Three of Swords: Navigating the Storms of Heartache

A heart pierced by three swords, embodying the Three of Swords tarot card.

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The Three of Swords is a tarot card that often evokes a visceral reaction, its imagery stark and its themes profound.

Known for its association with emotional pain, this tarot card is not without its complexities, offering not just a mirror to our sorrows but also a window to potential growth and the silver linings that can emerge from our darkest times.

Within the Minor Arcana, this card stands as a poignant reminder of the difficult moments that are an inevitable part of the human experience, yet it also encourages the act of emotional purging—a cathartic release that paves the way for healing and renewal.

Three of Swords Tarot Card

Key Facts

  • Upright Position: The Three of Swords in the Minor Arcana symbolizes heartache, emotional pain, and sorrow, often pointing to a necessary period of emotional purging.
  • Reversed Position: When reversed, it suggests healing, the release of grief, and moving past emotional turmoil towards recovery.
  • Love Reading: This card can indicate emotional strife, betrayals, or painful separations, urging a need for emotional honesty.
  • Career and Finances: Reflects potential stress, disappointment, or setbacks in career and financial matters, signaling a need for resilience.
  • Spirituality: In spiritual readings, it represents the growth that comes from emotional challenges and the purging of negative feelings.
  • Yes or No Readings: Generally, the Three of Swords suggests a “No,” advising caution and attention to unresolved emotional issues before proceeding

Three of Swords Meaning

In its upright position, the Three of Swords presents a piercing representation of emotional upheaval. The card’s imagery—a heart impaled by three swords against a backdrop of storm clouds—conveys a moment of grief that is both personal and profound.

This card often surfaces in readings at times when one’s emotional health is tested, perhaps through a betrayal, loss, or a period of anxiety that brings bad feelings to the surface.

Yet, the Three of Swords is not merely a harbinger of sorrow. It is also a card of truth, cutting through denial and illusion to reveal the heart of an issue.

The swords, while symbols of pain, are also tools of mental clarity, slicing away falsehoods to confront the realities of a situation. The storm clouds, too, are transient, and their presence in a reading can signal that while the storm is intense, it is also a necessary part of the emotional cycle—one that washes away the old to make way for the new.

Three of Swords Reversed

When the Three of Swords is drawn in reverse, it suggests a shift in the emotional landscape. The swords that once pierced the heart may be falling away, indicating the easing of pain and the beginning of recovery.

This card in its reversed position can herald a calm period following the storm, a time when the dark clouds part to reveal the strengthening rays of understanding and acceptance.

The reversed Three of Swords speaks to the importance of healing communication. It may point to the reopening of lines of communication that were previously severed or to the internal dialogue that leads to self-forgiveness and closure.

Healing is often a process of revisiting the places within us that we’ve closed off, and this card encourages us to gently remove the swords of hurt, one by one, to allow the healing process to unfold.

It is a powerful reminder that even in the aftermath of heartache, there is an opportunity for growth, deeper understanding, and, ultimately, a return to wholeness.

A breaking heart, representing the Three of Swords tarot card in love.

Three of Swords Love

In love, the Three of Swords can signal a time of significant emotional distress. The card often points to a breakdown in communication, where words once shared with tender care turn into swords of misunderstanding and hurt.

It reflects the pain of a compassionate heart wounded by unmet expectations or the sorrow of love lost. This card does not shy away from the distressing moments that can arise in relationships, whether they stem from infidelity, separation, or emotional discord.

Yet, the Three of Swords also serves as a stark reminder of the need for emotional honesty. It encourages individuals to face the pain head-on, to acknowledge the hurt without embellishment or denial. In doing so, it paves the way for deeper emotional connections and the potential for healing.

The presence of this card in a love reading is a call to examine the heart’s wounds and to apply the salve of truth to begin the healing process.


The reversed Three of Swords in a love context often brings a message of hope. It suggests that the sharp edges of pain and misunderstanding are beginning to soften, allowing for the possibility of mending a once-broken relationship. This card in reverse can signal that a period of difficulty is waning, making room for forgiveness and a fresh start.

