True courage is cool and calm. The bravest of men have the least of a brutal, bullying insolence, and in the very time of danger are found the most serene and free.”
True confession time. I am never glad to see the Five of Swords, and this week is no exception.
Yet, as I have said many times and emphasize in my classes, there are no “good” or “bad” Tarot cards, really; just very instructive ones. And this card certainly has a lot to say.
As is the tendency with the Minor Arcana Fives, as well as most of the Swords suit, this card depicts conflict and strife. So here we have a double-whammy of trouble.
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.
Arthur Waite wrote of it, “A disdainful man looks after two retreating and dejected figures. Their swords lie upon the ground. He carries two others on his left shoulder, and a third sword is in his right hand, point to earth. He is the master in possession of the field.”
Waite assigned it an interpretation of, “Degradation, destruction, revocation, infamy, dishonour, loss, with the variants and analogues of these.”
Harsh terms for someone so proud to see themselves as now being in command.
The Mars Effect
This week, the war God planet, Mars, changes signs. It has been in Scorpio since Jan. 3, triggering crisis, aggression, and emotional volatility in order to satisfy deep, sometimes hidden or even repressed desires.
The Five of Swords shows what happens when win-at-any-cost triumphs over respect for others. Here we see a bully smirking at the defeat of his enemies, because the gratification of his triumphant moment is more important than any long-term strategy.
As any savvy warrior will tell you, humiliation of enemies only hardens them, and they will come back sooner or later, if only to avenge their pride. They will be better prepared, and with righteous indignation on their side.
On Friday, the red planet shifts into Sagittarius. Annie Heese writes, “With a Sagittarius Mars, our actions are motivated by our ideals…We have a love of adventure, and of conquest–this is the position of wanderlust. We start projects or challenges with gusto, although we may tend to abandon them rather quickly. This may be because we set our sights too high!”
So let us hope that by taking to heart the warning of this card, and under the more magnanimous influence of Sagittarius, there will be a shift in the Mars effect towards a higher ideal, and fairer ways of competing.
Super Tuesday Shenanigans
And speaking of competition, here in the United States, March 1 is “Super Tuesday.” This is an election date in the on-going primaries, when the most state delegates for the U.S. presidential nominating conventions are up for grabs. It is often the make-or-break moment for the candidates.
It is also an important election day for many local and regional candidates. The field is narrowed down for the final elections in November.
With this card showing up, I suggest that we be extra vigilant at the polls. There could possibly be dishonesty, either in the electoral process itself, or in the reporting and analysis (a Swords-y activity) that follows.
Lastly, I can’t help but be struck by how the main figure in this card is a dead ringer for Donald Trump. From hair color, to the gloating sneer, to his battles won through “degradation, destruction, revocation, infamy, dishonour, loss…” that Waite describes, Trump has gained popularity through grandstanding his hostilities and bigotries. He is, quite simply, a bully.
It remains to be seen how things play out for him in the long run, but if this card is any indication, his victories are setting the stage (for indeed, this is one of Tarot artist Pamela Colman Smith’s “stage cards”) for a harsher pay-back yet to come.
Who Are You In This Card?
Although unpleasant, this card happens to most of us, sooner or later.
Are you going through some particularly sharp challenges these days? As in all Tarot cards with more than one figure, the big question is who do you most identify with?
Do you feel more like the two figures near the water, who have suffered a painful setback? Yes, they had more manpower. But the smirking winner was more heavily armed, perhaps due to some kind of trickery, almost certainly through some underhanded 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 downfall 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 ultimately brings a costly retribution.
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, integrity, and sensitivity.
Shun those who climb to power through brutal, bullying insolence. Take note of those who lead with grace, even under duress and conflict.
Most of all, let us each be the peace we wish to see in the world.