What does it feel like to have your heart broken? Many poets and philosophers have described the physical, mental, and emotional sensations involved in the breaking of trust and the breaking of hearts. Many descriptions have reference the feeling of being stabbed through the heart. The Three of Swords takes this poetic description quite literally in it's art.
The Three of Swords is a simple card... in fact, it is almost harsh in it's simplicity. In the foreground is a large red heart – not a heart as you would expect to see it from within a person's chest, but a heart akin to those we see used as decoration and on Valentine's Day. The heart, tragically, is deeply impaled by three large swords. The swords are cutting all the way through the heart and jut out on the other side. Behind this scene, we see large, ominous rain clouds.
The Three of Swords represents any and all emotional pain – it stands for those times in our lives where we are cut to the core. It is a simple card because the feeling is, after all, a simple one – pain isn't too hard to understand. From the youngest person to the oldest we've all felt this heart break in one fashion or another. This card can be saying that you have already felt these cutting moments, are feeling them now, or will be feeling them soon.
Being let down – there are few feelings as soul-curdling as the feeling of being let down. When you're as high as a kite, excited, maybe trusting, enthusiastic and ready to go, it can feel as if your heart has been dropped off a cliff when you learn that things aren't as you think they are. That life has let you down. It could be a friend, a lover, a group, an event... anything in our lives can let us down. This card could be saying that you are already suffering from this pain, or will soon.
Lastly, this card can refer to being stabbed in the back. To experience betrayal is as surprising as it is disheartening – those who stab us in the back are those that we trust, and no one enjoys having the carpet pulled out from underneath them. Assess whether you feel you've been betrayed recently, and see what you can do to move past that heart ache.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you see this card. Why is your heart aching? What can be done to remedy it? If you aren't suffering from heart break yourself, is there someone close to you who is? What lesson can you learn, from your own heart ache and the heart ache of others? What silver lining exists around this cloud?
The Three of Swords can be found in almost every other card with negative overtones. The Five of Cups shares the heart ache and pain of the Three of Swords, specifically through loss and grieving. The Three of Swords can also be seen in the Nine of Swords... in fact, you could go so far as to say that the people on the Nine of Swords are pictured living in (and attempting to get through) the pain caused by the Three of Swords.