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Friday, March 30, 2012

Journey through My Decks: Five of Swords


In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring the FIVE OF SWORDS from Tarot of the Masters by James Ricklef.

Tarot of the Masters by James Ricklef

James Ricklef writes: "The suit of Swords is customarily associated with elemental Air, which traditionally relates its cards to qualities such as mental activity, logic and reason, and all forms of communication. This suit is also associated with conflict, strife, and stress."

The border on all of the Swords cards in this deck is yellow, the color associated with the mind and intellect.

The Five of Swords in this deck is based on the right panel of the St. John the Baptist Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden.  Not being familiar with this piece of art, I initially thought that Ricklef made the executioner's stockings red and yellow in keeping with a system of symbolism in Tarot. However, the stockings are red and yellow in the original art. Interesting!

Red is commonly seen as a color of passion, will power, courage, strength, and aggression. Yellow typically represents enthusiasm, joy, intellect (intelligence), and communication.* I can see a place for both of these colors in the Five of Swords (as well as the original painting).

Ricklef writes: "One of the things I liked about this painting was the bright, almost cheerful ambiance of the setting that surrounds this ghastly deed. This jarring juxtaposition emphasizes how reprehensible this action (the beheading of John the Baptist) is."

5 of Swords, Rider-Waite-Smith
In RWS-style versions of the Five of Swords, the victor often has a pleased, self-satisfied expression on his face (Waite calls it "disdainful"). It seems to be a very bright day for him, as he observes the dejected demeanor of his opponents.

Back to the Tarot of the Masters card: Ricklef points out that Salome (the woman in black) and the executioner look back over their shoulders, facing away from each other, rather than looking at the evidence of their crime. Is this out of a sense of guilt and remorse? Or are they simply worried that someone might see them and punish them for what they have done?

Divinatory Meanings included by Ricklef: "a ruthless attempt to be right or victorious, regardless of the effects on other people, revenge (versus justice), a costly victory, devious plots, bad sportsmanship, bullying, kicking a man when he is down, and 'winning the battle but losing the war.' . . . insensitivity, dishonor, and gloating."

In a group situation, the Five of Swords may be advising us to choose our battles wisely. In relationships, it can ask the question: "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?" (Ricklef)


* My color associations are based on several sources and personal study over a period of time.

About the deck: James Ricklef writes that the cards in this deck "were inspired by classic paintings by old masters, such as Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bouguereau, Rubens, and Hieronymus Bosch." To create the deck, Ricklef perused hundreds of paintings and statues, seeking those that could relate to the 78 cards of the Tarot.

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~ Zanna