The Three of Swords has always been a bit of a thorn in my side. It’s not that I dread seeing it turn up in a spread. In fact, I once pulled it in the “outcome” position during a relationship reading for myself, and rather than inspire panic, it left me feeling mostly confused.
The (traditional) imagery of three swords brutally stabbing through a heart, set against a rainy backdrop isn’t something I find particularly distressing, either; it feels so removed, so clinical and out-of-body without the presence of any human figures.
No, my biggest issue with the card has always been that it felt so out of place within the Swords suit. What business did the heart – a symbol of love and emotions – have being within the suit of air, of the mental realm? Shouldn’t it be over with the Cups?
The more common interpretations of the card – betrayal, heartbreak, sorrow – also left me feeling rather cold. Sure, those keywords made sense in relation to the imagery, but it still lacked a bigger picture construction of how that all meshed within the Swords suit. How did we go from the mental clarity of the Ace, to the internal seeking of the Two, and then wind up in misery in the Three?
Then, one day earlier this year when I pulled the card from my Smith-Waite Centennial deck, something finally clicked. It was as though I was seeing the card for the first time, and everything I had been struggling to understand was suddenly so clear. I honestly couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen, what now seemed so obvious, within the imagery before.
The Three of Swords, for me, has become an invitation to get something off of my chest – to clear my emotional blockages through the act of communication. It’s a call to vulnerability by way of expressing fully the anxiety, pain, and suffering we are experiencing; an act that begins our healing process. An act that prepares us to heal our wounded heart. To explore and possibly even make peace with the triggers that brought us this sorrow in the first place.
We’ve all heard the saying “speak from the heart” and that simple yet powerful advice is at the very core of this card. Whether you write it down in a journal, tell someone you trust, speak it to the mirror, or just scream into the sky – the point is to release the thoughts, beliefs, and words trapped within your heart. To liberate your heart from the weight it’s carrying, so you can begin to mend the severing its undergone.
Now, none of this means that the Three of Swords doesn’t symbolize or foreshadow a painful experience, but that information in and of itself doesn’t really do much for us. It simply tells us how we’re already feeling, or the possibility of how a particular situation might make us feel. Great. Then what?
While it’s important for us to accept pain, to acknowledge that it’s okay to feel hurt, and to avoid the bypassing of tough emotions, it’s equally essential to have tools that help us move through and beyond the pain. This is not the Five of Cups, where we’re encouraged to feel our feels, to take grief by the hand, and to sit with our sorrow until we’re ready to heal. No, the Swords suit is too active for that approach. The Three of Swords calls upon us to face this period of distress head-on. This isn’t a time to dismiss our feelings, but rather to name them.
So, for those times when our hearts feel heavy, when we feel triggered and unsure of how to respond, here’s a spread to help you through.** It’s my hope that it helps you move from a place of defensiveness to one of vulnerability and compassion. That it encourages you to be kind to yourself and others, and to tend to your precious heart.
**The following can be used interchangeably as questions for the cards or as journaling prompts to get that communication flowing!
1: What triggered this emotional blockage?
2: What needs to be communicated to release the blockage?
3: How might I best communicate this?
4: What does my heart need me to know about this experience?
5: What next steps can I take to heal these wounds?