Tuesday, September 11, 2007

5 of Swords - Co-dependence

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. Read my posts for the last 4 Tuesdays to catch up, or pick up the Kindle books updated and expanded:

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:
The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.
The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..


The 5 of Swords is the first (in the Waite Rider deck) to have more than one figure on it. The 5 is the first point in the process of "action" where others are encountered -- i.e Re-actions to your actions.

Previously, all the "actions" (Swords are actions, choices, thoughts, words, wishes, prayers, curses, or just nasty silent criticism of another's appearance, speech or choices) have been internal to the actor.

For a writer, this process starts with deciding to write a particular novel, putting down some words on the screen, seeing the characters or story take shape as a thing external to the self, making commitment to finish it, and then a long period of quiet growth as words are produced, but not ready yet to show to anyone.

To discover the core essence of the 5 of Swords, we have to grasp the concept of word or thought as an action in itself, and express that through the essence of 5-ness.

What is 5?

Notice on the Tree of Life diagram I found on wikipedia - , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_of_life_(Kabbalah)

Keter = 1
Hokhmah = 2
Binah = 3
Da'at is in another "dimension" (i.e. above the plane of the Tree) and doesn't have a card for mystical reasons.
Gevurah = 5
Tiferet = 6
Netzah = 7
Hod = 8
Yesod = 9
Malkuth = 10

The Hebrew letters on the "spokes" of the diagram can be represented by the Major Arcana of the Tarot -- each Hebrew letter is both a number and a philosophical principle of existence symbolized by something (door, shepherd's goad, window, staff, etc)

5 is right under 3 and above 8. They form a "pillar," one of the three polarities that underlie the structure of all reality. (in Astrology: triplicities and quadruplicities, the principles of 3 and the principles of 4 which we discussed last week and the week before.)

3, 5, and 8 are all about what you are being defined by what you are-not.

In the process of passing through the Gates of Life and Death in 3 Swords, you decided (a Latin root word for cutting in two) to do this project -- and therefore not-do that project -- which means you committed resources, reached for one thing at the expense of something else. It hurt, but you did it anyway, you took a "loss" to make a "gain."

In the 5, you are doing exactly the same thing, on another arc of the process.

The great, huge, mass of words you've produced as your novel must now be exposed to -- (eek!) criticism.

You will see your work through the mind and eye of another person. You will "encounter" the actions, thoughts, words, deeds, habits and choices of another person.

In the 4 of Swords you invested your ego in your work, and you let it grow in quiet solitude.

The ego investment is now huge, personal, and tender for lack of calluses developed by rubbing against others' ideas. It's very private (fan fiction hidden under the mattress for sheer embarrassment), and it's very personal. Your whole identity is tied up in what has grown in 4 -- because of the price paid in 3 when part of your identity was cut away so that the rest could grow. You have paid a huge price, so what is left to you is valuable beyond words.

Thoughts are Swords.

Thoughts are weapons. Thoughts can hurt others. (this is mysticism, remember?) Merely thinking something nasty about someone can do actual damage to the universe, and it does not matter whether the person thinking has a lot or a little magical power gained by Initiation. On this, everyone is equal. Every thought, word and deed no matter how small alters the universe.

The Waite-Rider deck depicts this as all bad. But it's just as easy to make it all good.

The study of Tarot is the study of how to alter yourself so that all your ideas, feelings, thoughts and creations beautify the universe. You can't do that by "control" -- you must "become." The Suit of Swords delineates that process of becoming, because in Swords "control" just does not work (hence the terrible reputation of these cards).

If you live a life where the highest virtue is to resist temptation -- Swords is where you'll come a-cropper.

In the 5 of Swords, the thoughts of one person encounter the thoughts of another, two egos engage in a sparring match.

Words driven by thoughts are weapons. How many of us have been "cut low" by a snob? How many have encountered a back-stabber, a character-assassin? How many writers have broken down in tears when their manuscripts were criticized?

