Three of Swords
The Three of Swords is pretty blatant. It’s one of the most pessimistic cards of the tarot. A red heart is dashed through with three swords as rain clouds gather and pour down. The heart is red, the color of magic and passion, and the rest of the card is gray, the color of fading into the background, the mixture of black, the color of seriousness, and white, the color of purity.
This is sorrow, loss, devastation. This is the moment that one realizes that what they hoped and dreamed for is just not going to happen. It’s finding out the person you love is indifferent to you. It’s losing your job at the peak of your career and having no idea what to do next. It’s losing everything in a natural disaster, or your spouse dying. The things closest to your heart, the things you identify with yourself, being torn asunder.
But this also symbolizes the dashing of the fanciful and emotional with cold, hard logic and reality. Passion isn’t destroyed, but it’s stemmed and fixed in place by three swords that cross each other. The swords cut through on all sides. Okay, so your crush doesn’t feel the same, and now you have to take a serious look at your heart. You can’t escape it. In fact, you can’t just take out a sword and run away, because you have three of them in your heart.
The choice is to stay put, with a broken heart, or to move on. There is nothing to stay there for. There’s just bleakness and rain, and possibly more swords. The Three of Swords forces you to move on from the fantasies, untenable dreams and desires of the naïve person you once were.
This can also mean going at it alone. One of the biggest heartbreakers is to be rejected and left alone. The Three of Swords can mean that one is lonely and left out in the cold. This is just a heart – not a person, not clothed, not covered – and what is more vulnerable than the naked heart? There’s a saying in literature, “kill your darlings.” This card dashes illusions and forces a confrontation with stark reality.
When the Three of Swords is Reversed:
When the Three of Swords is reversed, it doesn’t mean heartbreak or sorrow averted. It means that the sorrow, heartbreak, or tragedy has happened, but that the querent isn’t accepting it and moving on. They’re stuck, cycling through old memories and emotions, wallowing once and again in the feelings and getting nowhere.
The Three of Swords reversed can also mean that the querent has become exhausted with recycling emotions and is now numb or simply finished with the old feelings. There’s a practical desire to get one’s life back again and to figure out how to move on. One is really ready to learn from their pain, sorrow, and disappointment and figure out where to go from there. The querent is wiser, or at least ready to become a wiser person.
In a three-card reading, this card means…
Past: In the past, the querent was dealt a crushing emotional blow that devastated them.
Present: Right now, the querent is in the throes of a major disappointment or tragedy.
Future: The querent is heading for a huge heartbreak that is going to dash their illusions about the present.