Monday, 9 August 2010

Variations on the 3 of Swords Part 1

Having just written a blog about designing a spread around the Three of Swords, I got to thinking about the different ways we interpret this card.  Firstly, as readers, since that's what I am, and secondly as artists, which I'm definitely not.  This train of thought led me to analysing the different ways that the Three of Swords has been depicted across a number of decks.

I think the most common interpretation of the Three of Swords is that of emotional heartache caused by a romantic relationship, and this is certainly supported by any number of quite different card variations.  From the mild, pithy and amusing Housewives Tarot depiction of a heart-shaped cake speared by cake knives, to the thoughtful - and more open to alternative perspectives - Sun and Moon Tarot, the same interpretation can still be expressed quite differently!  Another version which also communicates this theme of romantic heartbreak is that of the gentle and amusing Ferret Tarot, showing a crying ferret with a broken winged heart above and a flower in front.
So, what do these cards have in common?  The idea that love makes us suffer comes to mind.  A number of quotes also seem to jump out at me.  

For example, for the more traditional RWS Three of Swords (discussed in the previous post): Into each life some rain must fall - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  

More generally for these romantic heartbreak variations: Sometimes I wish I were a little kid again, skinned knees are easier to fix than broken hearts.  ~Author Unknown

Romantic love is a vital part of our lives, yet it also causes us much stress and heartache.  Looking to the more positive aspects of the Three of Swords - and yes, it does have them - what I've always seen as a positive is the idea that "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".   Or, to add another quote: [A] final comfort that is small, but not cold:  The heart is the only broken instrument that works.  ~T.E. Kalem.  We do survive heartbreak, and may be more balanced and more aware of what we really want and need from life for it.

Living through the pain we come out a more rounded, empathic person.  However, another positive aspect that this analysis brought to light is exactly how much artistic effort has come from this source.  The quotes above are the tip of the iceberg.  When I think of the romantic poets of the French Middle Ages, of Shakespeare and "Romeo and Juliet", or the innumerable songs on the subject of heartache and heartbreak, I have to say, "Bring it on."  Not for myself, you understand, but for others so that they can become better artists ;D

As a tarot reader, another aspect that comes to mind, particularly with the Sun and Moon Tarot version of this card, is the reminder how much of the pain associated with this card is due to our own thoughts and ideas.  While this may be a source of creative inspiration, it is also true that if we dusted ourselves off and went out to dance our socks off, we wouldn't feel the pain in the same way.  It might simply be momentarily repressed, but there is also the aspect that if we're not thinking about it, we're not churning it around and wallowing in it.  Something worth thinking about?  Or dancing on?

So, dear readers, how do you feel about the Three of Swords?  And how do you interpret it? 

Images from the Housewives Tarot, the Ferret Tarot and the Sun and Moon Tarot.

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