The 5 of Swords is a card of crisis, defeat, and dishonor. Representing roguish brutality and intellectual trickery, this card can only ever signify a loss/loss. If anyone “wins,” it’s because they’re a cheat.
At first glance, this card looks much like the traditional Rider-Waite. However, Dali entitled this image “Courtier,” and there are a few key differences that stress the intellectual violence of the 5 of Swords. A nobleman stands in the foreground holding three swords (betrayal and disinformation within the Sword suit). Two swords, which symbolize a balance of power, lie strewn at his feet. He is framed by a lavender fog which occludes the surroundings, save the dark land on which he stands and a glimpse of the sea in the background. It is dusk.
The nobleman appears calm and haughty, and he stares the viewer directly in the eye. To the left is a rudimentary sketch of a naked woman who stands with her back to the viewer. Half out of the frame, we can see through this woman, as if she were a ghost or a scorned memory. When we do peer through her, our vision is obstructed by the matte fog. This is an image of disdain, neglected conscience, and questionable victory.
Dali’s depiction seems to be a direct reference to the libertine, Dom Juan, with the half-woman being Elvire and, oddly, the nightmare statue which spells Dom Juan’s final damnation, as well. If you’re not too familiar with the character or the tale, you can read a brief explanation of the legend/figure here , and a quick synopsis of Molière’s version here.
When you pull the 5 of Swords in a reading, the immediate counsel is to cease communicating entirely within the given circumstance and walk away. There may be a desire for “closure” or understanding when this card is pulled. Such desires are futile. The 5 of Swords is the card of the bully, the strong arm, the bait and switch, playing dumb, withholding, and the rigged fight. Justice has nothing to do with it. Extricate yourself immediately.
**While all manner of comments are welcomed, any further information pertaining to art history, symbolism, myth, cultural reverberations, and Tarot card meanings that traverse decks or lend especial light to the Universal Dali deck, specifically, are actively sought and encouraged. I’m not using a book for these descriptions, so I may miss a reference that bears mention in relation to a card. If you know something, please share it!
Conversely, I actively negate the astrological significations of the Trump cards within the Universal Dali deck in favor of the more traditional Thoth. My plan is to tackle the astrological significations of the Universal Dali Trumps and their overt divergence from all norms in one article… after having described each card. That’s a ways off. ;)