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.
Wow. Didn’t we just get this card? Aren’t we being visited by it again and again?
Those were my first thoughts, and yet the answer is, no. Not since exactly this week of September in 2018. Before the election that (maybe?) signaled the long climb back from the defeat and despair of 2016.
There is so much to learn from it, and as usual, the Tarot’s timing is impeccable. With understandably mixed feelings, let us welcome back the Five of Swords.
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 sure of themselves as a winner.
Because this card is in the suit of Swords, these difficulties would be focused on communication, truths and lies, perception, propaganda, and attitude.
Aggression Thwarted and Turned Around
This week the planetary influences are, for the most part, benevolent. This includes the planet Jupiter, who after moving retrograde since May 14, stations direct on Saturday. Named for the King of the Gods, Jupiter influences matters of good fortune, plenty, joviality, and expansiveness. Hooray!
But then there’s Mars.
On Wednesday, the red planet of desire, action, anger, and assertion stations retrograde, as it does every two or so years. And remember that Mars is in its home God of War sign of Aries (which goes a long way to explaining why so many people are acting out in frustration, temper, aggression, and even violence).
To put this in some context, the last time Mars was retrograde in Aries was from late August through late October of 1988. My ever-brilliant friend and confidante, Elisabeth Grace, offers a Mars Retrograde survival guide:
Moving backwards is not comfortable for Mars! Thus, many people find themselves more irritated, impatient and frustrated than usual. Why aren’t things moving forward fast enough? It feels like a truck spinning its wheels in the mud. Frustration built up can lead to an urge to jump into action — rashly. Resist this urge!
A more appropriate use of Mars retrograde is to treat it as an opportunity to plan strategy. Think of a coach calling a time out on the playing field. Mars retrograde is a good time to huddle — to turn inward — and reflect upon or talk about a strategy for…oh…in this case…launching new crusades and self-determination — suggested by Mars being in retrograde in ARIES…
Conventional astrological wisdom suggests caution when contemplating launching certain initiatives when Mars is retrograde:
- A marriage contract
- A sexual relationship
- Filing for divorce
- Taking title to property
- Buying a car
- Hiring a new employee (unless it’s a temp)
- Quitting your job in a frustrated huff
- Starting a lawsuit
- Starting a war
Notice that the operative word here is caution. Sometimes life has other plans.
Mars will station direct again shortly after the American election, on November 13, to be precise.
As the two men in the card turn and walk away from the taunting grin of the swordsman in the foreground, you’d better be sure that they are not going to let this setback be the end.
The smirking victor may call them losers and suckers. But he has not yet had the final word.
Now is the time for them to take stock, and “turn inwards — and reflect upon or talk about a strategy…”
The Losers – For Now
When there are multiple figures in a Tarot card, we are invited to consider which one best represents us.
So, do you feel more like the two figures near the water, who have suffered a painful loss? Have you ever been defeated or cheated by a wily and cunning opponent?
Yes, maybe they had more resources.
Maybe the smug winner was more heavily armed, perhaps due to some kind of trickery, almost certainly some unfair or technical advantage. Like, say, a destructive pandemic, the dismantling of the postal service, conspiracy groups, or Russian propaganda and interference.
Despite one’s best efforts, this card unpleasantly indicates that we may have lost out to someone who holds malice and contempt for us.
Therefore, a strategic retreat may be the best choice, and retrograding Mars agrees.
So, be willing to be flexible and break down your dilemma into manageable parts. Or perhaps it would be best to completely back off if you’re getting nowhere on a task or situation.
If you feel you are being treated unfairly, realize that you are not permanently defeated. Avoid bitterness. Instead, learn from your mistakes. And remember that tomorrow is another day.
Real heroes harbor the least brutality and insolence. Sooner or later, villainous cheaters fall.
The Winner – at the Moment
On the other hand, this card may also be for those who see themselves as the winners. Perhaps you feel you have triumphed in 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 victor. The arrogance and conceit we see in this character will 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 this victory ethical?
Gloating, humiliating, and taunting those 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, political parties, and nations may be, at some given moment, the most powerful, with the biggest weapons. But only weaklings bully their adversaries. And when they do, it almost always (eventually!) comes back to haunt them, often resulting in a fiercely inflicted and well-deserved payback.
Poised for the Comeback Victory
This week, especially under the influence of prickly, backtracking Mars, 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.
Avoid making enemies. Even though you may be smarter, more powerful, and have the “biggest guns,” you don’t always have to prove it. Instead, stretch out the hand of peace and magnanimity instead.
On the other hand, take extra care to protect what is valuable to you, and be vigilant about people who would deal with you in underhanded, dishonest ways.
Succeeding at any price will not really vanquish your competitors. They say that all’s fair in love and war, but payback always comes to the bully. When it does, beware, because the might of karmic righteousness will be behind it.
Fairness and justice, eventually, must be served. When they are, where will you be in this picture?