Words are also defenses -- we defend our ego with excuses, dodges, denials, explanations of what we really meant to write.

Writers, pay attention here. The 5 of Swords contains all the secrets to writing great dialogue you will ever need to know. It is reparte incarnate, subtext, innuendo. The duel of words is all here in this one process.

5 is all about conflict. The 4's image is the King on his Throne dispensing Justice (all kinds of Jupiter and Saggitarius associations.) The 5's image is the King in his Chariot riding to war.

The 5 is about the aroused ego dealing with a threat. Astrologers associate Mars with the 5's -- the god of war. The ruler of Ares, the First House, -- all about the Self and the energizing spark that gets the Self moving.

Very often, even a depressed person will swing into action when something dear to them is threatened by another. Maybe they'll dash off a scathing reply on a blog, phone a talk show, challenge a speeding ticket in court: "I've got rights!" screams the person whose thoughts have encountered opposing thoughts.

As I mentioned in discussion of 4 Swords, the 4 of Swords is the pause between the wedding and the first fight -- and the 5 of Swords is the first fight.

In the 5, what has grown huge, self-indulgent and shapeless in 4 is whittled down to shape and size to fit into the social or relationship framework. As in 3 something is lost, but also as in 3 what is left is the better for the loss.

5 is the dynamic process of ego relating to ego. There are all kinds of ego-driven relationships -- marriage, master/slave, favorite enemy, arch-rival, strange bedfellow alliances, favored nation status, your supply-chain businesses, birth family to put up with, chosen family to cling to.

5 is where the Ego begins the process of fitting into a group - any group.

Refer to the first book in this series (available on Amazon) THE BIBLICAL TAROT: NEVER CROSS A PALM WITH SILVER. There is a discussion of the model of the universe and of life as a zero sum game -- for there to be a "winner" there must be a "loser."

The Tarot based in Kabbalah uses a totally different model of the universe. Thus in Tarot, the blending of the notions connected to 5 and the notions connected to Swords doesn't necessarily lead to fighting.

Combat, arguing, fighting, dominating and denigrating are not signified by the 5 of Swords. But when you attempt to play (play = Swords) a zero sum game, you inevitably are pushed into strife when passing through the 5 of Swords process.

Thus 5 is associated with pain, strife.

When actions manifest through 5-ness, you get strategy, tactics, warfare, brute strength, bullying, but also leadership, problem solving, bright ideas gallore, problem solving by optimizing rather than compromising.

The Waite Rider deck (based in the zero-sum game view of the universe) depicts a man who has disarmed two retreating figures and remains holding their weapons.

This could be taking the credit for another scientist's discovery. It could describe arguing against someone using their own arguments against them. It could represent taking a free will gift from someone then using it as a weapon to destroy them.

In the 5 of Swords you find actions that are both directly aggresive, and (5 Swords Reversed) indirectly aggressive.

You see the passive-aggressive type of relationship, where one person sneaks a punch at the other, then denies it -- leaving the victim feeling helpless. ("Oh, I was just kidding! What? Can't you take a joke?")

Using one's intellect (swords) to disarm another person -- to use your power to overcome another person's weakness -- leaves your victim feeling helpless. The normal human response to being disarmed and made to feel helpless is hatred.

The 5 of Swords includes the co-dependent relationship where, possibly one person's words and deeds supports another's self-destructive behavior, or possibly one person uses words and deeds to support another person's healthy spiritual and personal growth efforts (support, not command).

It's called a co-dependent relationship because it works both ways. Each person gives and gets in equal measure forming a dynamic but stable relationship -- and that's not necessarily bad. The usefulness depends on what habits are being encouraged and supported for what reason.

All relationships of this shape, though, are included in the 5 Swords, even the good or neutral ones.

The 5 of Swords also covers the situation where one person challenges another to prove what they are saying, or to prove themselves worthy. "Put up or shut up!" The teen initiation of proving yourself, taking a dare, etc.

