Reflections on The Three of Swords

From today’s one-card reading:

Q: Since I moved back into my mother’s house to care for her, I’ve been having some vivid dreams at night, and they’ve sometimes been disquieting and upsetting. Last night I dreamed I was living in New York, and that my mother and sister were coming to visit me. I had to go out on a cold rainy night to meet them at a bus stop, and when I found them, they were both frail, elderly and infirm in appearance, wearing tattered nightclothes and shivering in the cold. “Help us!” they said, “we’re cold and lost!” “You’re in New York now!” I replied. “You can’t just show up looking like this and expect not to feel a chill! Why didn’t you dress accordingly? It freezes here!” They both gave me a lost and forlorn look, and realizing my obligation to them, I said, “Okay, follow me” as I led them back to my apartment, looking back from time to time to see them shivering in the night air and wishing that they would go away and leave me alone. Not long after, I woke up feeling agitated and angry.

A: Of course you did. This is why:

III

Amazing how this Tarot stuff works, now, isn’t it?

The querent is wrestling—obviously—with what he perceives to be his familial obligations at a very stressful time in his life, and the emotional strain of the experience has brought about a state of emotional backlash: A resentment of these obligations and a desire to be forever free from them. Oh, to be able to sleep in his own bed in the city again after so many lonely weeks in the suburbs!

Needless to say, the querent is trapped in an ego-driven state of inner conflict that manifests itself in the dream as showing insensitivity, if not abject cruelty, to the pain being felt by others—is it only a coincidence that there are three characters in the querent’s dream and three swords piercing the heart in the Three of Swords?—but which is only a reflection of the pain that he is inflicting, however unwittingly, upon himself.

The Three of Swords—along with the Nine and the Ten of the same suit—is one of the cards in the Tarot deck that forces us most urgently to come to terms with any feelings of loss and despair that we have allowed to follow us throughout our lives. Caring for an ailing parent is trying indeed, and perhaps even more so when one’s only sibling, who would normally be expected to carry a share of the burden of home care, is recovering from surgery and is, essentially, disabled. The querent, therefore, should accept the reality that his resentment-borne-of-frustration is simply a stage through which he must pass before coming to a greater understanding of himself and his role within the family—which is, after all, but a microcosm of the world writ large. Life doesn’t always give us what we want—but if we are willing to be patient with ourselves and empathetic to the sufferings of others, we eventually earn a state of grace that enables us to transcend the vain strivings of ego—to actuate, in the querent’s case, the mature masculine that lives inside him. This is the ultimate goal of his path-work, and it takes a lifetime to realize. We’re all entitled to lose our temper from time to time, but we can’t allow intemperance to govern our waking lives. If we do, dreams such as the querent’s ensue.  

Dante DiMatteo

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