People will forget what you said,
People will forget what you did,
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
True confession time. I am never glad to see two Swords cards back to back, and am especially no fan of the Five of Swords. And this week of the Full Moon in Pisces and Mercury (thank the heavens!) stationing direct is no exception.
Perhaps I conjured it up somehow by mentioning that last week’s relatively benign Six was the resolution to this card. 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 other two figures retreat in defeat, perhaps even disgrace.
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 happy to see themselves as now being in command.
What was the nature of this conflict? While the two had more manpower, the smirking winner was more heavily armed, perhaps due to some kind of trickery, almost certainly having some unfair advantage.
Although he is very sure of himself and he has disarmed the two in what Waite has called a dishonorable defeat, most interpretations do not assume that this situation is final.
For if there is any dominating theme to the Tarot, it is that justice must eventually out, and balance be restored. But as is so often the case, the road there may be fraught with setbacks and difficulty, as the two in the background are experiencing.
Like all Tarot cards that depict more than one figure, we must give some thought to who we are in the picture — the smug victor? Or the despondent defeated?
And once again, we are given one of Pixie Smith’s “stage cards,” the double horizontal line along the background making it appear that perhaps this is a theatrical production. What drama is being enacted for our benefit and guidance?
The Extreme Danger of Bully vs. Bully
Over the weekend, as by now everyone surely knows, North Korea detonated its biggest hydrogen bomb yet.
It is the latest move in a deadly game of brinkmanship that included P45 tweeting two weeks ago that thanks to his tough talk, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has begun to show “respect” for him.
That boast was immediately answered by North Korea’s firing of a ballistic missile on a flight path that took it over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
The inflammatory rhetoric between the U.S. and Pyongyang has escalated. And now, after this newest demonstration of nuclear might, the confusion and danger have ratcheted up even further, thanks to P45’s poorly considered taunt towards our ally, the South Korean government, for their “appeasement policies.”
As Amy Davidson Sorkin at The New Yorker notes:
Even at a moment of historic crisis, Trump can’t shake his bully’s instincts: disdain those who you think are weak; home in on and mock the vulnerable; blind yourself to the realities of your own circumstances and character; and pretend that a brawl will make it all better, despite the certainty that it won’t.
Richard Cohen at the Washington Post offered this insight last month, just before the latest upsurge of hostilities. It resonates clearly with the message of the Five of Swords:
This is not a schoolyard. Voices need to be lowered, accommodations need to be made. The diplomats, so scorned by Trump, have to take over.
It is impossible to read or hear anything about the North Korean leader without the word ‘unpredictable’ attached like a caboose. But why? Kim is anything but.
“He has been on a steady march to becoming a nuclear power all the time he has ruled North Korea. This is what he wants — maybe more than anything. More than improving his people’s standard of living. More than gaining the benefits of rapprochement with South Korea. Even more than assuring the Chinese that he will not visit a nuclear holocaust on their region.
If anything, it is Trump who’s unpredictable. He is a man who casually breaks his word, whose disloyalty to subordinates is now manifest, who lies incorrigibly and who reacts emotionally and adolescently to challenges or rebuffs.
He treats world leaders as he did his Republican primary opponents, and the pettiness and ugliness of that was a departure for American politics — never, as they say, exactly bean-bag to begin with. Is his ‘fire and fury’ threat credible, or is it something that he merely thought sounded good — a verbal Mexican wall?
The horror is that we may now rely on the common sense and steadfastness of Kim to avoid an unimaginable outcome.
The Five of Swords shows what happens when shaming and win-at-any-cost triumphs over respect for others — even our antagonists. Here we see a bully smirking at the defeat of his enemies, because the gratification of his triumphant moment is more important than the wisdom of a long-term strategy.
The current saber-rattling between the United States and North Korea, amplified by trade threats and blame towards our allies and the neighboring nations, is a deadly business.
As any savvy warrior will tell you, the humiliation of opponents (much less, friends) 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.
Planetary Changes Ahead
Several astrological events come into play this week. After this Summer’s round of retrograde challenges, on Tuesday, the 5th, Mercury stations direct. Remember that it’s at the turning points where the most potential for disruption occurs.
But once Mercury (still in Leo a few more days) has gone direct, he moves into Virgo on Saturday, through September 29. After lots of Leo drama, posturing, and ego, Mercury in Virgo is much more at home (Virgo is one of the signs that rules Mercury).
Communications should begin to untangle. Let us hope we safely leave behind the bombastic word wars (since after all, Swords are ruled by the element of Air, and concerned with words, communication, and perceptions) and move into a period of more clarity, precision, and diplomacy.
Meantime, Mars, planet of aggression and “act now, apologize later” also moves from Leo into Virgo on Sept. 5. Let us hope that this, too, will help temper the hostile, spoiling-for-a-fight impulse that is adding hurt to an already angry world.
Last but certainly not least, on Wednesday, the Harvest Moon arrives. This Full Moon is in emotional, dream-blessed Pisces, while the Sun is in the earthy, pragmatic sign of Virgo. As Annie Heese notes:
The Virgo-Pisces polarity is the service axis, and it deals with the balance between day-to-day functions and routines, physical health, and the need for order (Virgo) and vision, spiritual health, disorder, and the infinite (Pisces).
Virgo rules our personal set of tools and techniques that we use to deal with day-to-day life, while Pisces rules the tools that we use to deal with our spirituality.
The key to balance lies in identifying and expressing our spiritual needs while maintaining order in our everyday lives.
Neglecting either end of the axis will surely backfire–we would either be living in chaos or in excessive order.
Honor, Respect, and Playing Fair
In your own world this week, be extra careful not to make enemies. Instead, approach any potential conflict with candor and scrupulous honesty. Whenever possible, first stretch out the hand of peace and magnanimity.
Beware of the temptations of malicious gossip, half-truths with an agenda, and gloating over any advantage you may currently enjoy in a competitive situation.
On the other hand, have you been defeated or cheated out of something by a wily and cunning opponent? Do you feel you have suffered because of someone’s cowardliness, ego, or malice?
Perhaps now is the time to walk away while you can. A strategic retreat may be the wisest move.
Take extra care to protect what is valuable to you, and be careful about people who would wield their power in underhanded, dishonest ways, as well as any urge to do so on your part. Infamy and trickery are floating in the air.
Winning at any price will not really vanquish a competitor. People will always remember how they were made to feel. This is why sooner or later, the payback always comes. Fairness and justice, eventually, must be served.
When they are, where will you be in this picture?