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The Three of Swords in Tarot and How to Read It

Andrea has a background in Myers-Briggs and Western astrology. She mostly writes about relationships.

The Three of Swords foretells a serious misfortune. The card is most commonly associated with breakups.

The Three of Swords foretells a serious misfortune. The card is most commonly associated with breakups.

Interpreting the Three of Swords

Three swords go straight through the heart. So it is unsurprising that this card is notoriously known as the breakup card and is associated with grief, anguish, and longing.

The card doesn't tell of anything happy. It is associated with a lost relationship, an accidental death, or something deeply sorrowful. When the card is in the reversed position, it usually represents recovery or sorrows reversed.

The reversed Three of Swords could also represent a deflection—perhaps you blocked an attack on your most sacred ground.

Why does tarot have to have negative cards?

Tarot is based on real scenarios that people encounter in their day-to-day lives. There are 78 cards, and they can be read upright or reversed. That means there are 156 different kinds of real-life events in the deck. Tarot is supposed to be relatable, and the reality is that negative and positive things happen in every person's life. If the card didn't relate to circumstances people experience, I doubt it would have ever become popular.

Why do sword cards have to be so dark?

The swords relate to the powers of the mind. Ultimately, the swords are about seeking wisdom. This suit is challenging because it deals with life and death matters. The suit really demonstrates the power of your choices. There are certain situations that are fated and unavoidable, but you get to decide how you'll react. I would argue this suit is challenging because having mental clarity is really hard. A lot stands in the way of having and developing sound logic. If you can master the Suit of Swords, your life will be blessed.

Someone who excels at wisdom can sense when something isn't right. They won't be suckers for conspiracy theories, and they'll check sources and seek out expert advice.

What does the number three relate to in tarot?

The number is associated with unifying forces. Common themes are trust, merging, indulgence, and taking a path of no return.

Card Alignments

Upright

Heartbreak, breakup, tragedy, major setback, turmoil, anguish, suffering, emotional pain, sorrow, grief, wounded, crisis, endings, despair, hopelessness, distraught, hurt.

Reversed

Releasing pain, optimism, forgiveness, recovery, deflection, defense, new outlook, hope, progress, new friendships, healing, clouds clearing, clarity, new understanding.

The Three of Swords is a strong attack. It will take time to recover. Things will never be the same again.

The Three of Swords is a strong attack. It will take time to recover. Things will never be the same again.

Card Description

A heart is depicted in the center of the card and is pierced by three swords. The points of the swords stick out of the heart. Dark gray clouds gather in the background, and it is raining.

The card indicates that pain was inflicted upon you (or you're about to go through something painful). The attack was serious, and you'll be recovering from it for a long time. Things will never be the same again; however, you do have the chance to recover and rebuild your life in a new way. You're not condemned to never have prosperity again.

This card isn't the Ten of Swords, the Tower, or Death. It might take a miracle, but you're not dead when the Three of Swords appears. The card does foretell misfortune, but for the most part, your situation should be survivable.

While you're in pain, you will lose clarity. Your head will be full of clouds. Your painful situation haunts you everywhere you go, and you feel persistent sadness. This isn't a place you want to stay for long.

Suit of Swords and Nobles/Knights

The Suit of Swords deals with the Second Estate, the second tier of society in Medieval Europe (and into early modern times). The Second Estate includes nobles and knights. You'll want to keep this in mind when you review cards from the Suit of Swords.

Breakable Hearts

The heart isn't something to give away carelessly. Only a foolish teen would give their heart away like candy.

Instead, in order to give or receive someone's heart, you must be initiated. There are processes and ceremonies that must take place for two people to fall in love and mutually so. Love is like when you braid two yarn strands into one. The two become so neatly attached that when they're separated, it is traumatic.

A love that's real will be painful when it's broken. Tears stream down your face, screams escape your lungs, weight mysteriously disappears, and butterflies flood your gut. You might feel cursed and unwelcome to join society.

Love, in theory, should outlast your own life. You and someone else should be protectors of that love, and the story behind it should be shared for generations to come. A really strong love doesn't untether with ease.

Don't be too alarmed when you see this card. Even though it looks scary and foretells misfortune, it is survivable.

Don't be too alarmed when you see this card. Even though it looks scary and foretells misfortune, it is survivable.

Tarot Suits

CategoryWandsPentaclesSwordsCups

Elements

Fire

Earth

Air

Water

Elementals

Salamanders

Gnomes

Sylphs

Undines

Colors

Red

Green

Yellow

Blue

Represents

Free will

Physical Manifestation (The Body)

Thoughts

Emotions

Animals

Land Mammals

Reptiles

Birds

Fish

Music

Percussion

Brass

Woodwinds

Strings

Seasons

Summer

Spring

Winter

Fall

Numbers

1, 5, 9

2, 6, 10

3, 7, 11

4, 8, 12

Four Humors

Yellow Bile

Black Bile

Blood

Phlegm

Body Representations

Head, Heart, Thighs

Neck/Throat, Chest, Legs/Shins

Arms & Shoulders, Belly, Ankles

Hands, Root Chakra (Spine Base), Feet

Ruling Planets

Mars, Sun, Jupiter

Mercury, Venus, Saturn

Mercury, Venus, Uranus

Moon, Pluto, Neptune

Western Astrology

Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Chinese Zodiac

Dragon, Monkey, Rat

Snake, Rooster, Ox

Horse, Dog, Tiger

Sheep, Pig, Rabbit

Yin and Yang

Yang

Yin

Yang

Yin

Court Cards

Knights

Pages

Kings

Queens

Poker Equivalents

Clubs

Diamonds

Spades

Hearts

The Three of Swords is one of the most negative cards in tarot. It's easily on my top ten list of the most negative cards to draw, even if it's the Three of Swords alien meaning.

