The Three of Swords is the realization and acknowledgement of hard truths, and the analysis of what others prefer to ignore. It is the awareness of suffering, the nature of heartbreak. Though it may be difficult, facing these truths will ultimately yield a much clearer understanding of what reality genuinely is.
Don’t be afraid of the dark, chaotic waters of the mind and heart. For it is in these waters that, while uncomfortable to go there, hold a valuable lesson for each and every one of us. This is the stuff that most people like to kick under the rug, or to avoid looking at until it comes crashing down on them. Embracing the hard truths early on can lead to peace of mind, if we are willing to resolve it ahead of time.
The Three of Swords represents the nature of suffering and sorrow; the feelings that come along with the realization of hard truths. This is looking at the things which most people kick under the rug and dare not acknowledge. Do not be afraid – for in the depths of our pain we can truly understand joy. We need to learn from our experiences in darkness to understand how we acted to create them in the first place and move back towards the light. Though it is important to remember not to take a lot of action from this place, as we may be in a state of wanting to act rashly; instead allow ourselves to feel these deeper, darker feelings within us and learn from them, and move into a clearer state before doing anything.
In a cosmic sense, this card represents the melancholy of the created universe. The airy element of the mind loves to be free, and by the power of Binah on the Tree of Life this free-flowing element finds structure, and both birth and death come into being simultaneously – the Alpha and the Omega. In this there is the creation of suffering, simply by the limitations imposed upon the physical reality. It is not “bad”, but simply exists, though when directly experienced without the complete picture it can be crushing.
Thus, this card embodies the energy of despair, secrecy, passion, heartbreak, facing hard truths and sorrow. This is shown by a Patch character sinking into the depths of a dark and stormy ocean being stabbed by three swords in the center of their heart, causing the once peaceful blue rose to erupt and burst open.
This is one of the most emotionally driven sword cards, unique to the suit because most of the sword cards represent very cutting logic, and are generally devoid of emotion.
While many of us prefer to avoid feelings of sorrow or negativity, they come to us for a very specific reason, with very specific lessons we must learn. All emotions have lessons to teach us, and some of the most profound wisdom comes from experiencing the depths of your pain. Our greatest fear is the feeling of fear itself, we do nearly all we can to avoid feeling afraid and put up a facade so we don’t have to look at what causes us to be afraid.
The Three of Swords asks us to face the hard truths we may have been avoiding. It’s time to analyze them by using both our emotions and our mental energy. This can be a very painful and uncomfortable time, but growth always stems from diving deep into ourselves, and facing our inner shadows without being afraid of them.
Allow this to be a time of exploration without judgement. See the problems in your life, both internal and external, examine them closely, objectively, and with an open heart. Try to see how we played a role in creating them, then shift to focusing on the solutions we can create to resolve these issues. It’s important to remember that we shouldn’t rush into action when we are feeling angry as we may be fueled by a desire for revenge. If we do so, we will only create more of the same feelings both in ourselves, and in others. This karmicly comes back to you every time.
As it relates physically, the Three of Swords can indicate a painful separation, rejection, or feeling tremendous grief. If we are hurting inside, or have caused hurt within others, felt betrayed, or finding that our trust has been misplaced; this card can speak towards these feelings. Just remember, it’s not so much about the feelings themselves, but what the feelings represent. What truth is hiding in our sorrow, and what can we learn from the situation? Once we allow the feelings to flow through us without fear of them, this new realization can come to light.
At the end of the day, forgiveness is our greatest asset in moving forward, whether it is forgiveness of ourselves for the actions we took, or forgiveness towards whoever or whatever triggered your sorrow or anger.
The reverse of the Three of Swords comes in the form of the anguish. Suffering by itself upright is actually a powerful feeling, because it is an indication of the feeling of separation from Oneness, and ultimately compels us forward into connection and compassion with God simply by the contrast in the feeling of suffering. The reverse of this card however is typified in the Qabalah by the blockage of the flow, leading to an experience which does not reflect its true source.
Suffering compels us into a forward motion to return to harmony, but anguish is suffering made to last through power self-deception that this feeling is all there is in existence. It is the feeling of suffering without the compulsion to heal or transcend the experience, going on forever. Generally, suffering is resolved by the power of forgiveness, but instead in anguish we have very severe and compounding levels of anger, hatred, fear, sorrow, depression, and suffering… which will only continue to fester inside of us.
Anguish is a very serious state to be in, and so to turn this reversed card upright it is highly recommended to go inside yourself and acknowledge the feelings in your heart immediately – lest you run the risk of causing serious harm to your own psyche, and potentially someone that you care very dearly about. We must be willing to acknowledge where we went wrong, even if that mistake was putting our trust in someone or something that didn’t work out. Taking responsibility for our actions is the surefire way to bring these feelings to light so that they can move through us and move on. Further, holding forgiveness both for ourselves for the actions that we took which brought us here, and forgiveness towards the subject that is causing these emotions, we will allow the feelings to move through us with peace; correcting and stabilizing our energetic field.
The Book of Thoth
The Golden Dawn
The Tarot Handbook