It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
Albus Dumbledore (via J.K Rowling)
I have to admit, I am never glad to see this card and this week is no exception. Yet, the Five of Swords is always very instructive, so let us welcome its gifts and insights.
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. Since Swords are ruled by the element of Air, they are most likely to be in the realms of arguments, perceptions, the stories we tell, and the rationale behind our actions.
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.
This week, the Pagan world is dealing with a problem that is, sadly, well documented in other religions, most publicly, in the Catholic church. Namely, we are facing the horror of what happens when a trusted leader, teacher, priest, or other powerful person is revealed to be a predator or bully.
Triggered by the arrest of a well-known elder on charges of possessing child pornography (charges which he has admitted), the Pagan blogosphere has exploded with further revelations and accusations. It now comes to light that many people were at least partially aware of his unwholesome proclivities. And more than a few were victimized.
But because of his power and big reputation, his activities were tolerated, denied, and hidden for decades. And of course, he is not the first or only person to abuse his power in these disturbing, destructive ways.
This is not a danger unique to Paganism, but it can be worsened when there are groups that invoke unconditional secrecy, sacred oaths of non-interference, or that foster a climate of implicit spiritual superiority and/or denial.
People, enterprises, and nations may indeed wield enormous power. But even if you are the most charismatic darling in the spotlight, or have at your hands the biggest weapons, selfishly manipulating others with disrespect is a deadly weakness that will come back to haunt you.
Sooner or later, that which is hidden and wrong is exposed. There will always be a payback for abuse.
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, walk your talk. Your choices tell who you are far clearer than your speeches, books, or P.R.
Be the peace you wish to see in the world.
The Goddess knows, we surely need it.