Reflection on The Three of Swords

I woke up this morning from a wonderful dream depicting scenes of romantic love (yes, involving me!), so as I laid out my daily Tree of Life spread, I closed my eyes and thought about the transcendent power of love in all its richest dimensions. It has been a long time—decades, even—since I’ve truly felt its full effect upon me in a relationship! But feeling hopeful today, I “asked” the cards to tell me something about the possible return of love to my own life.

And a promising reading it looked to be, with all sorts of fortunate cards appearing—the Ace of Cups, the Four and Six of Wands, and The Emperor and the Prince of Wands exerting their influences of fiery phallic energy. Smack in the middle of the spread, however, was The Moon, a card of mystery and the unconscious, and a visual representation of the power of things unseen. I generally ascribe a positive meaning to this card unless it is surrounded by some “bad company” such as the Ten of Swords, but even when well aspected, it can pose as many questions as it purports to answer because it communicates to us in the language of intuition and the dream. So, seeking some further development on the matter of love, I reshuffled the cards and turned one up:

IIISilly me for even asking!

In one way, this could be seen as an example of the adage “Be careful what you ask for” being put into everyday practice, but it it also a helpful reminder that we cannot approach love in its truest and most exalted aspects without going willfully—even gladly—into that “mystery world” personified by The Moon. The Three of Swords is what happens within ourselves when we actively resist.

The suit of Swords, after all, is the suit in the Tarot of ego and will, those “powers and principalities of the air” within us that establish ourselves as separate and discrete beings in the material plane. As we have discussed in previous posts, these elements of psyche are necessary in our formative years, and this is one reason why the spiritual realm attributed to Swords—Yetzirah—is called the World of Formation. But ego and will are also, in their most fully realized adult manifestations, actively opposed to love. Will seeks to conquer and ego seeks to control, both of which are anathema to love, which seeks only to surrender and to liberate. When we try to constrain love’s selfless aspirations with ego’s selfish machinations, we put our relationships on a painful and sorrowful arc that—more often than not—culminates in endless recrimination and scapegoating. (I plead guilty to this!) It is a karmic law of the universe, and it is one of the biggest reasons why so many people end up in unsatisfying relationships that come to grievous ends. Metaphorically speaking, when we take a sword to a goblet, we shatter the vessel, and the living waters that we rely on for our spiritual sustenance spill out of it.

As with all of the Threes, there is a religious function implied in the Three of Swords, and in that vein, perhaps it is a good time to remember the words of a messenger of God’s love written two thousand years ago and still true today: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. In short, love is not ego. Most of all, love is the most profound expression of faith we can ever make, and faith—that “evidence of things unseen”—is what beckons us onto the path depicted in The Moon: it may look dark and foreboding, but walking in faith, we eventually exit the darkness and enter the kingdom of limitless light.

The Three of Swords is best thought, then, as a reminder that love is not found in men’s minds but in men’s hearts—and if we are feeling heartbroken in love, we should look inside ourselves to see how much of our pain has been entirely self-inflicted. Chances are, it’s a lot more than we’d ever care to admit. No one ever likes to see this card appear in a spread—except, perhaps, reversed, where the swords can fall away, and the heart can be made whole again—but it can teach us a great deal about ourselves if we would only allow it to speak to our quarrelsome natures, that we might soothe our troubled hearts.

Dante DiMatteo

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