The Five of Swords is the fifth tarot card in the Minor Arcana suit of Swords and depicts the end of a bitter confrontation. It symbolizes the impulse to fight for what we desire and the associated feelings of regret or remorse that can accompany this urge, even if the battle has been won.

The Five of Swords is associated with the element of air, the first decan of the astrological zodiac sign Aquarius (0-9 degrees), and it is ruled by the planet Venus. This card’s connection to Venus may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but in Aquarius, Venus is motivated to pursue broad-ranging ideals worth fighting for. This card depicts the connection between our values (Venus), our ideals or morals (Aquarius), and the ways that we attempt to stand up for them.

Where the key meanings of the Major Arcana focus on life’s overarching themes and events, Minor Arcana cards like the Five of Swords explore and reveal the more subtle changes impacting one’s day-to-day life and near future. The Five of Swords also bears similarities with its sibling cards the Five of Cups, Five of Pentacles, and Five of Wands, in that all four deal with the necessity and implications of change.

Five of Swords Keywords

Upright Keywords

Reversed Keywords

confrontation, hurt feelings, frustration, conflicts, winners and losers

reconciliation, emerging from conflict, forgiveness, seeing through false motives

Description of the Five of Swords Tarot Card

Like all fives in the Minor Arcana, the Five of Swords depicts a period of contraction and fear, where we must move through a conflict or challenge in order to arrive at the harmony of the six. The Five of Swords asks us to confront challenges related to our mind: our thoughts, beliefs, and communications, both in regard to how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to others. 

Three battle-weary squires are scattered near the shore, with the victorious young man in the foreground, his self-satisfied smile alerting us to his recent triumph. He looks back at the other two men, replaying the fight in his head as they walk away from the battle defeated, lamenting over the lost fight. Their swords are on the ground, indicating that they’ve given up.

In the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck, the victor holds three swords in his hands, and the other two are strewn at his feet. Although he’s won the battle, he can’t reasonably carry all five swords in his hands. Though he looks smug as the wind rips through his hair, he may be realizing that it wasn’t worth the fight if he can’t carry the bounty home.

The jagged and severe-looking gray clouds that dominate the sky speak to the emotional storminess and the bitter feelings this card evokes. These clouds also appear in the Knight of Swords card, which similarly corresponds to words spoken in haste or with aggression. The sea in the background appears choppy, a warning sign that mirrors the tumultuous internal environment of all three figures.

Five of Swords Upright Meaning

In a tarot card reading, the upright Five of Swords speaks to confrontations with others that leave you feeling hurt, burned, and defeated. You could be ruminating on this, replaying the fight in your head and analyzing the words exchanged. This card speaks to the importance of taking responsibility for your side of the conflict and of finding forgiveness for yourself and others.

The Five of Swords upright can symbolize the process of reflecting on regrets, mistakes, and words said in anger. Your mind may feel very busy as these thoughts repeat over and over, causing a cycle of anxiety and worry. It may be important to come to a feeling of acceptance around what’s happened, and recognize that all you can do is learn from your mistakes going forward.

This card can also appear when you are struggling with comparing yourself to others and with their perceived success or accomplishments. There could be feelings of competitiveness, envy, insecurity, or frustration with not having what you desire. It can speak to a process of figuring out where we belong and the willingness to take risks to achieve our desired ends.

Love and Relationships (Upright Meaning)

The upright Five of Swords can appear when you are embroiled in a conflict or disagreement within your relationship. You may be reflecting on harsh words exchanged out of hurt or anger and feeling the pangs of regret. There could be feelings of resentment, guilt, frustration, and bitterness, in addition to a lack of communication or warped point of view. Finding ways to have calm, grounded, and reasonable conversations will help to heal the rift between you.

A love reading with the Five of Swords can also correspond with feelings of unrequited love, unmet desire, or a frustrated longing for another. This card suggests working to find acceptance around an unmet desire so that you can release yourself from this negative cycle and move forward with a feeling of peace.

Love/relationships upright keywords

Career/finance upright keywords

conflicts and disagreements, harsh words, resentments, unrequited love

hollow victory, accepting responsibility, forgiveness, comparison

Career and Finance (Upright Meaning)

The Five of Swords upright suggests that you’re involved in a disagreement at work and that you may be reflecting on your part in the conflict with remorse, regret, or bitterness. Perhaps you emerged as the winner of the argument, but it left you feeling hollow. You can accept responsibility for your role in the situation, work to find forgiveness for yourself and others, and learn from this situation going forward.

The Five of Swords upright can also correspond to the persistent feeling of frustration and envy that results from comparing yourself to the success of others within your work environment. If you can find ways to use this envy to motivate you rather than denigrate yourself, you can make productive use of these uncomfortable feelings.

Five of Swords Reversed Meaning

A tarot reading with a reversed Five of Swords indicates that you are moving out of a period of struggle, strife, or conflict and are working towards reconciliation and healing. The tension between you and another is beginning to unwind as you find ways of communicating with clarity, honesty, and compassion. When both parties accept responsibility for their own actions and role in the conflict, you can move forward with forgiveness.

The Five of Swords reversed can also speak to a process of seeing through former illusions and negative beliefs which served to disempower you. You may realize that insecurity, comparison, or lack of mentality have been driving you towards achievement, and you desire to shift your approach. Now you can pursue your goals with a sense of embodied worthiness rather than from the feeling of needing to prove yourself.

The reversed Five of Swords can also indicate that you are having trouble moving on from a conflict, disagreement, or experience of loss. You could be stewing on what went wrong or what’s been lost and are finding it difficult to accept what’s happened. If you can take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them in the future, you will be able to move forward feeling lighter.

Love and Relationships (Reversed Meaning)

The reversed Five of Swords can indicate that you are emerging from a period of conflict within your relationship and are working to find mutual understanding, compromise, and forgiveness. You have weathered the storm and are coming out on the other side stronger and with a better understanding of how to navigate challenges in a partnership.

The Five of Swords reversed can speak to moving on from heartbreak, loss, or disappointment. If you have recently experienced a difficult separation from a loved one, this card can symbolize that you are finding peace and moving on. You may be letting go of an intense desire for another person, which brought you feelings of hurt and disappointment and are releasing yourself from the bonds of this fixation.

Love/relationships reversed keywords

Career/finance reversed keywords

working towards compromise and forgiveness, weathering a storm, moving on from heartbreak, letting go

repairing conflict or competition, healing rifts in the workplace, acceptance around disappointment

Career and Finance (Reversed Meaning)

The Five of Swords reversed indicates that you are moving on from a conflict or competition within your work. Perhaps you have been fighting to secure a position or title and have successfully achieved your aim, which allows you to move forward with a feeling of peace. You could also be healing a rift with a colleague or resolving conflicts in the workplace.

The Five of Swords reversed can symbolize finding peace and acceptance around a perceived loss or disappointment within your work and financial situations. Perhaps you didn’t reach a goal or aspiration but are finding ways to learn from this setback and accept what’s happened with self-compassion and forgiveness.

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