Strife: Conflict, Adversity, and Competition
The Five of Wands. Strife. Conflict. Adversity. Frustration. Disagreement. Competition. Struggle. Disharmony. The Five of Wands corresponds to the Sefirot of Geburah, and is the first card that can really be interpreted as negative. The Sefirot Geburah corresponds to upset – essentially, the destruction of the balance of Chesed. As such, the four Fives – all of which correspond to Geburah – are primarily negative cards, and represent the stable energy of their suit being destroyed – and the destruction of stability (particularly the “good” stability of Chesed) is rarely positive. In the Naples Arrangement, 5 corresponds to motion – those actions matter can take once it has come into being. These motions, however naturally upset the previous state of stability and balance, and so Geburah also represents to the first strong appearance of chaos and disharmony, particularly among Wands. The passionate energy of Fire and Wands is shifted from the realm of the positive to the realm of the negative. In particular, the Five of Wands represents a form of chaos in the form of conflict and disagreement; the opposite in many ways of “order.”
The Five of Wands has the distinction, as I said, of being the first “negative” of the Wands. The previous harmonious energy of Wands is thrown off and upset by the motion of Geburah, and so the suits energies now relate to its unstable aspects. As the suit of Passion, situations and individuals charged with the energy of Wands often have strong feelings about things and are very stubborn, and so often might come into conflict, which is the word that best describes this card. When many diverging opinions move (Geburah) and come together, all backed up by passionate and driving wills, discord, disagreement, and competition all will come to the fore, and it is in situations like these that the energy of the Five of Wands is revealed.
A second aspect of the Five of Wands – though related to the first – is the idea of frustration and adversity. Why can’t others see your point of view? Why is this so difficult? With regards to adversity, this card primarily refers to struggles and frustrations with regard to the actions of others, as opposed to the hassles that characterize cards like the Eight of Swords, Interference. Interpersonal conflict leading to conflict, competition and feelings of annoyance and frustration define the Five of Wands: the coming together of passionate, opposing wills.
The art on the Rider-Waite card shows a group of men fighting and struggling against each other, and I believe covers the meaning of the card very simply and with little need for explanation. The Thoth illustration shows, like many of the other Wand cards, crossed wands (signalling strength and passion) on a field of flame. Notice that the emanations coming from the wands are much more subdued than those of the previous cards, and the bright yellow background contrasts greatly with the darker reds of the main picture, signalling opposition. The birdlike heads of the upper back wands also seem to me to be menacing, threatening the wands below them.
In a reading, the Five of Wands asks you to review your current situation with regards to opposing, negative relationships with others; are the causes of your frustrations the actions of others? Is there discord in your group of acquaintances or coworkers? How is competition playing a role in your life? The idea of competition here is the least negative; sometimes from competition and strife, stronger individuals emerge. But sometimes not. In reverse, this card indicates perhaps a lesser disagreement between people, or that you feel like being argumentative but manage to hide it. It could also be that while you feel like you’re in a competitive and strife-filled environment, others don’t – or perhaps others see the environment as that way and you don’t!