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3 of Swords | Weekly Tarot Card Pt 1: Observation

~ Observing the 3 of Swords ~

We are now starting the half way point of the 3’s with the 3 of Swords. Last week we finished with the 3 of Cups, and the week before we started with the 3 of Wands. Next week will continue with the 3 of Pentacles before moving on to the Empress.

At the beginning of every card, it is important that we take the time to simply observe the card we’re working on. In this week’s case, the 3 of Swords. The point of this exercise is to begin your journey into developing your own meaning and understanding of the card. First, you must see what speaks to you.

Observing the 3 of Swords

To do this exercise, take out the 3 of Swords in your own deck(s) and spend time with it. Get a recording device—a pen and paper, audio recorder, video recorder, etc.—and write down what you see first. Once you’ve written down what you see, then spend some time considering what those things mean to you, how they make you feel, and so on. Record any thoughts you have.

However, don’t spend time defining what you see or the card. The exercise today is simply to observe, note, and sit with the images for a day. Tomorrow we’ll delve into a meditation to help give life to what you notice and to the card. Today is simply to look on without judgement.

To give examples, I’ve provided images and descriptions of the 3 of Swords in my own (eight) decks. You can use the images I provide for you here, or you can look on with your cards.

Rider-Waite

The Rider-Waite 3 of Swords shows a red love-heart in the center of the card. The heart has three Swords piercing it: one straight down the middle, one angled from the top left to the bottom right, and the third angling from the top right to the bottom left. Each Sword is downward-facing.

The top half of the card has raining clouds against a grey sky. There is no land seen in this.

Spiral Tarot

The Spiral Tarot depiction of the three of Swords shows a woman walking away from a lit street lamp at night. It’s raining, and puddles can be seen on the ground. She holds her jacket closed and walks somberly toward the reader, looking down, though toward the left side of the card. On the right side of the card are three swords closest to the reader.

Aquarian Tarot

The Aquarian Tarot takes a similar image to the Rider-Waite 3 of Swords. It shows a pink heart with thee Swords going through it: one down the middle, and two angled across from opposite sides of the heart.

In the top corners of the card are purplish clouds. At the bottom of the card are black and grey mounds, almost like hills or structures. The background is purplish-pink.

Vampire Tarot

The Vampire Tarot shows a blindfolded statue of a woman. She is the centerpiece of the card, and facing to the left of the card. On either side of her is a Sword suspended in mid-air, facing downward. Just behind her head, off-center to the right, another Sword is suspended, though pointing upward.

The background is black.

Faerie Tarot

The Faerie Tarot shows a faerie collecting branches in a snowy wood. She wears a billowing pink dress, and looks somewhat somber. There are three Swords planted in the snow, two on the right of the card, and one on the left. The faerie is facing the reader but looking down.

Thoth Tarot

The Thoth Tarot at first glance could look as a representative of the Ace of Swords. There is one large Sword in the center, painted green and pointing upright. The hilt of the Sword has a snake coiled around it, and an upward and downward facing crescent moon, with a ball where they meet on either side. Below the hilt is the symbol for Libra.

The point of the Sword goes into a greenish-yellow rose that is shedding three petals. Two other Sword points meet the initial Sword in the center of the rose. These two Swords mirror each other, creating an almost T with the first Sword. These two Swords curve upward, and have a curved hilt. The design is similar to the figure depicted in the Strength card. Above the rose is the glyph for Saturn.

The background is filled with blue and yellow angular shapes, and black and light blue/gre ruffles that look similar to clouds coming off the geometric shapes.

The Keyword at the bottom is ‘Sorrow.’

Prisma-Vision Tarot

The Prisma-Vision depiction of the 3 of Swords shows a buck deer dead in the snow, with three Swords sticking out of it. One Sword stands straight up, while the other two cross each other and it at an angle.

The evergreen trees in the background are covered with snow and bow toward the center of the card. Swirls of color are above the trees, which gives way to a starry night.

Impressionist Tarot

The Impressionist Tarot shows a rendition of Vincent Van Gogh’s Still Life Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888). In the 3 of Swords, one sunflower is shown with 3 knives sticking through it: One through the front of the sunflower, and two crossing through the back.

The background is blue.

As you go through the various cards, what do you notice that is a running theme in imagery? What do you notice tends to differ? Which of the images resonates with you? Why?

Spend time considering your own tarot decks, and do your own comparison.

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Decks Used

The Aquarian Tarot in a Tin by Italian-born, American-raised David Palladini, was published originally in 1970 by U.S. Games Systems Inc, and then republished again in 2016 in a smaller size. Named after the Age of Aquarius, the Aquarian Tarot is a midieval depiction of the Rider-Waite Tarot system. The images are closer, and thus might give the impression of being more character-based rather than relying on symbolism. This intimate deck provides a stark reflection of the human condition in it’s journey through the tarot.

Faerie Tarot by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc, 2008. Hertz is a French artist, and the creator of several other beautiful tarot decks. The Faerie Tarot was ‘inspired by the flora and fauna of the French countryside,’ and ‘invites you to see the world in a delightful new way…blending fantasy, whimsy, and nature.’

Impressionist Tarot by Arturo Picca (artist) and Corrine Kenner (author), published by Lo Scarabeo in 2015. This deck takes works of classic impressionist paintings and recreates them to fit the meanings of the tarot. It pulls from works of Edonard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gough, and Paul Gauguin. A truly beautiful deck, especially for those who have interest in the art world.

Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads, 3rd ed., published in 2016. The deck itself is beautiful, though perhaps not for the beginning tarot reader. The suits all fit together to create a master picture displaying the energy and progression of the suits. The figures and images flow from one card to the next, showing movement within the stationary cards.

Rider-Waite by A. E. Waite. The deck used in these photos is currently out of print. I won’t say much about this deck, as it is fairly standard and probably one of the most produced decks. It serves as a standard for many tarot readers and artists, depicting classic images relating in part to the original playing cards that tarot developed from.

The Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon. With turn-of-the-20th-century style art, this deck takes from the classic Rider-Waite deck and brings it up to the late 1800-early 1900’s, a time of industry and contemplation for the western world as it moved forward into a more technological era. I am a little biased toward this deck as it’s been my main deck for 15 years. The cards are thick with additional symbolism that can be tricky to pick out of the traditional Rider-Waite, and adds layers of Greek myth throughout the Major Arcana.

Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley (designer and author) and Lady Frieda Harris (artist), published by U. S. Games Systems, Inc., in 1978. This deck takes from most esoteric imagery, and requires the reader of the deck to have deep, initiate knowledge of the symbolism used. There is nothing within the cards that is without meaning. However, on a more surface level, the deck draws from Egyptian symbolism and from the style of the Marseille Tarot (mostly seen within the Minor Arcana). For those looking for deeper understandings of the universe, I recommend this deck. I would caution that this deck is highly advanced, and might be avoided for the budding reader.

Vampire Tarot – by Nathalie Hertz, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. in 2000. As mentioned above in reference to the Faerie Tarot, Hertze is a French artist who gained her notability through the publication of her tarot decks. The Vampire Tarot was a bestselling deck upon its release, and plays on more gothic symbolism, providing more jarring interpretations to allow for the accepting of negative forces within the world to compliment the positive forces. The deck brings together myths and legends in the form of vampires, which ‘gives tarot readers a macabre passport’ into the world of divination.

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