Thirteen's Avatar
Thirteen  Thirteen is offline
The Thirteenth Moon
 
Join Date: 17 Sep 2001
Location: Pluto
Posts: 8,760
Thirteen 
Question Bohemian Gothic-Five of Swords


I find this a very odd card. It looks to be a page from Beauty and the Beast. Our beast--or werebeast (is he always this creature or only during the full moon?), glares and growls at the maiden. She shies away on the garden bench, hand to her heart, body language indicating startlement and fear. But her expression is very odd. Like she knows she has the upper hand. Like the beast's show of temper thrills/excites her, but doesn't alarm her.

The typical Rider-Waite version of the 5/Swords is a bully who has won swords in duels, and the loser of one such duel walking away dejectedly. The typical meaning is all about failure and defeat, or, on the other side, empty victories. The bully is cruelly humiliating his opponents, but winning nothing of substance. The losers are humiliated, and they realize that it was a losing battle.

When I first saw this 5/Swords, I had trouble connecting it to the usual meaning, or understanding how it fit in with swords and communications. There is no sword evident in the scene. But on closer inspection, there does seem to be an argument going on. As with all these cards, there is a story. And I suspect the story is that the woman on the bench is responsible for our beast--that she's less Beauty, the captive of the beast, and more Circe, creator of him. He comes at her, threatening, showing his teeth. But the terror she shows him is mock terror. He can't win this argument.

That works for understanding the connection between the usual 5/Swords and this one, but I'm still baffled. Why this scenario for 5/Swords? The beast and the beauty? Why that setting? Her on a garden bench? What about the beast's royal purple suit? A lot of the sword cards suggest the Rider Cards--like 6/Swords and it's boat and 2/Swords and it's blindfolded woman. This one doesn't. Why go for this scenario and these characters to get across the meaning of the 5/Swords?
Top   #1
Essjay's Avatar
Essjay  Essjay is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 09 Feb 2008
Location: World
Posts: 3,779
Essjay 

I feel your confusion with this card. I agree that she seems to be the one holding all the cards, so to speak. It appears that he has snuck up on her and is expecting it to be easy, an easy victim but as she turns he realises his mistake. Her face, her teeth suggest that it is a very one-sided battle and he has definately bitten off more than he can chew.
Top   #2
baba-prague's Avatar
baba-prague  baba-prague is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 24 Nov 2002
Location: Prague, wonderful Prague, Czech Republic
Posts: 7,626
baba-prague 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thirteen
Why this scenario for 5/Swords? The beast and the beauty? Why that setting? Her on a garden bench? What about the beast's royal purple suit? A lot of the sword cards suggest the Rider Cards--like 6/Swords and it's boat and 2/Swords and it's blindfolded woman. This one doesn't. Why go for this scenario and these characters to get across the meaning of the 5/Swords?
What we wanted to do was to emphasise the aspects of this card that are about cheating, deception and winning by using unfair methods. The woman in the card has a torn blouse - she seems to have had a fight with the werewolf. But... and this is what, to me, makes it interesting, we aren't sure who actually won the fight. I think she did - and that she has some hold over the wolf. He no doubt expected this to be an easy victory; by now, he should have torn her to pieces. But in fact, she is looking at him with a thoroughly "come hither" look (and there is also the suspicion that she's laughing at him).

Of course, the scene also parodies a classic love pose - her sitting posed on the pretty bench, her lover bent over her (see the Two of Cups, which is reminiscent of this same set up). But the reality is that he would like to eat her - and she has other plans. Who is the innocent here? I think neither of them are, but my hunch is that she is the one who will come out of this victorious, and that the (poor?) wolf has been well and truly deceived by this maiden.
Top   #3
baba-prague's Avatar
baba-prague  baba-prague is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 24 Nov 2002
Location: Prague, wonderful Prague, Czech Republic
Posts: 7,626
baba-prague 

I should probably also add that I was very influenced in this card by Angela Carter's retelling of Beauty and the Beast in her story, "The Tiger's Bride". In it, the bride actually joins the beast - rather than him becoming human, she becomes a tiger. In our card, I wanted to imply that the woman has decided that she welcomes the werewolf's bite that will also turn her into a werewolf (she knows he won't kill her, but instead will transform her). She is excited, even thrilled, by the thought of unleasing the beast in herself.

This moves the card far more from the traditional Five of Swords, but what I like is that it plays with the fact that we may find the idea of becoming the predator and the victor quite exciting. It invites us to imagine ourselves as the "nasty" character of the Five and asks us how we would feel about that.

I can get a bit obsessed with Angela Carter at times. I seem to leave her writing alone for a few years and then come back to it. She was one of the strong influences on this deck - we perhaps share the same black and very feminist humour at times.
Top   #4
baba-prague's Avatar
baba-prague  baba-prague is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 24 Nov 2002
Location: Prague, wonderful Prague, Czech Republic
Posts: 7,626
baba-prague 

Sorry, I will stop in a minute! But please also compare this card with the Two of Cups (as I say, the scenario is very similar). My reading of the Two of Cups is that the sweet young woman is really a bit too sweet. Her upstanding lover is a bit too solid and conservative and buttoned-up (he is SO tweedy, isn't he?). The kind of man your mother might want you to marry, but hardly one to bring any excitement.

I think we can also choose to see a situation in which the woman has decided to join the "dark side" (if that's what it is). I think she knows quite well who lives in the castle, and what will happen if she sits unprotected in that garden at night. She is waiting, and anticipating.

One difference is that in the Two, I think the woman will be an equal partner to the vampire (or so she thinks). In the Five, she is just using the werewolf to get what she wants - which is the kind of wild power that was outside the reach of a woman in conventional society.

