Five – Defeat

Five of Swords - Defeat

Five of Swords – Defeat

Defeat means to overcome in a conquest or battle. To frustrate or thwart, to eliminate. To render null and void, to annul.

The Five of Swords asks if you ever find love again? Is it possible at your age? Why bother? Nothing really interests you, and those that do interest you are rarely fulfilling. Out of this sense of defeat are the germs of new success.

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Image of Five of Swords in Rider-Waite tarot deck
Five of Swords

A disdainful man looks after two retreating and dejected figures. Their swords lie upon the ground. He carries two others on his left shoulder, and a third sword is in his right hand, point to earth. He is the master in possession of the field.

Degradation, destruction, revocation, infamy, dishonour, loss, with the variants and analogues of these.

Additional Meanings: An attack on the fortune of the Querent.


The same; burial and obsequies. A sign of sorrow and mourning.

Book of Thoth

Image of Five of Swords - Defeat in the Book of Thoth tarot deck
Five of Swords – Defeat

The Five of Swords is similarly troublesome; the card is called Defeat. There has been insufficient power to maintain the armed peace of the Four. The quarrel has actually broken out. This must mean defeat, for the original idea of the Sword was a manifestation of the result of the love between the Wand and the Cup. It is because the birth had to express itself in the duality of the Sword and the Disk that the nature of each appears so imperfect.

More information

Golden Dawn – Lord of Defeat

Loss, defeat, unfavourable outcome. (Bravery in the face of certain loss).


Mourning, Sadness, Affliction.


Losses, Trouble (same signification, whether reversed or not).

Image of Etteilla Five of Swords
Etteilla Five of Swords


Loss, Falsification, Waste, Degradation, Detriment, Decline, Destruction, Deterioration, Deprivation, Reduction, Injuries, Defeats, Prejudice, Wrong, Defect, Fault, Miserliness, Decline in Business, Damages, Disadvantage, Devastation, Squandering, Dissipation, Misfortune, Afflictions, Setback, Reversals of Fortune, Ruin, Downfall, Rout. Debauchery, Disgrace, Defamation, Dishonor, Vile Abuse, Infamy, Affront, Meanness, Deformity, Humiliation. Theft, Robbery, Abduction, Plagiarism, Kidnapping, Hideous, Horrible. Opprobrium, Corruption, Dissoluteness, Seduction, Licentiousness.


Mourning, Despondency, Ailment, Grief, Distress, Mental Suffering, Funeral Rites, Interment, Obsequies, Funerals, Inhumation, Sepulcher.

Paul Foster Case

The scourge combined with the ankh is a symbol of suffering, of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Yet the pains and sufferings bring understanding, and are the result of the Querent’s own Karma. The suffering is not really unjust.

Time period

The first decanate of Aquarius, under the rulership of Saturn and Uranus, from January 20th to January 29th.


Decision adverse to Querent in any matter of material nature; but in spiritual questions the end of a course of action in apparent defeat which will nevertheless produce a good ultimate result. In any case a card of failure, defeat, trouble, poverty, and anxiety. The Querent is probably the subject of more or less slander.


The troubles are intensified, and are probably more definitely the result of the Querent’s own failings; particularly, in this instance, does the Five of Swords suggest loss through the Querent’s own avarice.



Thierens: Five of Swords

Loss, dishonour, degradation, defeat, ruin, reversal of fortune, diminution, wronging, bad luck, destruction, etc. Reversed : Much the same, burial, obsequies. It is also said to represent a thief and theft, corruption, seduction, plague, and all that is hideous and horrible.
The element of Earth with its influence of Mars and Saturn on the Fifth house, ruling the heart, cannot be very ‘favourable’ in the ordinary sense of the word and is certain to lead to a feeling of being wronged by the world, an inner bitterness and impotence, which hinders enterprise and business; so these will suffer. And the heart itself, being of precisely the opposite nature, will suffer and find things awkward, horrible, hideous, etc. In the same way this card must indicate affliction of honour, which is ruled by the Sun. Moreover, as “from the heart are the issues of life,” the card may indicate vice and a bad use of the inner or spiritual forces. Still there is another possibility, and this is given by Mr. W. when he says that this card’s image signifies a man who “is master of the field.” So he may be if the inner force is great enough to conquer the afflictions which assail him. In other words, it need not be a card of absolute defeat, for there may very well be a good result, but nevertheless it denotes serious difficulty and a critical moment or period in life, in which the querent or some one to whom it relates will be threatened with the above-mentioned sad effects.
Affliction, crisis, morose disposition, bitterness, impotence, lack of self-respect, or self-confidence; it may be that self-confidence is ascertained by some struggle or conflict; difficulties, which after all may prove very useful but necessitate much self-discipline. In the same way discipline of children is necessary. Enterprise or expansion is impossible or not advisable. Things indicated by this card may indeed be bad-looking or unpromising. There will be a question of a loss in most cases.
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Five of Swords - Defeat tarot card meanings
The Five of Swords asks if you ever find love again? Is it possible at your age? Why bother? Nothing really interests you, The quarrel has broken out

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