.
On the other hand, this card may also be for those who see themselves as the winners. Perhaps you feel you have won an important battle, in which the odds seemed against you.
If you wish to hold onto your advantage with any longevity, it would be wise to be a gracious, generous winner. The arrogance and pride we see in this character sow the seeds for a bigger war yet to come.
How completely must you see your enemies laid low, in order to feel emotionally satisfied? Is your victory ethical?
Gloating, humiliating, and taunting those who you have bested is vulgar behavior unworthy of real champions. Besides, it only serves to strengthen your opponent’s resolve to fight more fiercely next time.
People, enterprises, and nations may be the most powerful, with the biggest weapons, but to treat an adversary with disrespect is a deadly weakness that will come back to haunt one, and may ultimately bring an unpleasant downfall.
This week, be mindful to act with graciousness and diplomacy. If you must disagree with others, do so with compassion, wisdom, and a sense of respect. Wield your power with fairness and sensitivity.
Most of all, be the peace you wish to see in the world.
The Goddess knows, we surely need it.