Every tarot reader feels there are some cards you just don't want to see in your readings, whether they are for self or others. The gods be damned Three of Swords is one of them. "Heartbreak!" it screams. "Despair!" Tears are sure to follow, right?
The dark and stormy skies in the traditional tarot image are deeply reflective of the very idea of having "the blues", and Golden Dawn tradition titles the card, "Lord of Sorrow". Heartache is a common keyword assigned to the card, but I argue that is not the best possible one. If this card was about heartbreak, it would most likely be in the watery suit of Cups, most often associated with emotions, or possibly Pentacles, relating to all things of this earth, including our bodies, because most of us are unfortunate enough to know that hearts really can hurt. A card signifying heartache could even be found in the Wands, dealing with our spirits and passions, but this card is found in the suit of Swords, which has to do with thoughts and communications. Threes can be related back to the creative genius of the Empress, so I put forth that this card actually has to do with the way we create our own thoughts, and the deep disappoint we feel when what we thought was true doesn't match up to the reality of what is.
The astrology of the card is Saturn in Libra, according to Mr. Crowley, and others, and Saturn has to do with our life's learning experiences, among other things, while Libra is mainly concerned with how we relate, and above all things, keeping it fair. One of our first life lesson comes at a tender age when we plaintively wail, "But that isn't fair!" to some seemingly uncaring adult, and we all know what their response generally was- "Life isn't fair. Get used to it." True, but harsh words.
By its' very nature, Libra desires to be balanced, but Threes are not balanced. They are the antithesis of balance, the very thing that can upset the careful balance of the Twos and lacking the stabilization of the Fours. Saturn does not mean to be a right ol' bastard, but the fact of the matter is most of us do not learn while everything is going our way, so difficulty and challenge tend to be the things that spur growth. The pairing is not very harmonious, and that brings us to the title of "Sorrow" for this oft-maligned card.
The advice this card offers is to go ahead and face whatever you need to face, because pain and love are alike in some ways- you can't go around it, under, nor over. The only way through is straight and narrow. The gift that can be taken away when this card shows up, and it will, is that we are in control of our thoughts. They may, in fact, be the only thing we are in control of fully, and the way we think about a situation has everything to do with how we experience the situation. That doesn't make it easier when marriages crumble or jobs are lost, or all the tragedies large and small that we all experience happen, but it does make it endurable.
And life always circles around to where we are not just getting by, but celebrating again.
These Three of Swords cards are from the Victorian Romantic Tarot by Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov at Baba Studio, the Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative deck, and the Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot, painted by Lady Frieda Harris, trimmed by me, both for US Games.
I am not a visual artist. The creators of the decks I use are. I try very hard to give proper credit to the artist when I use an image.
My most oft used deck on this blog is the Deviant Moon Tarot, created by Patrick Valenza and published by U.S. Games Systems, Incorporated. Check out his site to buy some fantastic Deviant Moon stuff, or a deck of your own!
A lovely, but digital only, Rider Waite Smith clone deck is the Aquatic by Andreas Schroter. You are allowed to downlaod and use the images.
They also make me tell you that readings are for entertainment purposes only. I'll tell you on my own that if you change your life based on a few cards something is not right there.
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“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” ~Ashley Smith~
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi~
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” ~Marianne Williamson~
“Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.” ~Kahlil Gibran~
"First you jump off the cliff and you build wings on the way down." ~Ray Bradbury~
“If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” ~C.S. Lewis~
"Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love." ~Rainer Maria Rilke~