Cards for the Day: 8 of Cups/5 of Swords: Victory through Embracing Defeat

Eight of Chalices--Samurai Tarot

“It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” How often do we really realize how true this is? Let me put it another way by telling a story. This is an old Zen story, and I’ve forgotten where I first saw it. And I’ve also forgotten most of the story, except for the punchline. But that’s the best part. A warlord met a Zen master (in circumstances that I have forgotten), and said to him, “Do you know who I am? I could run my sword right through you and think nothing of it!” And the Zen master laughed and replied, “Do you know who I am? You could run your sword right through me and I would think nothing of it!”

Do you see what I’m trying to say yet?

Eight of Chalices--Samurai TarotMy cards today are about acceptance and defeat. The Eight of Cups shows a monk meditating under a waterfall, a practice that is all about learning to be present and learning to embrace adversity — even, to see the glory in accepting adversity. There is something heroic about this practice. Do you realize how cold that water must be? Look at the image and consider how high in the mountains this location is. So, acceptance. For the sake of a strong spirit.

The Five of Swords, a card that in most systems represents defeat, represents not only defeat in the Samurai Tarot, but also courage. It’s about charging full out into battle with the courage of a Gye Baek. Totally outnumbered. Certain to die. Yet reveling in the moment anyway. Again we find acceptance. For the sake of a strong spirit. Five of Swords--Samurai Tarot

In fact, in both cases, we see acceptance that moves beyond simple acceptance into an actual embrace of adverse circumstances.

In fact, when you embrace adverse circumstances in this way, it changes the rules of the game — and most certainly changes your experience of the game. If you walk into certain defeat with your head held high, the strong spirit you show in that situation becomes an incredible inspiration to others — and causes you to become a moral victor even if you lose the battle or even your life. It changes the rules of the game because you win on a spiritual level even if you have lost on the material plane. In fact, charging into a negative situation with a strong spirit and with a dignified acceptance of certain defeat can, in some cases, transform the situation. It can touch the hearts of your opponents and cause them to back down. Because once you take the thing you were about to fight over (in the case of  a battle, your lives) and you make the point that you are willing to simply give that thing up — resistance tends to evaporate. You find your opponents saying to each other, “well, what is the point of fighting now?” And they give up. Or, they don’t — and they win the battle, but lose the war for the hearts of all those who watched the battle and were inspired by your strong warrior spirit.

This is a long way of saying that it seems the odds are against us today–but that’s not necessarily a bad position to be in. Hold your head up and keep your dignity. Take time for meditation, even if you can’t find a waterfall to meditate under. Show your strong warrior spirit even if the odds are indeed against you. Some things truly are more important than winning.


    1. Oh my goodness. Thank you; I’m very honored and thrilled! I will answer the questions you’ve posed in a post as soon as I can–I have a bit of a backlog of posts to write, lol, but will eventually get to it. I’m very honored that you took the time to include me in this award nomination.


  1. That is the hands down best advice / guide I have ever heard on these two cards together… Profoundly true, profoundly beautiful. .. Thank you:)


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