Understanding Tarot: The Fives of the Minor Arcana

minor arcana fives
Tarot card art from the Rider-Waite Smith Tarot Deck

The Understanding Tarot series is written by Claire Chilvers. If you would like to read more of Claire’s articles or book a tarot reading, please visit www.clairechilvers.com or follow her at – @ClaireChilversTarot

Facing Uncertainty with the Fives

The fives are the mid-point of the Minor Arcana Tarot journey and the place where uncertainty and changes take place in all of the suits.

These are challenging times and in stark contrast to the stillness and stability, rest and respite of the number four cards that preceded them.

The number five cards collectively show events that we have all experienced, but, not necessarily wanted to. Fighting, grief, chaos, and poverty are not situations that we would willingly ask for but, sadly, they are part of human life.

We are aware when we start any new part of our life that it may not always be rosy and bright in our world, and the Tarot would be doing us a disservice if they only showed happy situations and did not have cards to reflect the struggles we so often face.

But, as bleak as these cards look, they should not be feared. They are here to give us encouragement – to remind us that the Universe is part of us and aware we are experiencing tough times.

They can offer glimmers of hope for the future and the chance to understand the situation we find ourselves in more fully.

The Five of Swords

The Five of Swords can be a difficult card to interpret as it is often assumed that the person in the foreground is the one that we should resonate with, but that is not always the case.

This card shows the aftermath of a quarrel. It seems that there is a winner as the character in green has managed to accumulate all the swords – he looks back at the other two people with a rather smug look on his face.

The person on the far left seems to be walking away with his cloak thrown over his shoulder and the person in the far distance is sobbing into his hands. This portrays the three most likely attitudes that are played out when a relationship of any kind breaks up. 

I am sure we can all think of a time when we have been any one of these characters. When a break up or split takes place, regardless of the type of relationship, it boils down to the fact that the people involved just cannot get on or be in each other’s company anymore.

For some this is soul-destroying and not something they want to happen, hence the inconsolable crying in the background. For others, there is a sense of freedom and gratitude that they no longer have to deal with that particular person and they walk nonchalantly away on their own life path.

But, there are some, who for the life of them, cannot understand why the split happened or don’t see it as any fault of their own.

Swords represent our mindset, thoughts, and ideas and it is interesting to note the man at the front of the card has not only his own three swords but has also taken the other two which have been dropped at his feet. 

It seems that the two smaller figures are portrayed as ‘the losers’, having given up on the idea of this partnership. But, have they just grown tired of being forced to agree?

Perhaps they are relieved to have broken away from an unequal collaboration or tired of battling with someone who is too strong-minded or has too many thoughts to impart on them. 

It may not seem so at this point, but in the long run, the two who walk away may be the long term ‘winners’ as they will have the chance to change their mindsets, gather new thoughts of their own, and learn not to make the same mistakes again. 

Whereas the ‘sword collector’ may continue to believe his way of thinking is the only possible truth and may never understand what a good working relationship is.

Some people who enter this situation are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over. The card is a warning not to let it be you.

Of course, this idea could be completely turned on its head and you may see the story differently. What if the people in the background were bullies and the person in the front had stood up to them and taken away their power?

We would be congratulating him and possibly be glad that the others are going away empty-handed needing to re-think their ideals.

Uncertainty is the most certain part of the Five of Swords. Working out who is right and who is wrong. Identifying which of the characters we are, and what we did to get ourselves into this scene.

Were our actions noble or manipulative? Are we the victim or the bully?

We can stay in this uncertain world forever questioning ourselves and needing to know why the other person acted the way they did or what we could have done differently. Sometimes we live a lifetime never finding out the answers. There has to come a time when we accept the quarrel happened and let it go. 

Retelling the story and trying to get others on side is a natural reaction when an awful dispute has taken place. And there are plenty of people who are happy to listen. But the quickest way to move away from this painful event is to stop thinking about it. Whether you resolve to make amends, cut ties, or change your mindset to ensure it never happens again will remain to be seen as the swords push you along their path.

Five of Cups

The Five of Cups is a card of despair and grief. The blackness of the person’s cloak and the dark grey sky reflect the desolate mood of this card. Blood has been spilled from three cups which are tipped over and at first thought, all is lost. We cannot ignore the fact that this card shows someone who is feeling broken. 

The Cup’s journey promised us the ability to understand our emotions. They eased us in gently with cards of hope, love, and joy. It seems a cruel turn of fate that this has so quickly been taken away and left such an empty space for us to feel mourning, loneliness, and loss. But life isn’t always fair.

Life can be harsh and unforgiving. This card is acknowledging this and if it ever appears for you then the message is, ‘It is ok to feel this way’.

Allowing yourself to feel the full force of your loss and taking the time to experience these emotions is the best way to heal. 

There are well-meant phrases that people offer to anyone who is wearing the black cloak of grief. ‘Time will heal’ and ‘Take each day as it comes’ are two examples. And, although these don’t always feel like a comfort at the time, the Tarot card is also giving its own reminders that this is true.

At the moment, the person in this card is intently staring at what he has lost. But, eventually, he will notice that the blood is pouring into the water and the redness of it cannot be seen as it mixes into the stream and flows under the bridge. The bridge is also significant as it is the pathway to the church shown in the distance; a place for this poor soul to seek refuge and find peace. 

