What does the Three of Swords card mean in Tarot?

3 Swords Tarot Card 3 Swords Tarot Card

Three of Swords, Minor Arcana, Swords III

The Three of Swords might look like the worst Tarot card you could have in your reading, as many people instantly interpret it as potential imminent heartbreak. Yet, the symbolism in the card is much deeper than what meets the eye at first. Let’s explore it together.

In Tarot, swords in general stand for mental activity, thoughts, intellectual pursuits, rational approaches, and being very cerebral. In rare cases, swords might represent a calm, serene, meditative mind, but given how most of us have monkey-minds, swords tend to point at problems we have with our ways of thinking.

We see three swords in the card. Number three is a magical number – in most tales and myth, the receiver of divine grace gets to make three wishes! Number 1 stands for the mere existence of the individual, number 2 stands for home and stability, and with number 3 begins the “real” human activity (see more about numbers' meanings) – where we begin to imagine, fantasize, and crave things. We have desires.

So, in the card, we see three swords piercing a bright red, vibrant heart – this simply means, your own mind i.e. your own mentally conjured, ego-based dreams, are at odds with your heart’s desires. In fact, you’re spending way too much energy trying to silence your heart – you’re even up in arms, fighting to crush your emotions, your true essence, and your soulful dreams. It might have become so automatic that now you don’t even realize just how silent your heart has been.

The Three of Swords shows an inner affair. An internal heartbreak, one that you’re doing to your own self. There isn’t anybody else in the card. We’re inside your soul. Did you notice the gray clouds and the gray cement-like background? There isn’t even one drop of rain. Sometime in the past you must have decided that being vulnerable is a horrible thing. You probably repressed your sensitive side – and if you had to cry, you’d do it alone, as a part of you believes it’s something to be ashamed of.

Your rationality or love of intellectual pursuits is sapping your life out of you. You’ve become like a robot, always doing the right or the proper thing. You probably have many “serious” career goals, or even love goals such as having a respectable marriage, and most likely long you’ve forgotten what it means to be present in the here and now, to enjoy the moment. You downplay the importance of pleasure because you believe in being productive and doing what’s expected of you.

Possibly, others’ approval means more to you than your own heart’s approval. You’ve come to prefer receiving an award from others, being cheered on by them on the stage, than experiencing something on your own, without anybody else’s knowledge, that brings you profound peace and fulfillment.

If your reading is about your career and finances, the Three of Swords might mean you prefer titles and prestige to meaning and joy. You probably don’t even really believe that one can enjoy his or her job. For you, there’s a linear career ladder and it must be climbed no matter what. When was the last time you took a “mental health” day off? Just to wander around and not think about work? You need to take a break, a long one, if possible.

What does the Three of Swords Tarot card mean for love?

For singles, having Three of Swords in your reading means your mind and your heart don’t agree on what’s best for you. One day you want to have fun, the next day you want something meaningful. You most likely suppress your heart, because you want to look strong to your dates. You want to show them you are good on your own, that you are not needy. But this is all in your head. There are many people in the world who are looking for a sensitive, genuine partner. There are many people who want to give, and it might be time for you to learn how to receive.

For couples, the Three of Swords might mean your relationship isn’t spontaneous, fun, and exciting anymore. It was before, and it can still be redeemed (as the heart is still very much red and whole), but you’ve been too busy being rational about your future. You have goals and they have taken over every aspect of your relationship. You need to make space for creativity, joy, random lovemaking, unexpected generosity, and spontaneous expressions. You need to do less, and enjoy more.

What does Three of Swords reversed in Tarot mean?

The Three of Swords reversed means the fight between your heart and mind is challenging your “peace” thoroughly. You had some balance before, a status quo, though unhealthy, it was still maintainable. Something happened, something that triggered an avalanche of emotions, a reconnection with your heart, and you feel overwhelmed with so many thoughts and deep feelings flooding your system all at the same time.

It’s time to let the flood out – you need to cry. Cry, cry, and then cry more. It will relieve you of internal psychological pressures, and you’ll feel much better afterwards. Confide in people you trust, such as good friends or an advisor. Get support if possible. Notice if you’re ashamed when you cry, if you see it as a sign of weakness. Crying shows aliveness and spiritual vibrancy – see if you can embrace this idea.

Astrological association

All sword cards in the Minor Arcana are associated with the element of air, which is associated with the astrological signs of Libra, Gemini, and Aquarius. These three aren’t emotional signs; they tend to be in their heads, always weighing options. But when they find the mental-emotional equilibrium, they make the best visionaries. Because the card shows ongoing struggles, it could be said it has mutable energy, therefore it’s most associated with Gemini.

This card is most likely about your inner state, regardless of what your sign is. If your reading is about another person, such as your partner, then the card shows what’s happening inside them – not what they will do to you. Three of Swords isn’t about a heartbreak between people – it’s about a heartbreak that takes place within the soul. And it could happen to anyone with any astrological sign.

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