Three of Swords: Beyond Heartache

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. [Ezekiel 36:26-27, NRSV]

RW swords03

Rider Waite Tarot

The Three of Swords is one of the easiest cards to interpret and the hardest to receive. In the Rider-Waite deck, three swords piercing a heart with storm clouds and rain behind it mean the querent is in for story weather. Traditionally, this card is symbolic of heartache and is usually seen as an omen of bad things to come. A week ago I drew this card in my Celtic Cross spread in the House/Self position. I have been wrestling with what this means to me ever since. As the days progressed I received several pieces of bad news from close family members that have made my heart sad, but the image of the card stuck with me and so I wanted to see if I could derive a deeper meaning from it than simple heartache.

DC swords03

Druidcraft Tarot


The version of this card that opened up new possibilities of interpretation for me was the Druidcraft deck which has a stone heart with three swords pointing upward from and leaning on a tree whose bark has been peeled away and has been pierced by three holes. The imagery on this card seemed different from the traditional Rider-Waite version so I did a little digging and here is what I found.

The three diverging swords on the card are the three rays of Awen, a modern Druidic symbol. This Gaelic word means “inspiration” or “essence” and refers to poetic inspiration (traditional) and spiritual illumination (modern). This symbol has many beautiful meanings but the one that was of interest to me is as a symbol of the wisdom that comes from suffering. Therefore, this card has the potential of being a card of transformation instead of an omen of bad news and suffering. Depending upon what position the card turns up in, the Three of Swords could be calling us to learn from our broken hearts and use this wisdom as we move forward in life. This is especially true if it turns up in a past position in any given spread.


Wheel of the Year Tarot


The final version of the Three of Swords that really blew me away is from the Wheel of the Year Tarot. The swords are crossed and are stuck into thorny, dry ground. However, two owls and a raven sit on top of these swords and the sun shines behind them. Again, this holds the promise of transformation and wisdom that comes from suffering. Owls have universally been symbolic of wisdom and the raven is a bringer of magic in Wiccan and Native American spiritualities. The Sun is symbolic of the male energy of the Divine Presence. Therefore, the Three of Swords might be telling us that we are being guided through our journey of heartache and suffering by Divine hands who will use this experience for good in the end.

This is how the Three of Swords speaks to me. What do you hear it saying to you?

Copyright ©2016 by David Taliesin,

About David Taliesin

My name is David Taliesin. I'm an writer, teacher and retreat leader who explores the connections between Christian and Pagan Spirituality. E-mail me with any personal comments you'd like to share and I will do my best to answer them. You can also contact me through my Facebook page
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4 Responses to Three of Swords: Beyond Heartache

  1. Anne says:

    Hi David. I agree wholeheartedly with your interpretation of the Three of Swords. I just wanted to share that the raven is also the symbol of the first level of initiation into the Mithraic mysteries: He (?) is absolutely a bringer of magic.Thanks again for your blog.


  2. Jackie says:

    Three of Swords came up in my meditation last night, and your interpretation helped the most. Thanks for keeping your posts from years past available!


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