Five of Swords – Defeat


My Personal impressions of the FIVE of Swords

(7th June 2015) My first impression of this one is of shattered glass shards all over the background. The swords are all bent, drooping or broken due to all the smashing that’s gone on. The hilt of each sword has a different design which could represent multiple opposing forces. Like the previous card, the swords are all balanced on their tips in the centre, which means with one slight slip the balance could be thrown in a different direction at any moment. They are arranged to form an inverted pentagram, which in this case could signify a negative influence. The flower that was in the middle of the previous cards has been totally dismembered and the petals now form the outer edge of the pentagram. They also look like drops of blood — which is not surprising with all that splintered glass lying around. 😛 This card feels sharp, pointy and uncomfortable, though the colours and nice and it does have a certain symmetry which I also like.

(Extra “homework”, posted 9the June 2015) This Friday we will be looking at the sphere of Gevurah = force and power. We will be discussing ‘as a group’ real life examples of how we apply our power as force to the things of our lives.
Reflective questions: “Are we standing in our own way? What boundaries are we to defend? Which contracts are willing to burn? What bridges are we willing to build? To what lengths are we willing to go? Am I burning myself out defending outmoded beliefs and lifestyles?”

FIVE of Swords

Original Title: Lord of Earned Success.
Golden Dawn Model: Three hands appear from clouds at the bottom of the card. The right and left hands hold two swords each, the center hand one. The image is that of the Three of Swords, but, in this case, the two swords to the right and to the left are violently parted by a central fifth sword. The rose is destroyed and its five petals are dispersed into the air. There are no white rays. [1]
Colours: Bright scarlet,  emerald green, sky blue, early spring green, bright rose or cerise, rayed pale green, violet, bluish mauve, white, tinged purple. (more details on page 245 of ref.[1])
Zodiac: Venus in Aquarius — 0° to 10° Aquarius. [1]

Description: This card presents five unmatched, bent, and damaged swords forming an averse pentagram. this pentagram of Defeat is projected upon a filed of geometric and wildly asymmetric wings, some of which form swastikas. As this card was painted at the very height of England’s struggle with Nazi Germany, it is easy to speculate that Harris (the artist) was either consciously or unconsciously projecting magical defeat on this hated enemy. The averse pentagram can be used to symbolize an infinite number of perfectly innocuous concepts but in this card it really does mean trouble. Venus rules Aquarius and and both are pacifists. they are a peaceful and sentimental couple. A terrible fight has broken out in Geburah, the house of Mars, which is located in Yetzirah (the world of Swords). Naturally Venus and Aquarius volunteer to be peacemakers, but they are just too nice, too peaceful, too weak to handle themselves in this violent neighborhood. The inevitable result is Defeat. [1]

Description by Aleister Crowley: Geburah, as always, produces disruption; but as Venus here rules Aquarius, weakness rather than excess of strength seems the cause of disaster. The intellect has been enfeebled by sentiment. The defeat is due to pacifism. Treachery also may be implied. The hilts of the swords form the inverted pentagram, always a symbol of somewhat sinister tendency. Here matters are even worse; none of the hilts resembles any of the others, and their blades are crooked or broken. They give the impression of drooping; only the lowest of the swords points upwards, and this is the least effective of the weapons. The rose of the previous card has been altogether disintegrated. The historian is happy to observe two perfect illustrations of the mode of this card and the last in the birth of the Aeon of (I) Osiris, (2) Horus. He will note the decay of such Virtue as characterized Sparta and Rome, ending in the establishment of the Pax Romana. As Virtue declined, corruption disintegrated the Empire from within. Epicene cults, such as those of Dionysus (in its degraded form), of Attis, of Adonis, of Cybele, the false Demeter and the prostituted Isis, replaced the sterner rites of the true Solar- Phallic gods; until finally (the masters having lost the respect, and so the control, of the plebs, native and alien) the lowest of all the slave-cults, dressed up in the fables of the vilest of the parasitic races, swept over the known world, and drenched it in foul darkness for five hundred years. He will delight to draw close parallels with the cognate phenomena displayed before the present generation. [6]

GeburahSephira: Geburah ~ Gevurah is the fifth of the ten sefirot, and second of the emotive attributes in Creation, and which corresponds to the second day of creation. Gevurah is understood as God’s mode of punishing the wicked and judging humanity in general. It is the foundation of stringency, absolute adherence to the letter of the law, and strict meting out of justice. This stands in contrast to Chesed. Gevurah is associated in the soul with the power to restrain one’s innate urge to bestow goodness upon others, when the recipient of that good is judged to be unworthy and liable to misuse it. It is the restraining might of Gevurah which allows one to overcome his enemies, be they from without or from within (his evil inclination). Chesed and Gevurah act together to create an inner balance in the soul’s approach to the outside world. While the “right arm” of Chesed operates to draw others near, the “left arm” of Gevurah reserves the option of repelling those deemed undeserving. [5]

Gevurah is a hard sephirah to work with, as Kabbalistic magicians often discover to their cost. There is absolutely no place for emotion, no place for excess, no place for ego. The warrior works within the Law, and ignorance of the Law is not an excuse. If you don’t know what the Law is, don’t work with Gevurah. Most people are sloppy in thinking about problems, and take what appears to be the simplest and superficially most convenient solution. Gevurah is clinically exact, and if you invoke Gevurah you are invoking well above the level of emotion, particularly your emotions, and as you judge, so will you be judged. Invoke on the Pillar of Form, and cause and effect will follow without the slightest regard for your feelings. All good programmers who have sweated throughout the night with a programming error of their own making know this in their bones. [3]

Five of Swords – Defeat relates to Geburah in the Tree of Life: The Five of Swords have reached Geburah, the realm of motion and changing, of destruction and disintegration. The truce of the Four couldn’t last, the airy Swords had to recognize that they never were meant for structure and stabilisation, that they needed to stick to their unsteady nature, no matter how high the price might be. The deep crisis the Swords are going through in here also result in the influence of Venus, the planet of emotion, harmony and sensitivity. For the logical Swords who are forced to see everything absolutely clear and unveiled, too much sensitivity can mean a sharp pain that no reasonable argument might soften. Intelligent as they are, they clearly analyse the trap they’re in and start struggling against fate, thus recognizing that they cannot win. [8]

Drive: Intellectual crisis, struggling against fate
Light: Realisation of limitations and restrictions, philosophy born in pain
Shadow: Loss, defeat, failure, poverty, fear. [8]


Five of Swords – Venus in Aquarius – “Defeat”
No vantage point, Injustice. Cut your losses. Surrender. [2]
The severity of the mind. (The Lord of Defeat)

Geburah — Defeat: Retribution, Destruction, Judgement, Burning away dead wood, Disruption, Unpredictability. [4]

Fives and Geburah: The Five’s are representing Geburah – motion and changing and the powers of destruction, standing in 5 as the number that breaks the stability of the Four. The Five of Swords is called Defeat, the truce was broken and the stormy destruction results in loss of ideals. [7]


  1. “Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot”, by Lon Milo DuQuette
  6. The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley