This is the next blog post about the symbolism of a tarot card. I hope to make a blog post for each and every tarot card, but as my collection continues to grow, it is making it hard to keep the conversation streamlined. However, I think that even looking at a few of the cards can really help create some understanding around the meaning of each card.
Symbolism after all is nothing more than a language that engages our innate and deep intuition to turn on. Symbolism allows us to make connections in understanding that may not have been formed if we were reading a tarot book or leaning into another method of “learning” the tarot.
Just like before, I will break down the symbolism of each card I have in my deck (and there is a new deck to highlight!), highlighting the similarities and differences across the cards, ultimately discussing in the meaning of this card. If you have one, two, or many tarot decks, I recommend going and looking at your 3 of Swords cards across your collection. Not only will this help form a deeper understanding of the card itself from your own collection, it will also help you get much more intimate and in touch with the cards you own and use.
Let’s now take a deep dive into the 3 of Swords…..
Starting with The Wild Unknown, this 3 of Swords speaks to the dreary and foreboding image reminiscent of the rider-Waite Smith image.
Three swords are completely wrapped up in knotted folds, completely making the swords useless and ineffective. The black background speaks to the darkened depths, but it also speaks to the starkness that will often be found with the 3 of Swords. This is a card where the stark contrasts highlight the heightened energy with this card.
With such little symbolism, this card still gives us a lot to work with in terms of understanding the card. With this card, there is an invitation, albeit, not the most pleasant, of slow understanding and going into the depths. In order to make those swords effective again, the tangled folds must be unknotted, and that is the main invitation with this card.
This card asks you to unravel your thoughts and emotions so that you can make clear decisions and speak clearly to your truth. If your thoughts and emotions are knotted so tightly around you, you cannot wield your power. You become stuck.
With this card, there is an invitation to grow up and grow through the situations and experiences in the past and present so that you can use those swords effectively, and to the higher gains of your truth down the road
The next image is from the Ostara Tarot deck. Here we have a tree with a heart carved into it, and three swords stuck inside the carving. A frog climbs the tree, almost looking like the ivy he came from. Rain pours sideways against the tree.
There is a lot more symbolism here to work with, or at least a story as I see it. It seems that act of carving your love into a tree, an act of proclaiming that love as eternal and everlasting didn’t last quite as long. The rain seems to speak to the bleakness of the day, and the situation regarding this proclamation of love. It may be even pertinent to note that when you carve into the tree like this, you are not only harming the tree, but you are potentially exposing the tree to harmful toxins that could kill the tree, so an act of love in the moment leads to hurt for all parties later on, including the tree.
The frog speaks to a potential lift or light in the card’s message. Frogs speak to energies of clearing, healing, and rejuvenating. By allowing the pain of the situation to just fall like the rain, clearing and healing energies are possible. It can hurt, but it allows relief and release- two themes that the 3 of Swords express.
The vines climbing the tree show that with time, this situation will be released to the past, given towards new growth, and it will be covered in that bounty. The theme here is time and patience. The growth will happen at its own pace, and to rush it will only be a further detriment to the situation.
Next is the Herbcrafter’s Tarot. Each card is accompanied by an herb that connects to the card’s specific message, and the choice of echinacea will soon be apparent, but first, let’s look at the card image. Three echinacea flower stand tall on a dreary, overcast day. The rain has made the three flowers a little worse for wear; their battered nature shows this. A rusted, forgotten barn stands in the background. Underneath, new echinacea buds are growing.
The image again shows a dreary moment in time, with things being affected, like the swords in the TWU deck and the tree in the Ostara deck. These moments happen to each of us, where we must confront the storm and try to pass through it. Sometimes that is easier said than done. This card says that growth is possible, as we see the flower buds coming up, but it also says that storms give and they take, and we must accept both.
The choice of echinacea makes perfect sense for the 3 of Swords. First, echinacea is an endangered plant. It used to grow in abundance all over prairies of North America- those days are gone (a truth we must accept). Echinacea takes a long time to grow- again speaking to patience with this card. Finally, echinacea is an herb that helps the body build strength and resilience to fight infections. With the 3 of Swords, the more we work to find understanding, the more we know. The more we grow through our growing pains, the stronger we become, and better able to do the same in similar situations.
From the Hush Tarot deck, we have a much more macabre and dark scene. A lifeless body now makes shelter for a beehive. Lilies indicate rebirth and purity, which seems to be in contrast to the scene, but actually fits well. A knife sticks out the back o the body. Leaves are turning to amber and red, a symbol that the dark half of the year is coming. Birds look for any last pickings.
Let’s first look at the beehive. Bees are a keystone species- there may not be a living thing in the natural world that gives us more than the bee. Bees are protective of their hives, and can quickly go into hive mind- stinging uncontrollably. This symbolism speaks to a need to be protective of our hearts and minds, but to not let the fiery rage consume us. The lilies say that even in scenes like this, purity and rebirth can be found, but we have to be open to the truth for this to happen.
The knife in the back may be the most disturbing part of this scene. The guidebook says that this speaks to deceit and treachery, a need to look over the shoulder all of life. I agree with part of this. With the 3 of Swords, we must be honest where we have caused harm. We need to be honest where we are experiencing the consequences of our actions. If not us to blame, we still need to accept harsh truths that things like this can happen. The leaves changing and the birds picking symbolize that the death cycles will soon be complete, and all we can do is go with it, and find that rebirth.
Next we have the 3 of Swords from the Mystical Dream Tarot, and this one is one of my favorite depictions of this card. The symbolism with this card, and this deck, is just so rich and full of meaning.
A man stands near the shoreline. He is cutting himself free from a chain that tethers him to a hook in the ground. Flames fan on either side of him, and in front is a red rose bush with three red roses.
The act of cutting the chain is the most significant in relation to the card’s message. We must untether ourselves from our thoughts and our emotions. We cannot let them stagnate us to this space or point in time. We must grow past this situation.
However, that is not to say that we cannot feel or think the truth of the situation. Then shoreline and ocean speak to the depths, depths of understanding and perception and self. The three roses in the front of the man speak to love, courage, devotion- all things needed when working with the 3 of Swords.
We must love ourselves enough to grow through the pain. We must be courageous to meet the truth, no matter how hard. We must be devoted to the truth to accept what is, but also what could be in the future. Finally, the flames provide clarity, transformation, and purification that will be extremely needed going forward.
Moving on to the Shadowscapes Tarot, we see similar themes between the swan and the lily shown in the Hush tarot. Swans symbolize beauty, grace, love, trust, and longevity (Swan Symbolism).
Here the swan has penetrated with three swords, symbolizing a violation of those themes. The swan sits a cracked slab, and above a bleeding heart is inlaid in cracked marble wall. The bleeding has moved past the circle border, and the cracks are expanding as well.
Again, this is a more dire or malevolent approach to this card, but some of the themes are the same. Here, the symbolism asks us to confront two things.
The first question is are we the swan, or are we the ones who put the swords in the swan. The 3 of Swords asks us to not get caught in victimhood, and to be brutally honest.
Speaking of honesty, we are being asked to see where the bleeding and cracking of our own thoughts and emotions has spilled over. This then leads us to question, can this be repaired, or do we just need to leave and build elsewhere- again speaking to that untethering with the Mystical Dream tarot.
Moving right into the Spirit Animal Tarot, we see a similar theme- rainy, stormy weather. This symbolism is obvious as pointed out, the storm is raging, casting doubt, stress, and hardship on the situation.
The spirit animal for this deck is the Grosbeak. The Grosbeak is a songbird with a red, heart-shaped feature across the chest. The Grosbeak represents many things across different cultures and beliefs, some of which being: grace, resilience, protection and renewal. (Grosbeak symbolism). The use of this bird speaks to finding ways from within to heal. We also see the theme of resilience again like in the Herbcrafter’s Tarot with echinacea.
The feathers hover above in the signature shape of the crossed swords. Flowers on the branches will use the water from the rain to grow. The three feathers indicate the hardship and pain of loss. However, the flowers indicate that growth is possible when we are willing to use the situation to help us find the best parts within ourselves to lean and to go forward.
The 3 of Swords from the Crow Tarot shows an image very reminiscent of the Rider- Waite Smith image with the three swords piercing the heart. The background shows a rocky cliffside and clouds- speaking to the harshness of this card, the starkness again seen like in the TWU tarot.
The main thing that I want to emphasize with this image is the symbolism of one bird staying and one bird leaving. This could indicate the breaking of a relationship, but you all know I don’t like to read the tarot like that.
I see this as a depiction of having to make deep and hard choices based on your own autonomy and sovereignty. This symbolizes the ownership that you need to take in relation to your own choices and ways of processing your thoughts and emotions. That also means relinquishing and become acutely aware that you cannot decide that for anyone else.
Finally, the large heart takes center stage in this image. In order for this heart to heal, those swords must be removed so they don’t fester. However, taking the swords out is just as painful as the placing of the swords- symbolizing a need for clarity and relief comes with its own pain, often in the form of honesty, truth, and an awareness to the actual situation, and not what we would want.
The last card comes from my newest deck, the Tarot of Dragons deck (which I am in love with by the way). This image shows a dragon holding a heart, roaring into the void. Lightning strikes the ground which has been pierced with three swords. The heart bleeds on the ground and the swords.
This is another take on this image. Let’s dissect the ground first. The ground has A LOT happening. There’s blood, swords, and lightning. The ground is shaky and unstable, which it often feels like in the 3 of Swords.
However, the dragon stands fearlessly, holding the heart out front. This is similar to the scene with the swan. Where can you find stable ground is one of the immediate invitations, because you can only move forward when you feel you can place a sure-footed step. The other thing is that this heart bleeding on the ground makes it look like a volcano, which are unpredictable, and when they erupt they can cause a lot of devastation, but can give a lot of benefit as well.
The other question is, where can you be strong like the dragon standing in the storm, or where have you toppled the situation so deeply in your favor that you have caused hurt to the self or others? Again, these are some key questions that come up when working with the 3 of Swords.
Like always, my goal with these posts is to show that you can get some serious, epic, and gorgeous readings just by leaning into the symbolism of the cards.
Some of the main themes through the symbolism, colors, or other artistic choices we saw were:
- Starkness: the black and white and the cliff face indicate a time or a need to get down to the core details. This is not a time for layers or nuance. The core truth is needed.
- Rain or stormy weather: the overcast and stormy weather speaks to what is happening within, but like all storms it will eventually pass.
- New birth or rejuvenation: the buds on the echinacea, the frog, the roses, and the lily all speak to rebirth, healing, and love to the self.
- Love and longevity: again, the roses and the swan speak to a possibility of going forward through love and conviction for the self in the present.
- Choice: the swords and the crow speak to a need to take ownership and make choices for yourelf and your needs going forward.
I hope this blog post helps you in understanding the beauty, benefit, and also hardship with the 3 of Swords. Look at your own images and see what you see in the details. Thank you for reading.