But let us return to the theme of defeat, which is the primary meaning of the Five of Swords. This is perhaps why the card is so unwelcome in readings; it shows that, despite your best efforts, you are likely to be beaten. But the Five of Swords is not only about being defeated and disappointed because of that defeat. If you allow yourself to become disillusioned after such a loss then you are on the path to greater ruin. Take defeat, learn from it, and then try again to succeed. It has been said that a good man will be beaten, and accept losing - but a great man will be beaten, then go back and win.
When the Five of Swords appears and you feel that you are on the winning side this time, there is still a warning to heed. Arrogance and pride often come hand in hand with a difficult victory 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 foes to face and that some of them will eventually defeat you. Declaring your invincibility 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.
An interesting facet of this card is revealed by symbolism in the Rider-Waite scene. It shows a man with two swords lying at his feet - the spoils of his victory. But he already had three swords, and his trophies really represent nothing more than a hollow victory. It is plausible that the two "defeated" men were really not defeated at all; they simply laid down their arms and walked away. They either knew they would lose, or they knew winning would be a pointless exercise. And 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.Copyright 2000 James Rioux