By the way, many of the BG cards play against each other visually in a similar way. I think in readings it can really help if you look for these patterns.
Top   #5

Thirteen's Avatar
Thirteen  Thirteen is offline
The Thirteenth Moon
 
Join Date: 17 Sep 2001
Location: Pluto
Posts: 8,760
Thirteen 

Quote:
Originally Posted by baba-prague
Sorry, I will stop in a minute! But please also compare this card with the Two of Cups
Thank you so much for coming in with the inside story on this card. I actually did think of the 2/Cups while I was examining this card for this thread, and I assumed it was no accident that in both cases the lovers are on outdoor benches--suggesting vulnerability, trust (misplaced perhaps) and a willingness to try new experiences. Also, in both cases there's some question as to who is the dangerous one--and I think we agree that in both cases the woman has the man fooled if he thinks he's dealing with an innocent victim.

Quote:
I think we can also choose to see a situation in which the woman has decided to join the "dark side" (if that's what it is). I think she knows quite well who lives in the castle, and what will happen if she sits unprotected in that garden at night. She is waiting, and anticipating.
I was wondering about that as well! As I said, it's quite clear (at least to me) that while her body language is all drama and fear, her expression is one of triumph. That expression, above anything else in the card, connects the strongest (IMHO) to the 5/Swords. It's an expression that indicates a plan to dominate, to win, to be victorious. An expression that says she's got her opponent right where she wants him!--and that really fits the usual, sword-winning bully in the card. You know he's tricking those fencers into underestimating him; you know he's dug up ways to distract them and take advantage of their weaknesses; it's why he keeps winning. This woman on the bench is doing the same. Very apt!

Thinking about, I can see how the beast works as well. The 5/Swords usually warns that getting into an argument is a bad idea, as you'll lose. It also warns against being over confident. Yet we all have our buttons, all have our inner "beasts" as it were, and our arrogance. If the prey is out there looking like an easy kill--and taunting us--we often can't help but pounce. Thus, the warning of this card does jive with the 5/Swords--your enemy is deliberately pushing your buttons to rouse the beast, and looking like an easy kill to make you over confident. They want you to attack. If you do, however, your enemy will easily outwit and win the battle. They will gain power over you.

Which, by the way, is very much how I see the card. I don't know that you intended it or not, but I really get the feeling that the girl doesn't just want to be a wolf-woman; I really think she has more up her sleeve, a magic trick or trap to leash that wolf. Maybe it's because I've seen too many of the old wolfman movies, but I keep remembering all those gypsy girls who had control over the beasts with wolfbane or some other magical herb. It fits the 5/Swords (at least for me) to imagine that if her scheme works, she'll not only have her own power (sword) but take his from him as well.

Quote:
By the way, many of the BG cards play against each other visually in a similar way. I think in readings it can really help if you look for these patterns.
I have been noticing that, and I can say from reading with them that you've right. They link together in ways few other decks do, and are marvelously easy to read. I appreciate also the reoccurring themes and symbols, obvious ones like skulls and moonlight, and subtle ones like winding paths and mirrors.
Top   #6
Essjay's Avatar
Essjay  Essjay is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 09 Feb 2008
Location: World
Posts: 3,779
Essjay 

Thank you too for the insights. I must have another look at the card as I don't think that I have noticed her torn blouse before.

I find the fact that some of the cards mirror each other very interesting, again I must start looking for that. Just when you think you understand a card I realise that there is a whole layer that I've missed. I think the only Angela Carter that I've read is The Magic Toy Shop which had a wonderful gothic and creepy glamour about it.
Top   #7
baba-prague's Avatar
baba-prague  baba-prague is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 24 Nov 2002
Location: Prague, wonderful Prague, Czech Republic
Posts: 7,626
baba-prague 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thirteen
really think she has more up her sleeve, a magic trick or trap to leash that wolf. Maybe it's because I've seen too many of the old wolfman movies, but I keep remembering all those gypsy girls who had control over the beasts with wolfbane or some other magical herb. It fits the 5/Swords (at least for me) to imagine that if her scheme works, she'll not only have her own power (sword) but take his from him as well.
Oh that's very interesting, I hadn't actually thought of that and yes, it really does work.
Top   #8
swimming in tarot's Avatar
swimming in tarot  swimming in tarot is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: 31 Jan 2009
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Posts: 798
swimming in tarot 

To put it another way, he's only a werewolf during the full moon, whereas she's a "passive predator" all the time.
Top   #9
Thirteen's Avatar
Thirteen  Thirteen is offline
The Thirteenth Moon
 
Join Date: 17 Sep 2001
Location: Pluto
Posts: 8,760
Thirteen 

Quote:
Originally Posted by swimming in tarot
To put it another way, he's only a werewolf during the full moon, whereas she's a "passive predator" all the time.
Nicely said!
Top   #10
Elsewhere on the Tarot Forum
Popular Tarot Boards
· Using Tarot Cards
· Talking Tarot
· Tarot Spreads
· Tarot Decks
· Rider-Waite-Smith

Special Interest Boards
· Astrology
· Crystals & Herbs
· Divination
· Lenormand
· Spirituality

Popular Tarot Threads
· Pet Peeves
· Timing of cards
· Interesting tarot pairs
· The Moon as how someone feels
· The World as feelings

More Tarot Threads
· Cards for certain events
· Tarot meanings for health
· List of Tarot Questions
· Can Tarot be Dangerous?
· List of Tarot Myths



Elsewhere on Aeclectic Tarot
· Tarot Cards & Reviews
· Free Tarot Readings
· Tarot eBooks
· Tarot Card Meanings

Copyright © 1996 - 2021 Aeclectic Tarot. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy. Contact us. About us.