“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
The 3 of Swords is a funny old card.
Now, I bet you’ve never heard it described in quite that way before. This is most likely because it is often deemed one of the more problematic cards within the tarot deck. While many artists have cut the bleeding heart from their versions of the card, it still manages to feed its way into interpretations. Even if you read a tarot book illustrated with pips, heartbreak and separation will likely take their place in the prescribed meaning.
As with the Death card, some tarot readers and commentators will try to soften the blow. They’ll tell you that since the card is only early on in the sequence of the suit, it’s impact will probably be small and temporary. However, after one look at those three swords thrust into the traditional tender red heart, I’d personally say that they’re lodged in pretty tightly and arnt going anywhere in a hurry!
And this is why I don’t see the pain of this card as always being temporary; I see it as lingering, like a wound that has become infected.
When the 3 of Swords enters a reading it could be speaking about a potential relationship break-up but it is more likely speaking of an emotional attack that happened some time previously but hurts no less for being in the past.
So, what makes this card funny?
When I think of the cards parent, The Empress (trump 3 in the Major Arcana), I think of positive growth and creativity. But for many of us, the traditional image of the 3 of Swords appears to be no more than an ongoing ache, with no prospect of change. However, this needn’t be true. The card is not asking us to suffer for the next three years. In fact, it’s not asking us to suffer at all. It’s advising us to remove the swords carefully because we’ll never heal without doing so. If someone thrust a knife in your shin, you’d pull it out and clean up the wound, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t walk around with it simply hanging there: so why should this be any different?
When we are dealt a card like this, we must ask ourself where the abundant blessings of The Empress and the number 3 lays. What has the pain of an experience taught us and what can we do with it? Rather than turn it inwards, we must use it as a vehicle to move on and accelerate.
Some will lean on the creativity of the number 3 – using their creative expression as a means of healing: I’ve always argued that Tori Amos wrote better music when she was exorcising her difficult past than when she was content.
Others will find new and unfamiliar aspects of their Self in pain. While uncomfortable and, in some cases, downright traumatic, it will transform them. Our survival of heartbreak, grief, and trauma are as much a sign of our strength as of our human vulnerability.
Those readers who see this card as an emotional temporary hitch describe the 3 of Swords in the way it should be experienced. However, many of us will not let a situation be: we will keep fiddling and prodding the wound, twisting the swords, and prolonging the agony with no help from anyone else.
Here’s an exercise: when the 3 of Swords next comes into play, don’t immediately think of the Swords that are about to be thrust in your direction. Think of the ones already imbedded in your heart and about how you’re going to start removing them!
If you have been inspired by this article, please feel free to comment below.
Photos by Steven Bright
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