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"Without forms or reason, the mind must give way to a consciousness higher than itself. The Three of Swords represents the wondrous trance of sorrow that first enlightened the Buddha. We should all be so lucky to draw Sorrow from the deck."

- Understanding Crowley's Thoth Tarot
(Lon Milo DuQuette)

The Three of Swords is the Worldly principle and Universal archetype of Sorrow, Negative thinking and mourning. This is the state of sorrow which is held and re-worked in the mind, representative of negative thinking about the past, in particular dwelling on past experiences that produced a sorrowful heart, in effect mourning for the past.

The Swords piercing the lotus blossoms symbolize sorrow that has pierced to the very core of our nature, also symbolized by the petals falling from the stem into the deep void of eternity.



"The Three of Swords reflects a tendency in the mind to rework the old bones of the past, and particularly the parts of the past that contain sorrow or negativity. This is sorrow that could have resurfaced in the last three months, or could go back to three years ago, or could go back as early as to when you were three years old. It could also be the first sorrow that was experienced within the family, the number three is associated with the original triangle, which is father-mother-child. How we handled that first triangle – which is represented by the three swords – is how we will handle subsequent triangles, whether they are friend-co-worker-friend, or friend-sibling-mate or friend-lover-mate."

- Angeles Arrien
(The Tarot Handbook)

Throughout our lives, in whatever triangles we are involved in, the Three of Swords reminds us to break old patterns of sorrow and insecurity as these only lead to the path of destruction and pain. This is also a strong reminder to remove ourselves from triangles that produce pain. Examine your relationships closely and come to the decision to distance yourself from hurtful and harmful relationships.

This energy of triangulation is symbolized by the two swords bending to meet the upright sword. The central sword represents an event in the past that bent and pierced the receptive and dynamic sides of the Beholder of Life's Nature.


"The symbol represents the great Sword of the Magician, point uppermost; it cuts the junction of two short curved swords. The impact has destroyed the rose. In the background, storm broods under implacable night."

- The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)



Astrologically, the Three of Swords is Saturn in Libra. Saturn reminds us to move forward in life and our endeavours, step-by-step, bringing balance, symbolized by Libra. The Three of Swords shows us that we can heal the memories of the past by taking a wider view of events and expanding our view of the past which creates peace and balance in the heart and mind.

It is important to understand that when you pull this card, sorrow occurs through negative thinking of the mind. This is reverting back to old ways of thinking about the past. This is not sorrow that is held in the heart or your eternal being.

This signifies that in the next three weeks or three months, you are ready to change your perspective in thinking and are no longer willing to be a slave to old, outdated modes of negative thought. It is also an indication that you are ready to remove yourself from triangular relationships that cause pain and suffering. With focus and intention towards the good, the mind can be taught to learn new ways of thinking positively and creatively while maintaining balance.



The Empress can be drawn to assist you on this journey as the number of The Empress is Three and is the symbol which represents the aspect which has already moved through negative ways of thinking.

The Three of Swords is also an indication that you are going to release negative thinking patterns with Libra people in your Life (September 21st to October 21st).



In the elegant Animals Divine Companion by Lisa Hunt, the symbolic creature that represents the Three of Swords is the Vulture, which flows with the essence of mental turmoil in the mind which in turn equals sadness connected to past events in the Heart. This is a symbol for lack of communication and hints at possible relationship troubles.



"After alighting on top of the tree, the young vulture casts its gaze upon the three swords that hang precariously from the branches below. The vulture is a reminder that we must shed past negative thoughts before we can proceed with the birth of new ideas. The old tree is scarred after weathering countless storms, yet it still supports the golden swords with its fragile, brittle branches. The three spirals on each of the golden hilts are reminders that life is lived in stages and new ideas are often born out of old experiences. The crooked branches exemplify the unpredictability of life and the potential for misguided dreams. The branches appear entangled and without direction, yet they hold the wisdom of having survived adverse conditions."

- Animals Divine Companion
(Lisa Hunt)

When we allow ourselves to be pre-occupied with past sorrowful events this can lead to a period of negativity and mental turmoil. This will inhibit the creation of new, fresh ideas and freedoms. This murky force will also prevent you from connecting with people as you will view anyone who wishes to enter your life as suspicious and not to be trusted.

One can learn to be wiser and more aware once the passage through this darker turmoil is taken. This is the perfect opportunity to allow negative burdens to be empowering, taking you into stronger and more fertile pastures.



The noble Fantastical Creatures Tarot by Lisa Hunt and D.J. Conway teaches us about the story of Jenny Greenteeth, a fearsome creature from ancient story and myth who drags unsuspecting people into her dark, swampy home, and they are never seen again. Jenny has sharp teeth, green like the slime covering the pool. Vague images of her victims can be seen in the dark organic foliage.


