3 of Swords | Weekly Tarot Card Pt 5: Defining

This is the fifth and last installment in this Weekly Tarot Card series. The next series will begin on Monday. However, if you’d like to get caught up on the rest of the week, you can use the following links:

The 3 of Swords is a notoriously difficult card. It’s one of those cards that’s deemed as negative, right up there with the Tower, the 10 of Swords, and the Devil. I suppose it doesn’t help that the common depiction of the 3 of Swords is a heart with three Swords stuck into it. However, the key thing to remember with these difficult cards is that no card is inherently evil, bad, or damning. They all have different aspects to them that can be blessings in disguise. Each of the 78 cards of the Tarot have different levels of difficulty—some in unexpectant ways, and some more obviously so.

Monday looked at simply observing the card to see what you noticed first. I believe this should be an often repeated exercise as it helps you to realign with your cards. If what you notice differs from last time, why? How? What new insight does this give you?

On Tuesday we spent some time reflecting on what it is that is outside of us that is really a projection of what’s going on inside. This meditation required some questioning and answering, and I hope you’ll revisit this exercise as well.

On Wednesday we began to take the 3 of Swords apart, looking at the element and number of the card. Thursday we carried on the exercise by taking apart and defining the images commonly shown in the 3 of Swords.

Today, we create a definition with all we’ve experienced this week.

Defining the 3 of Swords

When defining the 3 of Swords, or any card, we need to look at the various components of it. The first and easiest components to look at and use as a compass are the element and number. The element of Air denotes thought and communication. This implies that a lot of what the Swords is about is mentality. The 3’s are about creation, creativity, and projections. The One’s are what’s within, the two’s are what we reflect, and the three’s are then what we allow to take shape. Thus, the application of Air and the 3, is allowing thoughts to manifest and take shape.

However, in traditionally depicted 3 of Swords, there is a heart in a raining sky, saying that thoughts are muddled with Water—emotions—which begs the question of whether the two can be separated. Often when our thoughts are muddled with our emotions, it helps to walk away from the situation, at least for a little bit. This helps to detangle the mind from the heart, allowing the heart to heal and the mind to come back down to earth, where it can be grounded.

Divinatory Meaning

The Three of Swords shows clouds and a grey sky, in which suspends a red heart with three blue swords crossing through it.

The swords bring a brutal reality to the energy of the heart. This can be looking at ideas that we hold dear or loved ones and critically analyzing them. This does not mean giving them up altogether, but instead that we must be brutal with our decisions, and that we must let our intellect override emotion. Likewise, the Three of Swords can indicate heartache that comes with new information.


Keywords: heartbreak, grief, using intellect over emotion, a low point.

Next week we begin our final chapter on the 3’s in the Minor Arcana: the 3 of Pentacles. Afterward we will look at the 3 in the Major Arcana, the Empress.

In the meantime, I invite you to spend some time experiencing the 3 of Swords through the exercises provided, and I hope that you find some beauty in this card, just as there is beauty in all the other cards of the Tarot.

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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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