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Three of Swords as Card of the Day

November 17, 2010

Alchemical Tarot -- Three SwordsI would like to share some thoughts about my Card of the Day for today — the Three of Swords from the Alchemical Tarot deck, by Robert Place.

First, here are a few select excerpts from the book that came with the 1995 Thorson’s edition of the deck:

The eye in the center of the heart … suggests an awakening consciousness. … The significance of the number three here is the rediscovery of consciousness on a higher level… Remember that pain has a purpose and opens the way to growth.

This interpretation coincides well with my thoughts that this card is not fundamentally about a “broken heart” which is a common view of it. As I tell students in my Tarot classes, heartbreak is an emotion, and while there may be an element of that in the Three of Swords, this card is in the suit of Swords, which is associated with ideas, thoughts, communication, etc. So an added depth of meaning for this card comes from considering how it relates to understanding or expressing sorrow and learning from it so we can become a better person.  Consequently there are aspects here of growth and integration, which are traits associated with the number three.

The AT book also states, “This card … shows that your own thoughts are behind your suffering,” and this was very pertinent for me today since I was feeling down about a few things. This reminder helped a lot since it is something I’ve been working with lately as I’ve been reading The Law of Attraction, by Esther and Jerry Hicks.  That book says that our thoughts create our reality, and since they do, when negative thoughts arise, we should shift to positive ones instead. (Yes, that’s a gross simplification, but it’ll do for now.) When I started doing that again, I did feel better.

Thoughts about how we’ve been hurt or wronged or misunderstood (or whatever the unfortunate case may be) can have a tendency to repeat over and over again in our minds, but that does us no good. In fact, it does us harm. It’s important to remember that this can be a great way to view the Three of Swords — as a warning that negative thoughts (symbolized by the down-thrust arrows) can cause us sorrow (the wounded heart in this card) and as advice to avoid that.

Image and text from the Alchemical Tarot are © 2000 by Robert Place and Rosemary Ellen Guiley. 






  1. I love this three of swords in fact I love the whole deck! I really like the symbolism in this card especially the way the tear flows down to water the rose, helping it to grow so it also speaks to me of releasing pain and sorrow not being afraid to show how you feel, have a good cry if you want, because out of all of that will come healing.

  2. That is a great post James. That really makes me look at the 3 of Swords in a different way. A way where it can be used positively and not feared.

    • I’ve always thought that this card gets a bad rap because of the image associated with it. But using the elemental (Air) and numerological (Three) associations, I think it has some good advice to offer.
      Glad I could help!

  3. Celeste Cornelia permalink

    Whenever the Three of Swords comes up in a reading I like to explore what has to be worked through, not past, but through. Someone once compared it to a wound. The wound needs to be debrided in order to heal. The initial pain can be really bad, but the relief felt after the debridement is well worth the pain that needed to be endured initially…Celeste

    • Hi Celeste,
      I just thought I would provide a definition of “debridement” for those who aren’t familiar with the word “debride” … as I wasn’t —
      “surgical removal of foreign matter and dead tissue from a wound.”

  4. Nan permalink

    Thanks, James. I have trouble with this card and really appreciate your post giving a different way to look at it.

  5. Karen Borusiewicz permalink

    James – love your added interpretations for this card. I never really thought of it as an “own it” card but are really liking the idea of recognizing that no one makes you feel sad or unhappy – it is your choice to react in that way to any given situation. This lets you know to be aware of that response, own it, and not keep falling back into that path repreatedly.

    Affirmation: I am conscious of situations that evoke strong feelings in my life so that I may choose how to respond in a way that is positive and beneficial.

    Thank you James!

  6. I’m so glad you brought up the issue that this is a Swords card. I have had that same thought when people automatically interpreted the card as a broken heart. I was always thinking, “But… this is Swords. Thoughts and mental perceptions and perspectives are probably involved.”

  7. jobi magana permalink

    I was having problems with my cat being sick but i was worrying to the point that made me really sad and depressed. I pulled this card out and thought oh she’s going to die!! I took her to the vet and she was in bad shape but she has gotten significantly better but I still was worried even afer the vets visit, and realized it was my negative thinking that was causing me so much pain. she is doing significantly so much better and she already has gone to the vet and will be on her second check-up next week. Why am I tormenting myself this way? I thought. it was one after the other of bad scenarios I would think about and get really depressed and worked myself up to getting really sad.
    I realized later, like you said James, it’s the state of mind where you create your own reality.

    • WOW! So yesterday this card fell from my deck while shuffling. Then I pulled cards and this card came up first again after falling out. I pulled cards today when I felt it was right after shuffling and guess which card popped up first yet AGAIN! Every single time I have played the cards since a couple of days ago, this card is always in my face so I can’t ignore it. I don’t exactly feel great about the three of hearts and didnt know what to make of it which led me here.Also funny how I also took my cat to the vet yesterday. He is 15. I am waiting on his lab results and am worried sick. He wont eat and is all skin and bones. Dehydrated and anemic. Maybe this card is telling me to take it easy. Thing is, its still hard. Since we were born we were already destined on the inevitable path of checking out some day, some how. No one knows when she will call you back to her, all we know is that she will. When old age is in front of me in my best friend, it hurts the heart. I see him fading though most likely he will have a ways to go! I am worried about his health, quality of life, and the finances to pay the vet. Three of hearts is spot on I guess! I saw the card and thought it had to do with relationships. Maybe it does as my bf is away from me! I thank you for your post and perspective. The inner is the outer. Negative thoughts hold no weight. And they are certainly only half-truths and no half-truths and true. We forget the other half. It is the whole that counts. Whats the yin without the yang? Life without death? Thank you very much for an insightful post. Much appreciated.

  8. Wow! Thanks for all these comments, everyone!
    Who knew the Three of Swords would be so “popular” and would attract so much attention? Perhaps I’ll post another article about it since I have another constructive way of viewing it.

  9. To continue with the medical symbolism, in addition to debridement the Three of Swords could be seen to represent lancing an infected area to drain out the poison.

    • jobi magana permalink

      My Cat had a really bad urinary tract infection and mass that wasn’t cancer. She may need a biopsy. Three of swords could mean all of this. I forgot to add that, I had second vet tell me not to let my other vet give her another injection called convenia because she has known it could be fatal with some cats. I called my vet to let her know this information and she was shocked to know about this. Luckily, Kita is doing pretty good and she won’t be getting another antibiotic shot.

  10. jobi magana permalink

    by the way, this deck is really expensive and wondered why? i know it’s great but wow, $199 that deck better have some gold!

    • The original printing of it is OOP, which makes it very expensive. I don’t know if the second (recent) printing is OOP also. If so, then that version would become very expensive also.

  11. Tina permalink

    Wow. I was a little distraught when I pulled up the Three of Swords as my daily card today, but your post made me look at things a little different. I just started reading about the Law of Attraction and I was a little taken aback that you were talking about it in your post. I’ve just started doing daily affirmations, and this is a definite sign to me that I need to keep at the Law of Attraction business! 🙂

  12. Mari rooney permalink

    I just wanted to say ur interpritation of this card was soo on point, its uncanny . Thank u

  13. Hey just found your blog while surfing through the internet. Actually I am glad to get it here. Basically I am looking for ideas on Tarot and got it here. Thanks a lot for your efforts.

  14. Donna Childs permalink

    “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”–Friedrich Nietzsche

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