Inevitably, some cards in the Tarot deck are there to address the experience and the price of conflict with our fellow man. It's an unpleasant subject but one that every single one of us has required serious guidance on at some point, not only to address our own conduct but also to forge a pathway towards healing after parting ways with someone we once considered to be a friend. The Five of Swords illustrates a time of crossing swords and then, as a result of that, separation and disappointment. The card's message is largely centred around the importance of knowing when to throw in the towel with something and simply back off. It also asks us to question what has been lost and gained at the end. Consider how much you have changed during your life time. How many of the people you knew and considered dear to you ten years ago would still make the cut now? One or two, possibly, but the incredibly powerful transformations we undergo make it impossible for us to take everyone with us on our journey. There come times when certain connections have either outlived their usefulness on both sides or have become more harmful than helpful. When a friendship which used to make you feel free and understood now makes you feel trapped and alienated, acknowledging and dealing with that realisation can be tricky. A lot of the time there will just be a gradually imposed distance and no conflict will ensue. That's always the preferable ending, but sometimes it gets hairy.
The Five of Swords is an invitation to analyse a break-up of some kind. Try to work out what you could have done to avoid it, if anything, and how you feel about the words and actions of yourself and the other injured party. What could possibly have been gained from the fight? What are the lessons and do you feel justified in your feelings? The relationship between two people is like a venn diagram. The individuals are the spheres intercepting and the piece of them that joins is what they've made together -the connection and what it means- but the rest of them is still completely individual and that struggle to maintain personal identity and consider the other's needs can feel incredibly demanding when your heart's not in it anymore.
I've also always believed that this card has a message for the mediator in a conflict situation. If you're the one who's holding a friendship together by being the go-between while the others seemingly attempt to destroy it with callous actions or harsh words, this card is telling you that there's nothing more you can do and that you have to let them have their battle in order that it be settled. Don't take on any guilt for other people's acts of carelessness or aggression. And if you're in the middle of a conflict, this card might be asking you to consider the impact it's having on those who might have secondary roles or are being asked to choose a side.
This card speaks more about what has been permanently destroyed than it does about things that can be salvaged or explained away. It's about accepting when something has died its cruel death and preparing to move forward, away from the fray and towards peace and harmony.