For those who have endured emotional upheaval, the reversed Three of Swords can indicate a time of learning and growth from past experiences. It is a reminder that even the most painful moments carry valuable lessons.

As the storm clouds recede, there is an opportunity to rebuild trust and strengthen the bonds that were tested, emerging with a more resilient and compassionate heart.

Suit of Swords Quick Guide

Ace – Clarity

Two – Stalemate

Three – Heartbreak

Four – Rest

Five – Defeat

Six – Transition

Seven – Deceit

Eight – Restriction

Nine – Anxiety

Ten – Betrayal

Page – Curious

Knight – Assertive

Queen – Analytical

King – Authoritative

Cups – Emotions

Swords – Intellect

Pentacles – Material

Major Arcana – Journey

Three of Swords Money and Career Meaning

In financial and career readings, the Three of Swords can appear during times of tough choices and emotional stress within one’s professional life.

It may point to a career situation fraught with difficult decisions, such as layoffs, restructuring, or personal dissatisfaction with one’s job path. The card’s sharp imagery reminds us that financial consequences often carry an emotional weight, and money issues can pierce the heart just as deeply as swords.

The Three of Swords advises facing these challenges with mental clarity and a level head. It encourages individuals to cut through the fog of emotional turmoil and assess their financial and career situations with a rational approach.

This card can also serve as a warning to guard against letting emotional biases cloud judgment in business dealings or financial planning.


When the Three of Swords is reversed in the context of finances and career, it suggests a period of recovery from past money issues or financial mistakes.

The heavy downpour of financial strain may be lifting, offering a chance to dry off and move forward. The card in this position encourages finding the silver linings in a bad financial situation, such as the lessons learned from hardship or the clarity gained after a period of confusion.

The reversed Three of Swords also speaks to the importance of maintaining emotional health during times of financial recovery.

It reminds us that while money issues can be stressful, they do not define our worth or our capacity for happiness. By addressing financial challenges with a clear mind and a steady heart, there is potential to emerge from financial difficulties with newfound wisdom and emotional resilience.

A figure meditating among storm clouds, depicting the Three of Swords tarot card's spiritual healing.

Three of Swords Spirituality Meaning

The Three of Swords, when it appears in a spiritual context, often heralds a period of necessary emotional and spiritual turbulence. It is a card that speaks to the soul’s journey through shadowy times, where the pain experienced is as pivotal as it is poignant.

This card suggests that moments of grief and emotional purging are not merely to be endured but embraced as catalysts for profound spiritual growth.

The imagery of the Three of Swords, with its piercing blades and stormy backdrop, serves as a metaphor for the inner tempests that can lead to a greater understanding of the self and the goodness of life. It is through the acknowledgment and release of pain that one can clear the way for light to enter.

The card invites reflection on the ways in which heartache can carve out spaces within us for more love and compassion to fill.


In its reversed position, the Three of Swords offers a glimmer of hope on the spiritual path. It suggests that the darkest clouds of emotional turmoil are beginning to part, signaling a shift towards a more peaceful and enlightened chapter in life.

This card in reverse can mark an excellent time for spiritual healing, where the wounds of the past no longer dictate the journey forward.

The reversed Three of Swords is a gentle reminder that the resolution of deep-seated feelings often comes after the storm has passed. It is an invitation to release the remnants of past hurts and to open the heart to the lessons learned.

This card encourages a compassionate inward gaze and a nurturing of the spirit as one moves beyond the trials into a state of grace and acceptance.

Three of Swords Yes or No

In “Yes or No” readings, the Three of Swords typically leans towards a “No,” reflecting its association with heartache, betrayal, and emotional upheaval. It cautions against taking action during times of emotional distress, suggesting that the turmoil within likely clouds decisions made in such states.

The card advises a pause, a step back to gain perspective and clarity before proceeding. It is a stark reminder that sometimes the bravest thing one can do is to acknowledge when not to move forward, to wait until the emotional fog lifts and the path ahead is clear.

Griff Williams

MindEasy founder & meditation teacher

Griff Williams is an accredited meditation teacher and founder of MindEasy. He spent 12 years working as a London firefighter before changing paths to pursue building MindEasy. He received his diploma in meditation teaching from The British School of Meditation.