5 of Wands

Five youths stand on a hard trodden field. They each hold budding poles that are almost too thick to be held in one hand and are so long as to be unsuitable for close combat. Yet they are almost on top of each other in strife, play, or both. The cloudless sky frames them above and the featureless ground holds them below. There is a sense that this is a game that has gotten far out of hand, and there is no play left in the players.

Fight! That word brings all the kids running to the field and all the adults running after them hoping to break up the nonsense before someone gets seriously hurt. Fight! The game announces the beginning of the round and the players talk trash to each other as pixelated renditions of their fantasies tear into each other on the screen until the losing player takes revenge by throwing his drink on the winner.

It’s not really a fight, every participant says. “We were just goofing around. We didn’t mean it. It just got out of hand for a while.” This is what the Five of Wands portrays, that moment where it’s not fun anymore and now there’s a point to be had. When it stops being just a game and becomes a battle for dominance. When the kids stop playing at being heroes and start showing why they should be given a hero’s treatment.

The secret to understanding this card is while the description may be all about children, its application is all about life. Here is the office spat that turns into a series of sabotage. The colleague willing to break the business if it means getting rid of you. Here is the friendly baking competition turning nasty, with sugar being laced with salt. Here is when what should have been just a gentle nudge between friends devolves into a lingering scorn between bitter enemies.

As bad as this card sounds on a good day, when ill-dignified it becomes worse. The conflict that could have been settled with just talking it out now becomes open war. What was just trash-talking and verbal sniping becomes a campaign of gossip and slander. There is no reconciliation when this card turns ill. The best thing for the Querent to do at this point is to cut losses and withdraw from the field. The opponent may claim victory, but it is false and hollow.