In time, as this person continues to look around him, he will notice the two cups behind him; upright and ready to be filled with whatever his heart desires. Something has most certainly gone and his life has changed, but, there are more feelings to experience when he is ready. 

As painful as this situation is, anyone who has experienced it will know that these dark days do not last forever. The river keeps on flowing for all of us, and when something is taken from us and causes a hole in our life, eventually we find something to fill it. 

The Five of Wands

The Five of Wands brings uncertainty of a very different kind. The chaos and commotion that is being created is an unexpected outcome from the happy celebration that we left in the Four of Wands.

This card shows us confrontation, disagreements, arguments, and disorder. The wands represent our creative side and how we wish to spend our energy, but, would anyone really want to spend their energy doing this?

As I mentioned these cards do not show our preferred experiences, but, we have all found ourselves in the middle of a family feud, disagreement at work, argument with friends, or even an altercation with complete strangers and when these happen, we often lose sight of what is important as we get caught up in the moment.

The fives are offering a chance to break away from the status quo of the stable fours. As we saw in the previous cards, it does not serve us well to stay in one situation for too long.

Creating tension, airing opinions, or fighting for something you believe in can bring positive changes and results, but, it can also be exhausting. The warning here is to pick your battles carefully for none of these people look like they are going to back down anytime soon. 

Most arguments are caused because everyone involved believes they are right. When disagreements continue for too long then this can ultimately be a huge waste of time and energy for everyone involved; court cases that drag on for years, family members who do not speak because of something that happened decades before, or business partners who spend their days arguing about their creative differences are all examples where being stuck in this hostile environment serves no purpose. 

Wands symbolise the fire within us and as we know fire left unattended or in the wrong hands can be devastating.

But, the hope within this card is that each person (who is in control of their own fiery wand) will recognise when to stop before they become out of control and dangerously destructive.

There are other ways to settle arguments than beating each other over the head with a stick. Let us hope when our time comes to resonate with this card, we remember that!

The Five of Pentacles

The Five of Pentacles shows two desperate characters walking in the snow, one is on crutches and the other is barefoot. The situation is worrying and we cannot help but feel sorry for them and wish to help in some way.

This card is often viewed as one of the bleakest Tarot cards of all. It generates a fear within us that we would never want to be in this precarious position. 

Previously, we saw the Four of Pentacles with a man hanging on too tightly to his possessions. The warning message was this would become an unhealthy option if he stayed in that situation too long. However, the very thing that he was afraid of is now playing out in this card – his biggest fear has happened and seemingly all is lost, which presents the question; should he have stayed where he was?

Has this been a mistake? What can possibly be learned from losing everything? It would be hard to see the positive in a Tarot card like this. But, as with all the previous cards, there are signs that this will not last forever and help is at hand. 

Above them, five pentacles are seen offering light and hope. They are not tangible coins that they can hold in their hands but part of a stained glass window that is illuminated by the candles inside.

This would suggest they are passing a church – a place of sanctuary. And, where there is light and warmth, there may be shelter, food, and help available. Perhaps these two are not quite as alone as they first thought?

The pentacles in the church’s window are shown as fruit on a tree. Admittedly, there is not much fruit to be picked in the depths of winter, but just around the corner is spring. The seasons always follow each other and within a year fruit of all kinds will be in abundance. Suggesting next winter will not be as bad. Yet again, a Pentacles’ lesson on patience!

It is difficult to look ahead in times of adversity and believe that things will get better. It requires faith, trust, and hope in the largest of portions. It would be so easy for these two to fall face first in the snow and give up, but, they are not. They are walking forward despite the difficulties, they are continuing onwards. 

It is said that those who have known hardship understand the true value of money and material possessions. We have all seen reality shows of the super-rich and are often left astounded at how they choose to spend their time and money. But there are also programmes that show self-made millionaires who have experienced poverty, spending a portion of their wealth helping others or setting up charities.

One of the positive aspects of the Five of Pentacles is it is character building and a lesson that will stay with us forever. It changes our perspective on what we value as important and that can be an inspiring lesson that will be remembered far after we trudge away from this difficult card.

Ironically, many people come for a Tarot reading when they are experiencing one or more of these situations; they seek clarity, guidance, and direction and when these cards show in their readings it gives them hope.

Having the Tarot cards acknowledge the difficulties you face can give a sense that your challenges are being seen and you are not alone.

It is through our unsettling times when we often feel more connected to the Universe than ever. Feeling supported by something bigger than we can imagine can lead us to confidently ask the question, ‘How do I move on from here?’ and know we will be offered guidance.

In the Minor Arcana, the sixes have a helpful way of providing answers to that question and will ensure that we progress on our chosen path.  

If you would like to read more of Claire’s articles or book a tarot reading, please visit her website

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About the author

Claire Chilvers

Claire Chilvers is a writer and tarot reader and lives in Essex, UK. She offers tarot readings to clients in the UK and around the world via video calls (Skype usually), if you would like a reading please contact her at clairechilverstarot@yahoo.com. Claire also has a Youtube Channel where she shares daily readings- https://www.youtube.com/@dailytarotwithclaire