Tarot Reflections: Three of Swords

1 July 2017

In a recent post, I wrote about the connection between the Tarot suit of Swords, the element of Air, and breath(ing), and talked about the suit's ability to help us reveal deep truths about our own thoughts. So let's try applying this to my randomly drawn 'Card of the  Day' - the Three of Swords.
In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.  - Buddhist saying
Three of Swords from The Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson*, published by Llewellyn Books

The Three of Swords is generally considered to be the 'heartbreak' card. Other keywords include¹: painful separation; sorrow; grief; rejection. In the Rider-Waite Smith deck, it is illustrated by a heart pierced with three swords, against a stormy background. However, the Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson, depicts the swords piercing a pair of birds. The background is comprised of white roses, and what looks like ethereal ribbons which, in places, could be smoke -  a reminder of the Air element. The dark watercolour background (murky grey and green) has the same effect as the clouds in the RWS depiction - pure gloom. Siolo's keywords² give further insight. They include: heartache; depression; disorder; confusion; past injury; darkness.

If you look closely you will see that the largest sword - behind them - does not appear to have pierced either of the birds. One sword (front-left) penetrates both creatures, and the other (front-right) pierces only one of them. The birds are facing away from one another and while both are bleeding, neither appears to be dead. The twice-pierced bird is squawking - it probably has a lot to say - while the other is silent, and has a steely gaze. It is as if the bird on the left has hurt them both, but the noisy bird on the right, rather than getting revenge with their own sword, has only hurt him/herself further.

So what does this mean for anyone pulling this card?

The third card in any suit marks a 'first completion'³ - the first card is about new beginnings, the second is balance, choice or duality, and the third marks the transition between the two and four - the number of stability and foundation. Think of stools - a four-legged stool is very stable, but the three-legged variety will do the job well enough. So it is with the threes - there is adequate 'progress', things are in motion. There is a major clue as to what you're on the road to achieving if you consider the 'final completion' of this suit is the nine of swords - extreme mental anguish! 

So how can this help us to access our deepest truths? The Linestrider keywords (above) are a great starting point. If we remember that the swords represent our thoughts, we have to consider that our suffering (heartache / confusion / darkness / depression ) is actually self-inflicted. Now, before anyone starts getting defensive at the very thought, consider this...

Even if we were not responsible for the life situation that triggered the pain (for example, betrayal by a lover) we do have a choice when something happens (to us). We can either wallow in it (like the squawking twice-pierced bird) and let it define us, or we can see it as an opportunity to let this situation 'die'. Any Tarot reader knows that 'death' is a transition, a letting go of things that are no longer useful, a 'pruning', if you will.

So the three of swords, depicted with these bleeding birds (or an impaled heart) acts as a reminder that we can use grief and pain as an opportunity to transition to a new phase, and to evolve:
Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of the ego. - Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth p102
We are each responsible for our own healing. When this card appears, it's time to take three deep breaths⁴  and to move on.


*Amazon UK affiliate links are used throughout this post, the deck is also widely available from any Llewellyn Books stockist. 

¹ From The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings by Brigit Esselmont.
² Found in 'The Linestrider's Journey', which accompanies the deck.
³ Sixes are the 'second completion' and nines the 'third completion', as tens are about excess.
⁴ See the Eckhart Tolle quote in the previous post which talks about observing the rhythm of your breath to create sufficient space to enable you to find the life beneath your life situation.  

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