three of swords digital art

Three of Swords Explained - Upright & Reversed Meanings

Last Updated: December 1, 2022

The Three of Swords is the third card in the Suit of Swords (also known as the suit of blades) and one of the fifty-six suit cards from the minor arcana. In divinatory tarot, the Suit of Swords is associated with thought, intellect, mental strength, and integrity. They can also represent conflict, hardship, and misfortune.

Divination practices such as cartomancy can help us make decisions, offer guidance, and help us tune into our intuition when we are at a crossroads in our lives. Understanding the meanings of each tarot card can help you sharpen your interpretative skills so you can get the most out of your readings.

The Three of Swords is one of the most important cards in the Minor Arcana of Swords. There is usually a painful situation or experience associated with the Three of Swords tarot card. The event that happened caused pain and heartbreak. This card bears the energy of both, logic and feelings. There is heartache but also overthinking and tension.

In this article, we will discuss the meanings of the Three of Swords in various tarot reading contexts as well as the different symbols and nuances that can be found within this court card.

Table of Contents

Pictorial Symbolism in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck

The artworks from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck contain deeper esoteric meanings that tarotists love to decipher. The Three of Swords has on the card a heart stabbed with 3 swords can be observed. The heart is in the air. Superficially, this symbolism includes heartbreak, pain, and sorrow. It could mean that some harsh words have fallen and hurt a person. Some past events might have come back and need revision. 

Three of Swords Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck

The symmetrical arrangement of the 3 swords in the heart speaks about learning to live with the pain. The pain is either coming or it represents a long-term problem which already exists in the heart. The clouds and rain may represent sadness and emotional pain. The overall atmosphere is dark. 

The clouds are preventing a clear view. The rain symbolizes water, which is an emotional experience that a person has been through. However, the clouds will go away at some point. The idea here is that there is transformation coming and that the person should not hold on to pain.

The Three of Swords key correspondences

Upright keywords

sadness, breaking up, parting ways, broken heart, depression

Reversed keywords

overcoming a situation, new perspectives, stabilisation of emotions, inner strength, healing, optimism, forgiveness

Yes or No

No

Numerology

3

Element

Air

Ruling Planet

Venus

Astrological Sign

Libra, Saturn in Libra, October 3rd - October 12th

What does the upright Three of Swords mean in the Tarot?

The Three of Swords is a card of sadness and grief, and unfortunately, it tells us that it is inevitable. A person must go through the experience of loss. When the Three of Swords appears in the reading, it is usually a sign that some significant separation is coming. 

This is a time of deep changes, both on the spiritual and physical levels. Emotional pain and heartache do not mean necessarily that there is love betrayal. Somebody from your friends, family or colleagues might have betrayed you.

Upright Three of Swords

When pulled in the upright position, the Three of Swords is associated with loss, heartache, and emotional pain.

What does the upright Three of Swords mean in a love reading

The meaning of this card usually refers to breaking the emotional catharsis you have been in for a long time. Most often it means loss or separation from a loved one. The Three of Swords warns you that you can easily lose your direction. 

They also advise you to get out of a relationship that is suffocating you. Conflicts will not stop, but will only escalate. The Three of Swords also signifies abandonment. In such circumstances, it is important to consider the meanings of the other cards. Sometimes it is difficult to connect these meanings, so the Three of Swords can refer to the fear of abandonment, not just literal abandonment. 

In case you have been recently through a breakup this card can suggest that you will not make up again with your partner. If you have reconciled recently maybe this relationship will not last.

Even though this card will announce bad news or experiences bear in mind that sadness and loneliness always lead towards transformation. The message is to accept the pain, not only perceive it. Start working on yourself and allow yourself to heal because the colour of the heart is still red and the heart is still there, alive.

What does the upright Three of Swords mean in a career reading?

The card represents confusion in the current state. Maybe you have the feeling that you do not know which way to go. Your job and career do not shape your personality – You should remember that you are much more than that one role in life. In case you are planning to invest money in business you should wait because now is the wrong time for that. 

