It's funny the reaction you have to certain cards. It can vary deck to deck, depending on the images, sure, but for a long time my gut response to the 5 and 7 of Swords was, "Ugh! Sneaky, deceptive asshats!" When these cards appeared I knew someone, could be me, was up to no good. And by God, they're just relishing in their assiness! I mean just look at the poor fellow in the far distance in the 5 of Swords (left). Head bowed, face in his hands (sob!). The clouds look all ominous and that little prick in the foreground is just all full of himself, delighting in not only the fact that he's won all the swords, but also in his opponents' losses. And then we have the 7 of Swords thief on the right here, barely containing his self-satisified giggles over the fact that he's just gotten away with nicking five of somebody else's swords while they're all over there in the background oblivious to his treachery. If there's one thing I can't stand is duplicity or sneakiness. Just be straight with me, ok? When the 7 of Swords shows up I can be sure someone's keeping a secret and it's likely something to do with trying to pull one over on someone. Grrrr!
But hang on here just a minute. Let's get off our high horses...well, that would be my high horse I'm referring to, and take a closer look at these cards. While gut reactions tell me something important and often our first responses to are card are the correct ones, I found as I studied tarot that I needed to get past my predjudices and kneejerk responses in order to see both the light and the dark aspects of each and every card. Because they're there...yes, even in images seemingly repugnant. As with even the Devil, a more shadowy figure you would be hard pressed to find, there is a positive message to be found.
First, the suit is Swords, which represents air: communication, thought, words, active response to a mental process, and yes, conflict. 5 of Swords depicts the end of a battle. A time when "clearing the field" belonged to the victor, usually by pages, who brought the weapons back to the winning side. The clouds, though they may seem ominous at first, are breaking and clearing. The fighting has stopped. There are losses, probably heavy losses, on both sides. There are times when it's just no use to keep fighting. The figure on the left of the card maintains a certain repose, dignity, and confidence in light of his defeat. While the far figure certainly is taking it hard, this one seems quite ok with the decision. Did he simply drop his sword and walk away? There are times it is far wiser to do that rather than continue a fight that is just not worth the effort. Yet, the smug satisfaction on the central figure is not entirely out of place either. When one puts forth one's best effort and comes out the victor, is it wrong to feel good about that? I've seen this card come up numerous times in career readings where a sought after position is highly competitive and the understanding is that you will likely have a tough time showing your worth, but if you give it all you've got, you may just get that job. And yes, the others who wanted the job and didn't get it have two choices: walk on with head held high to other opportunities, or spend some time feeling really bad you didn't make the cut. And who wouldn't raise a fist to the air and shout, "Yes!"after receiving word you got it, you got that job, promotion, or contract? The 5 of Swords, more than anything, asks the querant to think a moment: Is this worth it? Someone will win and someone will lose, and only you can decide if going for the brass ring is worth the cost.
Likewise with the 7 of Swords, the first thing to remember is that Swords have more to do with mental activity and communication. Certainly this guy is pleased with his seeming act of treachery...or is it so bad as all that? Could it be that he is merely retrieving stolen property? He's acting alone, so maybe he's cooked up this hair-brained scheme by himself. Or maybe he just didn't want to risk anyone else's head on a platter but his own. This young thug may be a hero, we just don't know. And that's really the point of the card: we don't know because he's not telling. He's keeping his own counsel, planning his own actions, and carrying them out alone. This card can advise the reader to keep quiet about his/her thoughts for the time being, until the right time to tell. Sometimes that's the wisest course of action. See if your plan works before you go blabbing about it.
While my initial reactions to the images remain viable interpretations of these cards, thinking through the images and the possibilities helps me see various facets that open the meanings up to any number of possibilities and situations.
I still think they're asshats. But even asshats have their moments.