The Three of Swords: Love is the Blade that Cuts the Deepest

I’ve been putting off writing about this card ever since I begun discussing the numerological suit of the threes on Shades of Midnight. Apart from the fear that it might stir up residual demons that have yet to be put to rest, it’s never easy to talk about love, especially the darker side of romantic affection. This card has held immense significance for me over the past few days, quite possibly triggered by the potent solar eclipse in Cancer on the 1st of July. In Cancer, we confront issues of intimacy and security, and explore ways to cherish and nurture the special people in our lives. Cancer’s lessons also include learning to be comfortable with our emotional vulnerabilities, and instead of hiding these perceived weaknesses from our partners, to use these limitations as a form of sharing and bonding. Over the past few days, a number of people, clients as well as friends, have spoken to me about their relationship troubles, specifically, the pains of falling in love and losing the one who holds claim to your heart. I’ve been blessed to share in their experiences, and honored to be trusted to witness the side of themselves a lot of people keep hidden in love. It has, as expected (and feared), made me confront my own personal battles with love and loss, and what it means to experience both the highs and lows of this most enigmatic of emotions.

No one, when inquiring about the present or future status of their relationships, ever wants to see the 3 of Swords in a spread. While Swords are ruled by the element of Air and have domain over the intellect, the physical and emotional side of us can be all too strongly engaged when the 3 of Swords crops up. Anyone who has ever been in love and has lost that love to circumstance or folly will need no explanation as to what that means. In tarot, the 3 of Swords is the one card even a person with no inkling of what tarot is will be able to interpret. If a picture speaks a thousand words, what would the 3 of Swords say?

3 of Swords from the 'Tarot of the New Vision'

Heartbreak. Grief. Loss. The emotional death of the heart. Most of us have experienced this in some manner or degree. If not in a romantic relationship, then through the loss of a loved one to illness or the capricious workings of fate. Most depictions of the 3 of Swords that follow the Rider-Waite tradition show a large heart in the foreground being pierced by three swords. The background is bleak and desolate, and storm-clouds might loom on the horizon, heralding a time of intense emotional, mental and spiritual pain. Because the loss of love can be such a visceral experience, these feelings of loss can be quite potently physical as well, manifesting from a tightness in the chest to actual sensations of pain in the region of the heart.

Astrological Association: Saturn in Libra

I find it particularly telling that this card is associated with the planet Saturn, the Lord of Sorrows and Karma. At the time of the July 1st solar eclipse, Saturn at 10 degrees of Libra was making a tight square to the Sun in Cancer, triggering deep-seated emotional frustrations within our most intimate partnerships. An opposition from Pluto (death and transformation) and a second square from Uranus in Aries (unexpected occurrences) stimulated sudden break-ups or outbursts of relationship dissatisfaction. In the days and weeks following the eclipse, we will see a lot of people confronting issues of intimacy and sharing in their personal relationships. These relationships will either grow stronger through a purging of the pain we have experienced (Pluto) or dissolve completely under Uranus’ influence.

Saturn, as the ruler of karma, teaches us that the most beautiful lessons in life are gleaned through our experiences of grief and pain. Libra, ruled by Venus, is the significator for love and partnerships, and has domain over how we seek to establish and maintain equilibrium in our lives. The keyword for Libra is balance, and Saturn seeks to right any imbalances in our relationships by testing the foundation of our love for our not just our partners but ourselves. We are being challenged to fight for the ones we love, and to keep striving to hold on to that one special person in our lives no matter how difficult the circumstances might be.  However, the dissolution of a relationship will be inevitable when major imbalances exist between partners. These could include differences in personality, attitudes or values, as well as one person feeling they are giving too much and receiving too little in return. After all, isn’t the most enduring relationship the one we have with ourselves? Self-love forms the basis for all other types of love.

3 of Swords from the 'Thoth Tarot'

In the Thoth tarot, the 3 of Swords is known as Sorrow, and can point to negative fixations with things that have occurred in the past. This might include being unable to let go of painful memories associated with our partner, or bringing past hurts and betrayals into our present relationships. The 3 of Swords often points to extramarital affairs due to a ‘love triangle’, as signified by the number 3. Look to the surrounding cards to shed more light on the matter. If present with the 5 of Swords (Defeat), the 5 of Wands (Strife) or the 7 of Swords (Deception), a clandestine affair is confirmed. Sometimes, the appearance of a court-card that does not represent either yourself or your partner can point to an interference by a third party. When accompanied by the 5 of Cups (Grief) or the 10 of Swords (Ruin), the relationship has come to an end and we are left to deal with not only the aftermath of loss, but also the degradation of trust in ourselves and in our partners. At this time, the only thing to be done is to pick up the pieces and move along, and trust that in time, all wounds will heal. The scars they leave are another matter altogether.

3 of Swords from the 'Legacy of the Divine' Tarot

Though primarily a relationship card, the 3 of Swords does not augur well for either career or financial undertakings. Some amount of heartache is inevitable, such as losing out on a promotion to a less-deserving colleague or making investments that have resulted in nothing but disappointment. Pull that blade, whether self or other-inflicted, out of your chest and move on. With regards to health, this card sometimes signifies cardiac problems that necessitate surgical intervention. If present with the Queen of Swords, this is an assured outcome. Paired with the Empress or the Page of Cups, a miscarriage or abortion is possible.

Love, in all its forms, can be viewed as both a gift and a curse. Nothing can quite compare to the feeling of that other person’s hand in yours, or the immense surge of euphoria you experience at having your lover close to you, safe and secure in the knowledge that he/she belongs to you and only you. Conversation and companionship, kisses and caresses are the sweetest part of loving someone, and words can hardly do justice to what it feels like to have that affection and desire reciprocated by the one who makes your heart sing. No words, too, will be able to adequately express just how deeply love can cut, and what it feels like to live with the scars and memories of that love long after the ashes of desire have been scattered to the wind. I think that all of us desire romance on some level, and while some might hide it better than others, there’s something to be said about that magical moment when you’re with your beloved, when the whole world fades away and only the two of you exist in that shared heartbeat for and with each other. In that moment you are connected, at peace, and so perfectly complete….united in the divine trinity of mind, body and soul.

And at the end of the day, if you can’t look at your partner and know that the pain of loving them was worth it, you might need to ask yourself if it truly was love in the first place.

3 of Swords from the 'Shadowscapes Tarot'


 “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world which I find myself constantly walking around in the day-time, and falling into at night. I miss you like hell.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay.

   “When love is lost, do not bow your head in sadness. Instead, keep your head up high and gaze to heaven for that is where your broken heart has been sent to heal.” ~ Author Unknown.

   “Love is as much an object as an obsession. Everybody wants it, everybody seeks it, but few ever achieve it. Those who do will cherish it, be lost in it, and above all, never…never forget it.” ~ Curtis Judalet.



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