"The sword on the bank represents the consciousness. The upright sword in the water denotes the subconscious mind. The third sword, dangling from the tree limb, symbolizes the higher consciousness, or universal state of mind. None of the swords attract Jenny Greenteeth, as she has no conscience."

- Fantastical Creatures
(Lisa Hunt & D.J. Conway)

Jenny Greenteeth symbolizes an omen of heartache, sadness, loss, and rejection. This card reveals the pain of separation in a love relationship, however can be used to great positive gain, to help let go of emotional losses and pain.

This beautifully crafted poem by the wise and talented Robert Matejko expresses this journey vividly with great clarity and verve.



Met at cross purposes, streams of thought converge, a current of sorrow, a current of pain,
a current that rushes through to the other side, if elucidation is to be gained.

As the rapier wit of mind is dulled, the broadsword to cut through it all is sheathed, a scimitar with its broader edge must be brought to bear, to bring the mind beyond despair.

Sorrow is laden upon the beats of a heart, wounded, pierced by thoughts saddened by much pain; to gain the victory of clarity, the pain must be experienced, its lessons integrated, to draw ones mind to the other side, where peace of mind is once again experienced and a greater clarity of mind is gained.

© Robert Matejko



The glittering Shadowscapes Companion Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore tells of the story of the swan and how its grand strength and beauty is brought down by betrayal, the wounding of the heart. The swan always fights ferociously to defend herself and her young although in this case there is no struggle. She stepped forth alone and laid down her defences. This was a sacrifice of the heart which is necessary for cleansing away the old to give way to the new. This is alchemy in a pure and unadulterated form!



"There is grief and heartbreak in the Three of Swords. There is a feeling of loneliness, separation and isolation. There is no one to give solace or lend a hand. Has everyone deserted in this time of greatest need? The world abandons and betrays by turning its back on the destruction of beauty and the rending of a fragile emotional state."

- Shadowscapes Companion
(Stephanie Pui-Mun Law & Barbara Moore)

When there is a wounding of any kind, particularly the heart, accept the pain to overcome the pain. When the heart weeps, this is a good sign of a necessary cleansing, as always there is purification from the torment of the black blood. Lift up your white wings of clarity and purity to dance with the sky once again.



In the most excellent thesis Learning the Tarot by Joan Bunning, which refers to the Rider-Waite Tarot, the Three of Swords symbolizes your world turned upside down! You’re stunned, disbelieving and finally heartbroken! The image of the Three of Swords describes the sudden pain you feel, as if someone has taken a sharp object and stabbed you in the heart.


"The Three of Swords often represents the nasty little curve balls that life can throw sometimes; Betrayal, abandonment, rejection, separation, a reversal of fortune. These hurts are painful because they hit you when you least expect them. If you have drawn this card, you may know what it refers to, but if not, the Three of Swords is a valuable warning. It is likely there is something amiss in your life that you are unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge. Curve balls hit us when we’re looking the other way. Examine your situation carefully. Talk to the people in your life. Don’t take anything for granted. Listen to your inner voice; it will help you locate the problem."

- Learning the Tarot (Joan Bunning)

The Three of Swords in this case may also represent that you are contemplating hurting someone. Always keep in heart that if you deal hurt out into the world, you are only harming yourself, for you are the world, a living breathing part of the beauty around and inside you. Grab hold of the goodness and passion of truth!



The stately Kleopatra Tarot shows the image of Epima. Astrologically this is a symbol of Mars in Capricorn and deals with the force of pessimism and the state of play where illusions are vainly followed. This is obstinacy over a question of secondary importance, which produces the disruption of unhappiness, sorrow and tears.

The noble Haindl Tarot symbolizes the energy of retreat (33) from a wound, where a single tear falls. The water emerges as a clear bubble, a symbol of the purification that comes through suffering. This leads away from oppressive situations, mourning and sorrow of the heart.



The opulent Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley expresses the Three of Swords as Binah, the Great mother who rules the realm of Air. Binah is here not the beneficent Mother completing the Trinity with Kether and Chokmah. She represents the darkness of the Great Sea. This is accentuated by the Celestial Lordship of Saturn in Libra.


"This card is dark and heavy; it is, so to speak, the womb of Chaos. There is an intense lurking passion to create, but its children are monsters. This may mean the supreme transcendence of the natural order. Secrecy is here, and Perversion."

- The Book of Thoth (Aleister Crowley)

In the splendid work of Lon Milo DuQuette, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, the author reminds us about the astrological nature of the Three of Swords, ruling the sky at 10° to 20° Libra (October 3rd to October 12th). In this instance, the Three of Swords is also known as the ‘Lord of Sorrow’.



The Saturn and Libra connection is expanded upon; the Four Scales for Saturn are Indigo; Black; Blue-black; Black, rayed Blue and the Four Scales for Libra are Emerald Green; Blue; Deep Blue-Green; Pale Green.