It seems that you will be in a bad financial position. It could even indicate that you will have to borrow money. The person might be overwhelmed with the current situation at the workplace. It could indicate a sudden loss of the job. It may even represent that there is some miscommunication or conflict at the workplace. 

In case the person has a certain position and is making decisions at the workplace, the person is struggling to make the right decision.

Now is not the right time to make decisions. In case the person has lost the job and is trying to find a job the search might be difficult. However, the person should not be hopeless and discouraged but should take some time for themselves and try to conquer their fears.

What does the upright Three of Swords mean in a health reading?

In the context of health, the Three of Swords may mean to stop with vices. If the person has health problems, they should get a second opinion. If your mental state is bad, you should know that it has an impact on the body. Spiritually you are sensitive and you should allow yourself to accept and cope with the emotions that you are facing.

Also, the card means that the person is stressed or ill. It might even signify that there is an upcoming surgery. Physical illness might influence the cardiovascular system while mental issues are highlighted through depression or deep sadness. 

The pain that the person is going through might be blocking this person to stay focused on daily tasks. It can mean that your heart is too stressed and the pressure is rising. The age of the inquirer does not matter in this case.

The Three of Swords as feelings/emotions

If you’re asking the tarot how someone feels about you, pulling the Three of Swords means that this person might have reached the peak of their emotions. They may have very strong feelings related to a recent wound. Primarily the meaning here is heartache. 

The card is talking about unhealed wounds. The person might be afraid to open up. When the person ends up working on the negative emotions and feelings that are holding them back, they will be able to commit to something new. 

The person might be confused and not able to make a decision. Somebody might be influencing this person and they are struggling to hear their inner voice. 

The card points out that some emotions should be healed and released.

The Three of Swords as a person

As a personality archetype, the Three of Swords represents someone who is logical, intellectual and mindful. If the meaning is favourable (depending on the other cards), it indicates courage. But it could also show excessive ambition or inner struggle. 

The card can indicate that the person you are asking about has been hurt in the past and did not heal from it yet. Their beliefs about love might be different due to negative experiences. They did not give their heart anymore to anyone and a relationship with such a person might be difficult.

 In fact, this person is sentimental and insecure. They might be focused too much on the outside and hence did not heal past traumas.

The Three of Swords as advice

If you are asking the tarot for advice regarding a specific situation in your life, drawing the Three of Swords means you should distance yourself from the toxic people around you. Those that are hurting you should not be having a big energetical power over you.

Work on yourself to free your heart from negative causes that are impacting emotions. You should focus on the feeling you currently have and allow yourself to process it.

Another aspect of the Three of Swords is that you are taking things too personally that people around you say to you. We are increasingly exposed to verbal attacks in society or online and these things can be very hurtful. You should learn to cope with these things and not let them hurt you. 

You could be working on a more positive self-image which will help you to defend yourself from these hurtful events. Difficult life events can leave strong scars on our hearts; however, we should learn how to cope with that and heal ourselves.

What is the zodiac or astrological sign associated with the Three of Swords?

The astrological sign that is associated with the Three of Swords is Libra. However, it can be talking about any other air sign. The sign Libra in the zodiac is associated with the seventh house. This is the house of relationships and partnerships. 

It can be linked to Saturn too, which is known for restrictions and tough foundations. Swords represent very often communication and logic, which are so necessary to our own growth when dealing with big emotions and other people.

Is the Three of Swords a yes or no card?

The Three of Swords is a No card. Below are some of my interpretations, as an experienced tarot practitioner, based on different types of questions:

  1. “Will I get the job?” No. Now is not the right time for that job. 
  2. “Is this new person in my life good for me?” They might be not ready to start something serious with you and invest their heart. If the question is career-related, they might be hard to trust. 
  3. “Will I achieve my current goals?” Currently, it is a no. This card is asking you to work on yourself first. Once you have healed yourself from past bad experiences, you will be able to work on your goals. 
  4. “Should I start my own business?” Currently, it is the wrong time for starting the business.

