Thursday, 19 August 2010

Variations on the 3 of Swords Part 6

In my last post, considering Ciro Marchetti's Legacy of the Divine Tarot, I started to consider what things can help us with the pain and sorrow we find in the 3 of Swords.  I thought this a fitting place to end this series of ruminations on the 3 of Swords.  So, in this final post, I will examine three cards which suggest, to me, ways of coping with, and perhaps growing from, going through a 3 of Swords experience.

The first of these is from the World Spirit Tarot.  In this card we see two figures.  One turns away, unwilling to see the three swords.  These are planted in a piece of paper: perhaps a map of where she thought her life was going?  Behind the wall we see a broken mirror, with another cloaked figure reflected in it.  This complex image speaks to me of heartache coming from our own ideas about how things should be, and how the world doesn't always follow the path we have laid out for ourselves.  Another thought that comes to mind is that while the person is unwilling to examine both the swords and her map, she cannot come to terms with what has happened, nor create a new map, a new understanding of where she is and where she wants to go from here.  As for the cloaked figure, similar ideas arise about facing our own shadows, of being willing to see in what ways the image we desire is broken.

The second card that came to mind when I thought about ways of healing pain is the 3 of Swords from the Gaian Tarot.  In this image we see a man writing in a book.  Behind him in the bookshelves is a sand timer, suggesting the passage of time - often touted as the healer of all sorrow.  The fact that there are many books around him also implies the wealth of knowledge and experience available from others who have gone through similar situations, whatever that might be.  And the idea that learning about the facts related to the situation may also help in understanding and accepting, in coming to terms with what has happened.

Under his book is the traditional 3 of Swords image.  It feels to me as though he is journalling about his experiences of this card, and I certainly believe this is another very productive way of dealing with pain - externalising it, using it creatively, acknowledging it.  In some ways this returns us to the very first post in this series, and to the creative potential in heartache.

The third card that epitomises for me this aspect of the 3 of Swords being able to help in healing is from Rachel Pollack's Shining Tribe Tarot.  In the image we see three bird-headed swords which, where they come together, change into a snake, a ray of light and a stream.  Behind the swords there rises a full moon, and we see a red hand.  The author describes this saying: "It tells us that we can take hold of the energy of pain and transform it.  This does not mean escape, for transformation comes only when we go deep into our own experience.  The blood-red hand symbolizes this willingness to enter sorrow, as if we touch our own wounded hearts."  Rachel Pollack also talks about the power of the moon to guide us to intuitive understanding of the sorrow, rather than conscious rationalizations or giving in to distractions.  Instead, through living in and through our pain, we transform it: "The snake symbolizes visions; the light represents self-knowledge; the river, released emotions."  Once again, a strong motif is the importance of acknowledging our agony, accepting it, and working through it.

These are certainly not easy things to do, but I feel these variations on the 3 of Swords give us some suggestions as to how to go about it, as well as the benefits of doing so.  Being able to face up to ourselves and others, and to come out the other side stronger and more whole, seem to me to be worthwhile goals.

So, at the end of this journey through variations in the 3 of Swords, can you see any healing potential in this card?  Will you feel differently about it next time it comes up in a reading?

Images are from the World Spirit Tarot, the Gaian Tarot and the Shining Tribe Tarot.


  1. Thank you for your in depth look at the 3 of Swords. A profoundly instructive piece of work from which I will continue to learn; not only about various interpretations of the 3 of Swords, but also about yet another life situation which, through reading your work, I have come to realise, has the potential for breaking not only my heart but also my spirit. Forewarned is foreamed and for that I thank you, Inner Whispers.

  2. I have been reading this series over the past few weeks and want to thank you for this in-depth look at the Three of Swords. The way you grouped the cards was very instructional and thoughtful.

    I've seen the Shining Tribe Tarot featured on other blogs (and I've heard Rachel Pollack speak about it in a few archived podcasts that I've listened to recently) but it always felt a little out of reach for me. Somehow, reading about the Three of Birds in the context of this series made that deck more accessible to me... I think I "get it" now.

    Thanks for inspiring me to look at this card (and even some decks) in a new way.