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Five of Swords Meaning – Smith-Waite Centennial

Our reading today centres on the Five of Swords—which means the thrill of victory is in your grasp! But is there also a warning in this extra-evocative tarot card?

Of course there is! We wouldn't be reading tarot if the meaning behind our Card of the Day didn't include a little scope for self-improvement. After all, improving our relationships with ourselves and the wide world around us is what tarot readings are all about.

We analyze the imagery of the Five of Swords in detail below. So read on for your daily tarot horoscope!

The Five of Swords tarot card from the Smith-Waite Centennial deck. Detailed image description in body text. Card is pictured against a blue-black background with two small air plants, one on either side of the tarot card.

The Five of Swords in the Smith-Waite Centennial tarot deck

I always think of the Five of Swords as one of the more enigmatic tarot cards. And I have a couple of reasons for this thinking. For one thing, the imagery in the Five of Swords varies more dramatically than most cards among my favourite tarot decks. For another thing, it depicts several characters with widely different emotional timbres.

In the foreground, we see a smirking figure with three of the five swords in his hand. Two point up at the sky while he holds the third point-down. This character seems unable to hold all three swords comfortably, suggesting the possession of more power than one person needs. (Remember, the sword tarot suit can signify the power to take decisive action—which is easy to imagine when you think about what a sword can do.) Also, the wind is rustling the protagonist's hair, emphasizing this suit's correlation with the air element and change. 

The figure is looking over their shoulder at the background scene. And in this background, below a sprawling and chaotic sky, we see two other characters. Both of their backs are turned to us, and they appear to be withdrawing in defeat. Two swords lie abandoned on the level ground just behind the foreground figure. And while the figure on the left has a crooked, chastened gait, the third figure seems even more bereaved! They hold their head in their hands as though they're weeping. 

A decisive victory?

The Five of Swords in this classic Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck suggests that a decisive victory is on the horizon. And importantly, it speaks of a group dynamic that's crackling with hostile potential—like the chaotic sky before an electrical storm. The winds of a significant change are stirring, and this time they're blowing in your favour.

Brace yourself for impact, but move forward with the smooth self-confidence of a seasoned duelist. Your opponents—likely people who oppose you in your beliefs or a controversial lifestyle choice—have underestimated the strength of your convictions. And it doesn't hurt, either, that logic (and not just passion) is on your side this time around.

The Five of Swords' call for personal growth

However, we can also interpret the Five of Swords' meaning in a single-card reading as a call for mercy. There's pride, and then there's arrogance. It's unquestionably right to stand up for yourself in this situation, but let it be enough to disarm your opponents without humiliating them. 

Today's free tarot reading asks if you can let your beliefs themselves be your triumph when a looming face-off comes. Can you view your coming victory as an opportunity for growth instead of lording it over the people who challenged you? That's the question to ask yourself.

S.M. signature — Savanna Margaret's initials