The 5 of Swords also describes the kind of relationship where one person turns the other person's only defense (rationalizations, excuses) against them, then laughs at their natural fear of their own childhood nightmare of being helpless.

Another word for this process is "button pushing" for the purpose of manipulating another person's actions. People will do amazing things to avoid feeling helpless, disarmed, defenseless.

The 5 of Swords represents the sorts of relationships that form along the axis of degredation, sneering, devaluing.

The worst in human nature is brought out by the 5's -- and Swords then manifests that worst in words and deeds. When you blurt out something hurtful that you didn't mean to say, it's a 5 of Swords moment.

The 5 of Swords also describes the behavior of the coward with power exceptionally well.

But as with all the so-called minor arcana, it really bespeaks the very best in human nature if you don't operate in the zero sum game model of the universe. To get through the 5-Swords process unscathed you must "become" not "resist." You must become the kind of person who simply is not tempted to harm others.

To become that kind of person, you must be at peace within yourself, have your own internal conflicts resolved. If you're not, then passing through the 5-Swords process will boost you on the way to becoming just that, a person who can love whole-heartedly.

The ego, the sense of self, can here be brought to fit together with the other egos in your group. Together you make a whole far more powerful than the sum of the parts. For one to win, it isn't necessary for another to lose. In the Tarot model of the universe, there is no such thing as winning or losing and thus no such thing as a "draw" where nobody wins.

The 5 of Swords is where your most private (and possibly overblown) assessment of yourself and the value of your actions gets re-shaped, sifted and sorted, discarding what isn't sound and re-arranging what is. It is a healthy and refreshing exercise, not a win-lose situation.

The 5 of Swords is the forging of a contract, an agreement, about the group's dynamic.

Remember, in the zero sum game model, 5-Swords is the King in his Chariot going to war. It doesn't have to end in battle. A show of force could be enough.

The 5 of Swords could also be the establishing of a pecking order, deciding who is top dog by chewing ears off, or it could be "Put me through medical school and I'll see you live on easy street the rest of your life." 5 Swords is the unspoken contract behind all relationships.

The first fight in a marriage may define the way the relationship works for the next fifty years.

In Reverse, the punch is pulled, the victory by backstabbing, underhanded, button pushing or manipulation. In Reverse it's the avoiding of the direct, clean, nose-to-nose conflict to reshape both parties' egos, and the result is that the relationship becomes undermined.

The 5 of Swords clean and direct conflict is the defining moment of an intimate relationship, and it does not have to be victory for one and defeat for the other.

It doesn't have to be an unethical victory. It doesn't have to be beating up on the other until they knuckle under, then seethe with hatred for years.

For more on that, see the book The Intimate Enemy: How To Fight Fare In Love And Marriage by Peter Wyden.

To transform the 5 of Swords experience from a fight to problem-solving requires that both parties have solid, healthy egos that don't fear attack but welcome the view of the self from a different perspective and welcome the change that new view brings.

Think of the growth in the 4 of Swords as bread rising -- and the process of the 5 of Swords as punching it down so it can rise again with a finer texture. The 5 of Swords is not destructive -- it's part of the creative process. An essential part.

So writers - don't fight with your first readers. Don't explain what you really meant. Don't defend what you intended to write. Don't go into the process of letting someone see what you've written with expectations of acceptance - or of rejection.

Go into the process of exposing your ego-child with the intention of discovering what needs changing -- because something always does. It isn't about winning or losing. It's about finding yourself inside others.

Use the 5 of Swords as a model for every dialogue based scene you write because here, in this process, not only is strength of character revealed but your character's true motivations -- possibly unknown to him -- become clearly evident.

What's true of characters is true in life as well. That's why stories are so engrossing.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Cool analogy, Jacqueline. It seems a process of maturity. If only our biological impulses matched our attainment of wisdom, there would be much fewer starving, abused, and/or neglected children in the world.

  2. Anonymous1:02 AM EDT