Five of Swords Tarot Card Meanings tarot card meaning

January 20 – 29

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Upright: Conflict, tension, loss, defeat, win at all costs, betrayal

Reversed: Open to change, past resentment


In the Five of Swords, a young man, with a look of contempt on his face, stares at his conquered enemies. He possesses five swords, most of which he has taken from the other people in the card. The other two figures walk away from him slowly, with a sense of sadness and loss. The sky is cloudy and tumultuous, indicating that not all is well despite the battle being seemingly over.


The Five of Swords sees you engaging in conflict or finding yourself disagreeing with others, leading to tension and hostility. Despite thinking you have won, you may still end up the loser because you have hurt or annoyed others and have subsequently isolated yourself. You try to pick up the pieces and act as if the conflict is now in the past but others have now lost faith in you and do not want to be around you. This might be one of those times when it feels like everyone is against you and you may lose some friends along the way. You will need to make a decision about whether your point of view is so important to you that it is ok to put your relationship with others in jeopardy, or whether you can compromise and try to see eye-to-eye with others.

The Five of Swords can also represent conquest. If you have been aggressive in your struggles, then you will soon accomplish your objectives. However, if you have been passive, you may need to compromise on your personal interests, giving in to the wishes of the opposing force. You will feel that there are more obstacles ahead, and you will not want to face the ordeal you know you must if you are to have what you want or the way you want it. Overall, you are in for a struggle and there is more work or problems ahead than you are aware of now. Things will not go as well as they should, and you will have conflicts or clashes of will with others.

Thus, the Five of Swords is a card representing ambition but in the negative sense. Too much ambition without regard to the consequences to yourself or others results ultimately in a situation of loss for everyone. You may be represented either by the callous winner or the dejected losers. In any case, there is a negative connotation. If your focus is solely on winning your goals at any cost, you will eventually discover to your own dismay that the price of winning may not have been worth the reward. Arrogance and pride often go hand-in-hand with a difficult triumph such as this, and you must be careful not to think you are invincible. You have overcome a challenge, and you have the right to feel proud but know that there will be other rivals to face and that some of them will eventually defeat you. Boasting to others that you are invincible is an invitation for someone to prove you wrong. If your victory was won through cheating or unethical conduct, beware of an attempt at vengeance.

The Five of Swords can relate to a betrayal or sneak attack by someone you trust and do not suspect as your enemy. There may be an unfaithful partner or a jealous person in your life who is sabotaging you behind your back. Look to other Court cards in the reading to understand who may be working against you. You must be very careful whom you trust at this point in time because you are vulnerable to attack and gossip.

The Five of Swords may simply point to defeat. It shows that, despite your best efforts, you are likely to be beaten. If you allow yourself to become disillusioned after such a loss, then you are on the path to increased ruin and torment. Accept your defeat, learn from it, and then make sure that next time you succeed. Be smarter and wiser as a result of your loss. Just as they say in the reality TV show Survivor, “Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast.”

Alternatively, the Five of Swords can be seen from quite a different angle – that of a hollow victory. It is possible that the two ‘defeated’ men in this card were really not defeated at all; they simply laid down their arms and walked away. The men either knew that they would lose, or they knew that trying to win would be a waste of energy and a pointless exercise. By choosing not to fight, they are really the winners here, because he who knows when to fight, and when not to fight, will be victorious.

The advice of the Five of Swords is to pick your battles. You may be tempted to fight every conflict to ensure you get your way, to prove that you are right, or to defend yourself when you are feeling challenged or threatened by another person. However, most experts agree, choosing your battles wisely is a much better way of life than battling out every disagreement. Not only will picking your battles lead to a more peaceful existence, it is also more likely to strengthen your interpersonal relationships.


As a card of conflict, tension and disagreement, the reversal of the Five of Swords shows that you really just want this period of fighting to be over, so that you can forgive and forget, and then focus your energies on more constructive activities such as restoring your relationship back to normal. The conflict is becoming upsetting now and you realise that there can only be losers in this battle. You now just want to put this behind you and move on.

Thus, the Five of Swords reversed suggests that you are now more open to change. The arguing is over and you are more willing to look at the situation with fresh eyes. You are willing to lay down your sword and begin negotiating, honestly trying to arrive at a win-win solution rather than always knocking heads. A return to the Four of Swords is required, where tranquillity and peace drive your thoughts and behaviour, moving away from tension and conflict. This is a good time to reach out to those with whom you have recently had conflict or disagreements, and make amends.

The Five of Swords reversed can sometimes indicate conflict in your life that you have tried to walk away from but which continues to follow you. For example, there may still be an ex in your life who is making things difficult and who may be preventing you from moving on to new relationships. So long as there is conflict, tension and raw emotion at play, avoid this person or situation.

Similarly, the reversed Five of Swords can suggest that an old wound has been re-opened and you are experiencing fear and tension associated with that memory. You may be particularly worried that history might repeat itself or that you could be hurt again. Aim to forgive and forget so that you can indeed move on.

There may also be some residual resentment following a recent or past argument with someone close to you. You have had some very challenging and heated conversations together and you still harbour some negative emotion from these discussions. This may still be unresolved and unaddressed and this in itself is impacting your ability to create a harmonious relationship.

The reversed Five of Swords serves as a reminder that, at times, it may be appropriate to disregard the opinions of others. Sometimes you just cannot please everyone and unfortunately there may be some friendships lost along the way. Sadly, not everyone is going to be as accommodating of your desire to pursue your own goals, particularly if it impacts on them and their ability to live their life the way they want to. What you will have to accept is that you cannot please everyone and there are going to be people who are annoyed that you cannot be there for them as much as in the past. They will just need to deal with this and get over it, I’m afraid.

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