What does the reversed Three of Swords mean in the Tarot?

In a reversed position, the Three of Swords has a far more positive meaning than when in the upright position. It usually means that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that the worst is coming to an end. 

The time has finally come when you are ready to work on yourself and let things go.  You are coming back slowly but steadily to your everyday life. New perspectives are coming to you and you are realizing how strong you were in the situation that you have been through. You can be proud of yourself and see yourself in a better light than before. 

Your emotions are finally stabilizing.

In some cases, however, this card is interpreted as negative and also in the reversed position. It could mean that there is an upcoming quarrel. There might be some delays in business, court decisions, and exams. It might be hard for you currently to understand the separations that you are going through. 

It is only when you realize how much a person meant to you when you are separated. The action and realization are missing. Some events in the background might be preventing the progress of the situation. There might be surgery which was not successful.

Reverse Three of Swords

When pulled in the reversed position, the Three of Swords is linked with overcoming a situation, stabilisation of emotions, inner strength, healing, forgiveness.

What does the reversed Three of Swords mean in a love reading?

The reversed meaning of the Three of Swords is more positive than the upright meaning. It means that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Bad times are over and the worst period is ending. The card should remind you of your inner strength and that it was one more experience that has thought you something useful.

In case you are asking for another person (your partner or person of interest), this could mean that the person is trying to start the relationship without healing their past wounds from the old relationships and without being aware of that. It was a phase of life when you got to draw your lessons from it. 

You are maybe starting to practice forgiveness towards a person who hurt you. You are ready to fall in love again and you have freed yourself from sorrow. When you open your heart to new people you will see how much you have to give.

What does the inverted Three of Swords mean in a career reading?

In the past, it was very difficult for you to balance yourself in your career. Now you are beginning to rise again. Your patience and hard work will pay off. Work on your self-confidence in order to be able to master new tasks that are coming your way. 

In case you had some discussions or even fight with a colleague or business partner the card indicates that the time has finally come when you will be able to put these issues behind you. Practice forgiveness and focus on a new beginning to avoid wasting energy on fighting. 

The communication is going to improve and you will avoid making the same mistakes as in the past.

What does the upside-down Three of Swords mean in a health reading?

After a period of being ill, you are finally coming back to a normal state. If you have had surgery, you are recovering and it is getting better day by day. You might be feeling a sudden energetical boost which can help you also mentally to get back on track. 

Since this card also represents anxiety, you should consider that if you are being anxious, worried and stressed that it might be affecting your well-being.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the 3 of Swords tarot card is a powerful symbol of loss, heartache, and emotional pain. When this card appears in your reading, it is often a sign that you are going through a difficult time in your life. However, it is also a reminder that this pain is only temporary and that you will eventually heal. The key to moving past this pain is to learn from it and grow stronger from the experience.

Despite its association with mysticism and occultism, the tarot has grown to become much more than a simple “fortune-telling” tool. For many tarot practitioners, it is a complex system made of symbolic imagery and psychological considerations (Jungian archetypes for example) that can be used for self-exploration, meditation, and personal transformation.

The 56 lesser arcana cards relate to the day-to-day events of our lives, the more mundane aspects of our existence. Even though that part of the tarot is about the “smaller picture”, it symbolizes the constant choices we make that shape our lives, our characters, and ultimately our destinies.

Have you ever had a reading where the 3 of Swords appeared? What was the outcome? What does that card mean to you personally? How do you interpret this card in your own tarot practice?

Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments below. Additionally, If you want to know more about the different tarot cards, feel free to check out my complete list of all 78 tarot cards and their meanings.

LB

I have been reading Tarot for more than 15 years. I have always enjoyed using my intuition to provide clarity and insights to others. Tarot is one of my favorite forms of divination, and I love sharing that passion with like-minded folks.

Learn more about the Suit of Swords

This page is part of our comprehensive list of the 56 minor arcana tarot cards & their meanings. If you enjoyed the read, then you’ll love the following articles.