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Tarot Fives: Upsetting the Apple Cart

I lied to you about a few things.

First of all, there are more than four elements. There are five.

I’m not sure how we lost the fifth element, but I’d like ether (æther/spirit) back, please.

Secondly, there are more than four directions. In many cultures, there are five, since these cultures recognize the ‘center’  as an important point of reference.

Of course, we’re no longer in our simplified Western system when we say these things, so technically, mine was a lie of omission. Now that we’re on to the number five, though, I’m letting my mischief-maker out, if only to get into the spirit of the number. More than any other number, fives tell us that our experience of something depends very much on our perspective; therefore the number five deliberately challenges your assumptions, and teaches, like Saturn, through adversity.

This five creates inner conflict through the very human need to draw what are ultimately meaningless comparisons.

Five can also be also a gentle number of great beauty and poetry for the Japanese, whose Buddhist teachings imbue the magical five-petaled cherry blossom with meanings of purity, peace, and gentleness. However, the ephemerality of the cherry blossom has always made it a favorite image for poets and musicians who capitalize on the bittersweet pathos of its short existence.

Its use during WWII by suicide bombers to symbolize the sacrifice of their lives in a final blaze of glory was intended to mimic the intense, sudden fall of the cherry blossom, which floats whole down to the ground, only to decay within a day or two. So for the Japanese, the number five is pretty complicated, but that’s not out of character for the five.

Dramatic, n’est-ce-pas?

But the point is that the number five tells us a story about conflict and upheaval, change and, to an extent, destruction. This destruction is usually not total, as it can be in the number ten, which is truly a card of endings—some happy, some sad. The destruction of the five has to do with ego death, however. That which you thought was important no longer is. That which you’ve over-invested in emotionally is shown to be built on shaky ground. Fives show up in readings whenever you are being humbled, for a reason.

The supernatural Tengu, a dog-like monster-spirit. Buddhism long held that the tengu were disruptive demons and harbingers of war. Their image gradually softened, however, into one of protective, if still dangerous, spirits of the mountains and forests.

To err is human, but learning how to get your ego out of the way sufficiently to clean up your mess, divine. Hence the connection to the big Five in the Tarot, the Hierophant, whose esoteric, yet practical, wisdom, provides illumination into the purpose of the Five experience.

We’re not here to suffer meaninglessly; our suffering quite often shows us where we’ve gone wrong, where we misunderstand, or misjudge—either ourselves, or others.

If you believed he was faithful to you, the Five of Swords shows you were wrong; he’s stabbed you in the back. If you thought you could get back together again, the Five of Cups show you you were wrong; it’s time to let go and move on, find someone new who more accurately reflects who you really are.

The number five represents a turning point in a project or time of life. Whereas the four implies pausing to take a break, fives imply the time when we pick up the subject again, and take our first tentative steps forward. As you know from the images typically associated with the Five of Cups, though, those first tentative steps are painful and hesitant, mired as we still are in the raw emotions we can’t let go of just yet, due largely to ego attachment to outcome.

Although it might seem we dwell alone in this wasteland, the Five of Worlds/Pentacles tells us to reach out to others.

The Five experience is rocky precisely because we dwell in darkness—okay, nothing so melodramatic, but because half the time, we have no idea what we’re doing or why.

When your life is in turmoil and chaos, and you do nothing but fall down, only to have to pick yourself up again, you’re in a Five experience.

Living through a Five of Pentacles experience is about as low as you can get, until you realize you’re not letting anyone help you.

Stuck in ego, you honestly believe you can handle it alone, whatever it is. The five is there to tell you that you’re wrong. What you do with that knowledge is the learning process. Fight with it, struggle against it (as in the Five of Wands, when we struggle against our own better interests) and the learning takes longer.

It’s because fives are the first steps we take after the apparent solidity of the four that we are so vulnerable if something goes wrong. If you analyze your energy after something falls apart, or after it all comes together (whatever “it” is) there might be a time when you were sincerely giving it your all, but the problems that brought you to the original pause or break during the time-out of the four have not been dealt with, or even recognized consciously.

Five of Wands, revisioned as the spines of a chameleon. Although not specifically mentioned on the website, it seems to me the beauty of this card lies in the implication that we can change our own natures through the inner struggle we must go through at times.

It’s as though the four-five-six grouping of each suit (the middle numbers) tells you that yes, there are problems, but if you pay attention, here’s how you can fix them. In this way, the five continues on from the four and leads into the six for a form of resolution of the issue.

Created after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, this Five of Cups captures the message of mistakes made, loss, disappointment, and regret.

Sorrow, disappointment, regret. Unless you’re learning something from this self-torture, let it go.

The five experience is fragile. There’s a tipping point that’s been reached and remains largely unconscious during the four experience.

How often have you had a relationship break up—supposedly—but then you get back together again, only to find the same issues still threaten you with the potential of unforeseen obstacles?

We experience these obstacles in the Five of Pentacles, which is us, throwing up resistance to what is; or the Five of Cups, a card that shows when you wish things were different, better, even as you mourn what has been.

In the Five of Wands, any underlying issues you were ignoring during the relative calm of the Four of Wands comes back to haunt you. Unresolved conflicts resurface. An enemy tries to take you on, or a conflict with someone you hadn’t known was going to be a problem surfaces. The Five of Wands comes up when the inherent aggression, instability, and potential chaos of the number five becomes overt.

Perhaps there are office politics, or someone’s gossiping about you behind your back. In terms of overt conflict, if you push it, you can force this energy out into the open. In contrast, though, you might never see the Five of Swords experience coming, since Swords are, by nature, craftier than Wands.

Having a sense of humour during a five crisis reduces anxiety. Something every Bridezilla could learn from.

If you find yourself deep in the midst of five conflict, the first thing you can do to make everything better is ask yourself how you are contributing to the conflict. I like to watch Bridezillas, and this is an act of depth and maturity I often wish the Bridezilla would undergo: asking herself where she’s contributing to make the problem worse?

On Bridezillas, crazy banshee-women screech a lot and make everyone, including themselves, miserable. Their behavior illuminates the unnecessary amount of drama five problems bring with them; but we all know, those women could have handled their problems differently.

When we get to the relative peace and quiet of the six, it won’t be because we beat everyone to death—it will be because, like the Buddha, we learned how to be silent and still the inner conflict we all experience as part of the learning process.

Much like Devil’s Snare in the Harry Potter stories, the more you struggle, the faster it kills you. Therefore, the lesson of the fives is to stop struggling, and get out of your own way.

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