The Gothic Tarot by Vargo – Five Of Swords


This card is a bloody one, a card of defeat. A king was defeated and killed by his jester. The jester, dressed in black and white, and triomphant, is sit on the king's throne; he smiles malisciously. He holds the king's head on top of a wand, the king still wearing his crown. The throne is a the top of the fourth step, a red carpet leading to the throne. Five skulls are on the steps, and there is a sword in each of these skulls.

A powerful and ressourceful king was defeated, by his jester no less. It's like a lion being defeated by a thorn. The well establish power being destroyed. A successful rebellion.


Evil hides in the most unexpected places, cleverly disguised. No doubt the king valued his jester and thought he was a loyal subject, probably underestimating him ("He's just the jester; he can't be a threat").

At the same time, though, the jester has not really gained anything. He is sitting in a stolen throne to which he has no proper claim, and I get the feeling that the swords represent the jester stabbing people in the back to get his way, rather than support for the jester. He may have won a battle, but his victory is shortlived, and has caused far-reaching problems.

Nobody has won as a result of his actions; not the King, not the jester, not the people.


I can’t tell if it was the dead king’s jester or not – but it’s obvious he was done in by a clown a malevolent joker, a humorless humorist….

The books all describe the Five of Swords as “Dark Victory” – well this card illustrates the epitome of dark victory.

…and now the murderous comedian is leering at us….

The clown has two sword to his right, and three to his left (nicely symbolic).

But whenever I look at this card I am reminded that only fools leave tracks their enemies can follow, and that only a fool shoots people in public – this fool’s reign is temporary…


A short-lived victory, won at extreme costs? (That's a lot of blood on those steps, and some of it looks to be the jester's own).

Questionable moral decisions lead to advancement that may come at too extreme a price upon the querent?

The jester looks to me, with his feet upon two steps like that, as if he just climbed the top step, swivelled, sat and has had only just a moment to "leer" at us, he has only begun to taste his victory when this image appeared.

Short-lived or not, his posture seems defiant for those who will come to challenge it. He won't let go of the grip he has on that throne without a fight.


Vargo's cards were based on earlier works, you can see some of them on his website. This card is called King of Fools.

That name is very meaningful...


V of Swords

This card is very disturbing to me....especially as someone who has an aversion to clowns in general....

The court jester has overtaken the King and sits proudly on his evil grin spreads across his face and his vacant eyes betray not a hint of remorse or human emotion. In his right hand, he waves his trophy in the air: the King's head, mounted on the end of his staff, a look of surprise and horror frozen just below the tarnished crown. Blood flows down upon the jester's arm and chest...the same blood-red color that paints his lips. His bloody left hand clutches the arm of the throne, long black claws leaving marks in the stone.

The five swords are each embedded in a human skull; they line the blood-covered stairway leading to the throne and serve as a warning to anyone who may consider trying to remove the new king....he has fought and defeated at least five men in his pursuit of the kingdom.

Now his sixth victim is being exploited in a gruesome display of victory...the jester looks like he is ready to jump down from the throne and whirl into a strange little dance....

:) Luna


"Ne nah, ne nah-nah...." I hear this childhood taunt every time I see this card. The melody came up a few months ago, as we were looking at the placement of the skulls. They look like bizarre quarter notes, the skulls punctured by swords. And the melody they play is a jest, a taunt....

This was my card yesterday... "You cannnnn't getttttt meeeeeee...." :p Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaa... I'm stronger, smarter, and wilier than THAT.

Everyone sees this card as so "bad," but hellfire and brimstone... it took guts and wackiness to get what this jester wanted outta life. He took charge, he wasn't afraid to face the opposition before him in order to get what he wanted. IF he was the one behind this massacre...

But... everyone is so quick to point fingers at our jester... do we really *know* that he was the one who made this bloody mess? Or was he just the last one standing, once it was all said and done... the only one left to claim the throne, because his *cunning* kept him alive, while others around him "lost their heads," and perished.

My husband is so fond of this card, he scanned it from my deck and now uses it for computer wallpaper... :D

Edited to add: Last one standing. The more I think about it, the more I feel this is what the card says to me. If compared to a traditional RWS image, we see someone who turns his back on his friends, acting in the way he feels right and garnishing his own rewards (swords) because of it.

Here, the jester has the last laugh. })

And, for those who are interested, I believe the Vargo book Tales from the Dark Tower has a short story dedicated to this image as well.


Five of Swords

A very wicked looking jester sits upon a throne made of stone. He is surrounded by five swords that have been stuck through five skulls. On the top of the throne a sixth skull is mounted in between two stone wings that top the phallic back rest of the throne. A set of risers lead up to the throne; a red carpet covers the path right to the chair. The jester brandishes a long staff, a top of which is the head of the most recent king. His crown is still resting upon his head. Upon the face is a look of deadly surprise. Fresh blood is still dripping down the hand and arm of the depraved jester. There is also blood spattered on his clothing, the throne and on the top level of the throne riser. There is no evidence of the body of the former king. The jester is adorned in a fairly typical outfit but the black and white coloring makes it far less festive. He wears leering grin on his face and his hands end in claws, giving away his lack of humanity.

This is one of the most disturbing cards in the whole deck. It exudes duplicity and ruthlessness. Based on the morbid display of skulls throughout the card, it seems that this is the normal method of ascendance to the throne in this kingdom. The jester looks less than stable as the grizzly display of his handy work suggests. I am not sure that he is working on his own accord; it seems that he may be the agent of some powerful clan. His elimination of this human monarch being the final move in a political game of positioning and power, allowing the vampire clan to expand their realm or possibly eliminating a major rival. If this macabre clown is keeping the throne, the fiefdom is in for a whole lot of misery.


I did some research in An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols by JC Cooper.
A Jester was lowest in rank in the court, although he would take the King's place in ritual sacrifes (as a scapegoat). The King represents the forces of law and order, the Jester the forces of chaos. That's why a Jester could say anything he wanted.
I found another thing that could be interesting when I looked up the symbolism of heads. Apparantly 'head-hunters' believed they gained the powers of the person they beheaded.