Three of Swords


A symbol of a human heart is pierced by three crossed swords. Behind them, thick storm clouds rain down a shower of tears.

This is one of the more unambiguous cards in the Waite deck, and it reminds us what occurs when our “split minds” go unhealed for too long as implied by the static unmoving figure in the Two. It also reminds us, as per Rachel Pollack’s interpretation of the Two, of the futility of defensive attitudes and behaviors that become a self-fulfilling prophecy of despair. No matter how protective we are of ourselves—no matter how many suits of armor we don to shield ourselves from others—there will always be some time in our lives when sadness and sorrow creep into our hearts: the passing of a close friend or relative, a romantic split-up, a setback in one’s career. The lesson of the Three, then—as with the Four of Cups—is the need for our acceptance of this so that the process of grieving can run its course, so we can carry on with our lives. The number three signifies a religious aspect to this card, too, which should remind us that tears can be shed in ecstasy as well as in sadness—but either way, we have to be willing to release the feelings of loss before we can truly know joy. Our feelings are important, and should be acknowledged, but we don’t need to give them the power to make us miserable forever.

Meanings of this card can include all of the traditional attributions: Sorrow, sadness, mourning, the grieving process begun, acceptance of sorrow, stoicism in the face of tragedy; but also self-pity, depression, refusal to release bad energies, “carrying a torch” for too long a time,  the “black cloud” that seems to linger over some people’s heads. Once we have finally made peace with ourselves over the inevitability of sadness, we can begin the healing process when sadness makes its presence felt in our lives. Generally, this takes some time and reflection—often in deepest seclusion, as we will see tomorrow.

Dante DiMatteo

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