The Three of Swords is one of the cards in the Tarot that speaks quite clearly for itself.  The three swords piercing the heart is universally recognized as a symbol of heartbreak, grief, suffering and sorrow. It may be an unpleasant fact of life which has brought about this suffering, or it is possible that your own thought processes or outlook is what is causing you pain.

A friend of mine lost his father to cancer unexpectedly, and he reflected upon the grieving process by making an analogy to animals in the ocean like seals and walruses who absorb bits of trash, rock or seaweed into their skins. At first the pain is uncomfortable, as the animal suffers in misery and pain at this unwelcome object that is piercing his side, just as one grieving feels the unwelcome loss and change and does not want to accept it. But then, slowly over time, the skin grows around the object which has attached itself to the animal, and eventually it is wholly integrated and becomes an indistinguishable part of his body. He is changed, yes, but not necessarily into something worse, just into something new. In the same way, after the initial discomfort of sorrow is over and the reality of the situation is accepted, painful experiences and emotions can be integrated into the whole of the personality and become an essential part of who we are. One day what afflicts you now will cease to be painful, and all that will be left is the lesson that you may take away from the experience.

The Three of Swords is an image of, not only pain, but also the integration and acceptance of pain. The Swords pierce all the way through the heart from one side to the other completely, and their symmetry and alignment suggests a kind of purposefulness or higher order. This card can mean a period of deep introspection and integration of past hurts or grief, or learning to accept a painful situation with graceful surrender. Look for the deeper meaning of this pain, and take note of the lessons you have learned from this suffering. Pain that is ignored, repressed, underestimated or avoided will only come back later a hundred times stronger.

Astrological Association:

The Three of Swords is connected to Mars / the Moon as a symbol of feeling offended. It is in the aspect with Mercury, the decision taken contrary to the senses.

Card meanings upright:

The Three of Swords card can represent heartbreak, sorrow, pain, and separation in your life. This time of separation may be temporary, but it may also turn out to be final. You may have been covering up old pain in your life by buying it deep, and now is a good time to release it so you can heal.

Card meanings reversed:

When the Three of Swords card is reversed, it can indicate that you may be storing blocked grief in your heart. You may be afraid of grieving a loss and instead hold it all deep inside yourself. You may not feel comfortable telling people how you are feeling and it is possible you might have a tendency toward rejecting others before they reject you first.


The Three of Swords card can represent hurt feelings or bruised ego as a result of something that happens in your work life. You may need to work hard to keep your perspective and remember that there is much more to you than your work. You may need guidance to find a new approach to work, and now is a good time to ask for help. If you are looking for work, you might need to change your direction or consider a different field than you’ve been pursuing.


The Three of Swords card usually represents difficulty and pain in your love life. If you are in a committed relationship and want it to survive, you and your partner may need to be willing to talk openly and work on your connection. You may find that someone you thought cared for you is not actually as loving as you supposed, but you may need to focus on not taking it personally or dwelling on the pain too long. If you are looking for you, you may be being guided to the right relationship for you with a person who will care for you deeply and truly.


The Three of Swords can mean disappointing news in your financial life. You may need to approach a situation with your finances with an unflinching eye and then figure out what you need to do, one step at a time. If your situation seems overwhelming, you may need to break it down into smaller pieces so you can move forward. If you need financial help, you may need to swallow your pride and ask for it.


The Three of Swords can indicate that this is not a time to try and hold on to things, ideas, situations, or people that may have run their course in your life. You may need to make room in your heart and spirit for new things that will come to you. Time alone might be beneficial for you to search yourself and see if you need to heal any hidden emotional pain. Talking with someone you trust may help guide you during this time.


Customized to your exact birth date and name, this personalized numerology report will shed light on your core numbers and life.

The Gilded Tarot Deck by Ciro Marchetti © 2004 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125.  All rights reserved, used by permission.