The Three of Swords is one of the most negative cards in tarot. It's easily on my top ten list of the most negative cards to draw, even if it's the Three of Swords alien meaning.

Upright Cards

I don't wish this card upon anyone. If you connect to this card on some level, that likely means you're in a miserable situation (or about to go into one). You probably feel in your gut that something is wrong as this card is synonymous with breakups. In fact, it was the first card I learned, and it made me want to look at the tarot deck closer.

I first turned to tarot when I didn't have clarity on a romantic situation back in college. The Three of Swords accurately depicted my dilemma. I went to a tarot reader, and, to my surprise, she accurately predicted the next few years of my life. She guessed how old I would be when I got married, and she nailed it on the head. (I didn't stall out my wedding just to fit her prediction.)

Expect Closure

The Suit of Swords deals with painful scenarios. A card like this indicates a definite end. Things might not have wrapped up with a neat little bow, but you've been given closure on something. The Three of Swords can happen suddenly or at a more slow and calculated pace.

There is a sense of betrayal. Why did things have to end so horribly? This is the kind of card where people can find themselves mad at God. They'll ask him why he let their child die so young, why there wasn't justice for someone wrongfully put in prison, or why the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. We deflect our rage on the cosmos; it isn't the fault of the stars that you or your loved ones met a sour demise. Reality has misfortunes in it; we're not in a perfect place.

If you are dealing with circumstances that relate to the Three of Swords, my best advice would be to prioritize your recovery. Be patient; it might take a while before you're on solid ground again.

Be smart about your situation. If you're going through a divorce, you need to keep yourself in check. People try to win as much as they can in a divorce, and things can get ugly and competitive. You need to fight for your belongings. Take pictures and keep copies of important documents. Get a really good handle on your relationship's timeline.

Consider the Three of Swords like three unified knights. Together they can take down a single opponent with way more ease than if they approached the battlefield divided.

Consider the Three of Swords like three unified knights. Together they can take down a single opponent with way more ease than if they approached the battlefield divided.

Reversed Three of Swords

The good news if this card comes up in a reversed position is: you're coming out of a bad situation. The bad news: you were in a bad situation in the first place.

The reversed Three of Swords lets you know that your suffering and anguish are about to end. You will soon enter a new chapter, and there will be new beginnings.

Consider yourself like Job from the Bible, who loses everything, including his family. In the end, he recovers from his setbacks, and a new family is formed. Things were never like they previously were, and he still grieves his loss, but he is no longer alone and without.

The reversed Three of Swords could mean you're going to have to go through a powerful and unpleasant healing process in order to get to a better place.

The upright Three of Swords is a warning card, while the reversed Three of Swords signals rebirth. The reversed card is more about the aftermath than the initial pains. The pain could be emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual. The Three of Swords isn't limited to any particular scenario.

Creating a New Heart

It's gruesome, but imagine the swords coming out of the heart. Only a skilled doctor could somehow treat someone with a heart that has three puncture wounds. You're essentially going to need a whole new heart.

When you fall in love, you give away your heart in some ways. The person you gave your heart to will be the keeper of it. If the person breaks up with you, they take that heart with them. You have to grow a new heart inside yourself. Don't try to claw your way back to your old heart; it won't fit anymore.

Growing a new heart is a challenging process. Obviously, you're growing a new heart emotionally and spiritually, not physically.

When you break up with someone, you can feel real physical pains and anxiety. It can be tremendously sad to say goodbye to someone you may have been attached to. Your brain is going to have to flush itself of all its dependency chemicals. You'll feel haunted and confused as the days go by, but eventually, the haunting will stop. You won't have dreams of this person anymore. You'll have moved on.

Let a dead relationship stay dead. Don't try to bargain with your past. It's better to say adieu than to have to grow your heart a second, third, or fourth time. Protect yourself. There is someone out there that will respect you and your feelings. They won't toss you to the side so easily. They'll fight for you and try their hardest to honor your heart.

Blocking an Attack

The reversed Three of Swords could be associated with deflection. It could be a sign that you saw an attack coming, and you did something to prevent it. You have good defense mechanisms in place.

If so, think about what tried to attack you and what you can do moving forward. It's important to develop healthy coping mechanisms and forms of protection. You want to feel secure in who you are and not open to attacks.

Learning how to prevent attacks, especially mental ones, can take some work. When we're not feeling good, it's tempting to start nitpicking. One way to prevent mental attacks is to set up a healthy schedule for yourself. Go to bed at a decent hour and stop taking caffeine once it's the afternoon. Eat healthy foods and think more carefully about what you're putting into your body. In more ways than one, you are what you eat.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence