Five of Wands with Nine of Cups

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Tarot Illuminati by Erik C. Dunne

To the victor goes the spoils is one of those expressions that makes me cringe. Maybe because it sounds so self-congratulatory, the fact that someone bested their opponent means they are now entitled to their stuff, their land, their tv, their wives and husbands, their pet ferrets.

Doesn’t it just fill you with pride when you reflect on how apropos this expression is in reference to those moments in our past that make us giggle and smile, like the European displacement of indigenous peoples from the lands of [insert territory or continent here], or the cute and charming slap fights that replay endlessly in the Middle East over abiogenic petroleum?

The whole principle distills down to this: someone was worse at a challenge than you so you get to take whatever they previously owned. If they can’t defend it they don’t deserve it. Makes you feel all warmy and glowy inside, doesn’t it? This aggression-fueled avarice ain’t big enough for the both of us.

If we have to obtain something by way of defeating another and taking it from them, then that which we have taken is essentially hexed. I’m not talking about game or sports oriented attainments, such as trophies or belts or titles or other events that make us sit shoulder-to-shoulder with other aficionados or on our couch with a bowl of chicken rinds. I’m talking about conquests, muggings, exploitation, Manifest Destiny, Operation Freedom, congressional votes won by way of which corporations can best afford the most pliable members of Congress.

I say to gain through someone else’s loss is essentially hexed because the acquisition plays host to the viruses that are carried on the backs of the victims’ grief and misery. We may believe that which we’ve taken brings us joys and pleasures through padding our source of means, but those means have within its inherent bones and DNA and internal structure the decay which inevitably consumes itself from the inside.

With the exception of battles which involve points and mascots and fans that can disperse to their beds and homes and cars when all is done, no conflict has any winners if it has losers. There is no gain that occurs at someone else’s loss. When someone suffers a profound loss, we all do. As long as we stand on the same terra firma and breath the same nitrogen/oxygen mix, we are all interconnected. We can talk ourselves into the illusion of perceived insulation (thanks, ego) so that we can take from another with a false sense of impunity, but we are really only taking from ourselves. A gain by way of another’s loss is really a loan that is impossible to pay and encumbered with soul compressing debt.

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Five of Wands

Five of Wands
A group of boys brandish a set of sticks, raising them in what appears to be an act of showy bravado

When we are actively pursuing our goals and dreams there are times that we will encounter adversity. This adversity sometimes comes in the form of challenges from other people, where there may be a battle of wills, where another person is competing against us for a favorable position in pursuit of the same goal.

It is during these times that we may feel we need to fight harder, to be more aggressive, to be on the offensive a bit more. We believe we need to show our adversaries that we are determined to win, and whatever is thrown at us to keep us back will only make us more determined to become the victor in our battles against them.

This is when we need to be careful not to lose sight of our objective, of what our goals are. The determination to win can become dangerously precarious to eclipsing our actual objective. It can become more important for us to defeat our adversary rather than to accomplish what we set out to achieve. As a result, the energy we put into becoming a fierce competitor ends up siphoning off the energy required to accomplish our goals.

This is not to say competition is detrimental to success. Competition can provide us a bit of extra incentive. It can encourage us to uncover skills, traits, and talents we were not aware we had. It can provide the impetus to develop our abilities that much further, enabling us to excel in striving to meet our purpose. We do best, however, when we allow ourselves to see competition as a friendly rivalry, when we recognize that it is really a game, that there is true value in every loss as well as every win. We can benefit most from the value of competitiveness when we see it as a tool for self-improvement rather than an assessment of our own value based on whether we win or lose.