3 of Swords | Weekly Tarot Card Pt 4: Symbolism

This is the fourth installment of the Weekly Tarot Card. You can read the first three installments in the following links:

Yesterday we had a look at the element and number regarding the 3 of Swords. As I mentioned in that post, it is important that we look at all the components of the card in order to see it from all perspectives. The 3 of Swords is generally seen as a more difficult card, but through experiencing and developing understanding of the card through multiple view points, the medicine of the card can come through.

Not all cards carry the same symbolism, and some simply do it for the sake of creating an appealing picture. However, some cards are packed with imagery with the intent of stimulating the intuitive senses. It is these symbols that I intend to focus on.

Color: Grey, Red, and Yellow


In the Rider-Waite Tarot 3 of Swords, the sky is Grey. Coupled with the heart with 3 Swords in it, the grey sky can seem fairly ominous. However, grey skies in the Tarot traditionally mean neutrality. This implication is that the card is neither good, nor bad, but simply what it is.


The main figure in Rider-Waite-based decks is the large read love-heart in the center of the card. The color red can represent passion, sex, and anger.


In Thoth-based decks, yellow is incorporated in the card along side various tones of grey. Yellow is the color of Air, which is the ruling element of the Swords.

Astrology: Saturn in Libra

Saturn is the planet of authority, limitations, structure, and boundaries. Libra is the sign of balance, fairness, and relationship. The implication of this combination is that there is stability and structure. This forces us to look at what might be hindering this balance, and causing obsessions which might throw our relationships out of whack.


The setting for the 3 of Swords is in the sky, and in the Rider-Waite, the placement is amongst rain clouds. While this can be seen as dreary, there is another component of this: the heart is very much in the Air, and it’s with Water. The implication of the Air—which rules thought and communication, with Water is that emotion is convoluting thought.

Plants: Rose

The rose in the Thoth 3 of Swords is losing petals. This is a symbol of the heart. The Rose is often a symbol of romance, and thus, matters of emotion and relationships. That the rose is losing petals shows its tender state.


The heart in the card is quite obvious. The heart in the body is what we associate with love, and that is what is hurting.

Consider all the imagery provided here, and look at the 3 of Swords from at least three different perspectives. How can these depictions come together to mean different things? Look at your own deck, at the symbolism depicted in the 3 of Swords. How does it differ? What do you get from the card?

Tomorrow we’ll put everything together to derive a divinatory meaning for this card.

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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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