The remarkable Lady Frieda Harris writes;


"I wrote earlier that, because they reside in the supernal triad above the Abyss, all the aces, twos, and threes are happy. Obviously Sorrow does not sound like a happy card. It is very difficult for us to understand the nature of consciousness above the Abyss, where the actuality of things does not exist. In this abstract atmosphere, there are no things or even forms of things – nothing but pure potential. The “sorrow” of this card is not the same kind of sorrow evoked by, say, the death of a loved one or the loss of a lover. It is a profound state of consciousness that, from our below-the-abyss point of view, we can only attempt to describe. Sorrow falls pitifully short of an accurate description, but it is probably the best word the English language can offer us."



One must remember that the Three of Swords is a wholly positive card as it reminds us to deal with the state of changing our perception and eternal consciousness from outdated modes of thinking, especially linked to the past.

Know that the past guides and empowers us, for our journey is made up of who we are (past, present, future), where we are and where we are going. It is your choice whether you want the past to hold a special place in your heart or if you wish to dwell on the negative and destructive forces stemming from an inability to learn from the past.

All experiences are to be cherished and unlabelled. Feel blessed on your eternal journey and know that you have the power to change your path!





- feeling Heartbreak -

causing heartbreak
hurting inside
being disappointed
getting unsettling news
receiving little solace


- feeling Lonely -

being separated
wandering far from home
being spurned or rejected
feeling isolated from those you love
feeling lost


- experiencing Betrayal -

finding your trust misplaced
letting someone down
getting stabbed in the back
turning against someone
breaking your word


- experiencing Emotional Pain -

having your feelings hurt
hurting someone’s feelings
being deserted in time of need
discovering a painful truth
being let down





- The Path of Destiny Unfolds -

fortitude during difficult times, singing, bravely moving ahead, confrontation, facing the worst, speaking regardless of consequences, revelation, laying it on the line, the natural cycle will bring renewal, confession, generosity, breakthrough, mirth in Platonic pleasures, faithfulness in promises, concern, honesty in money transactions, the whole according to dignity




- Not heeding Prophets advice -

pessimism, loss of peace, division, gossip, removal , rupture, suffering, rejection, unwanted outcomes, absence, disruption, dispersion, agitation, confusion, doubt, plans go awry , trouble, frustration, denial, dissatisfaction, interruption, quarrelling, worry, trepidation, apprehensiveness, shock, separation, complexity, delay, spite, false rumour, antagonism, erratic activity, manipulation, anxiety, forced separation, malign intelligence, unwanted confrontation, attack, haphazard action, mind games, mistrust, impulsive decisions, ridicule

accusation, deception, past misdeeds, recrimination, loss of prosperity, irreconcilable differences, disturbing memories, insomnia, paranoia, incompatibility, past error, remorse, guilt, communication breakdown, inhibition, fear of emotional display, repression, error, delusion, lack of empathy, conditional love, bad conscience, masochism, morbidity, suspicion, self-destructive urges, grudges, sowing of discord and strife, jealousy, loss, blackmail, enmity, vendetta, mischief-making, soliciting sympathy, selfish and dissipated, deceitful in words and repetitions, tears




- Hazard Waypoints in the Wilderness -

denial, improved situation, fear passes, peace returns, cowardice, composure regained, greater clarity and insight, weakness, recriminations cease, remorse lightens, no fortitude, superficiality, avoidance, dismissal, hostilities abated, mental alienation, shallowness, not facing the dark side, lack of psychological insight, difficulty accepting loss



"The reversal asks to strengthen the positive and release the negative. Any path will always lead to both being fulfilled."

- Michael Tsarion




- Opposing Cards: Some Possibilities -

The Lovers
intimacy, feeling love and being loved

Three of Cups
companionship and trust

The Ten of Cups
joy, peace, love, togetherness



- Reinforcing Cards: Some Possibilities -

Five of Cups
separation, loss of love, heartache

Nine of Swords
anguish and heartbreak

The Five of Pentacles
rejection, separation, lack of support



- Research sources -

Taroscopes by Michael Tsarion

Robby Baby Dark Poet by Robert Matejko

Röhrig Tarot by Carl-W. Röhrig
Arcus Arcanum Tarot
by Hager Gunter
The Tarot Handbook
by Angeles Arrien
The Book of Thoth
by Aleister Crowley
Animals Divine Companion
by Lisa Hunt
Fantastical Creatures
by Lisa Hunt & D.J. Conway
Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley & Lady Frieda Harris
Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot by Pamela Colman Smith
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law & Barbara Moore
Understanding Crowley’s Thoth Tarot by Lon Milo DuQuette
Robin Wood Tarot
by Robin Wood & Michael Short
Kleopatra Tarot by Etta Stoico & Silvana Alasia
Connolly Tarot
by Eileen & Peter Paul Connolly
Learning the Tarot
by Joan Bunning
Haindl Tarot by
Hermann Haindl