The 3 of Swords is often viewed as one of the most challenging cards to receive in a Tarot reading. At first glance, the image on the card can seem frightening – three swords piercing a heart against a stormy sky. However, there are deeper nuances to this card beyond just grief and heartache.

When the 3 of Swords appears in a reading, it’s a signal that some difficult times may lay ahead. You could experience sadness, loss, separation, grief or betrayal. The 3 of Swords reminds us that we all experience periods of strife and sorrow in life. These experiences, while painful, allow room for important growth.

By exploring the symbolism and imagery of meaning of 3 of Swords, we can uncover guidance on how to navigate these troubled times with wisdom, compassion and an open heart. Learning the lessons this card holds can empower you to heal and emerge stronger than before.

In this guide, we will explore:

  • Key facts about the 3 of Swords
  • Upright and reversed meanings
  • Interpretations for love, career, finances, health and spirituality
  • How to respond to a “yes or no” question with this card
  • Numerology and astrological connections
  • Combinations with other Tarot cards
  • Variations among card decks
  • And more!

Let’s begin unraveling the secrets of this intense and insightful Tarot card.

3 of Swords Key Facts

Key Fact Description
Astrological Sign Libra
Planet Saturn
Element Air
Numerology 3 – Expression, communication, creativity
Upright Meaning Heartbreak, grief, sadness, sorrow
Reversed Meaning Healing, recovery, forgiveness, moving on
Yes or No Interpretation No

3 of Swords Tarot Card Description

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck features a heart pierced by three swords against a stormy, gray sky. The heart is surrounded by heavy dark clouds filled with rain. In the distance, three mountains peak through the clouds under the gloomy light.

The three swords piercing the heart represent the deep grief, heartbreak and pain this card signifies. The dark clouds and rain symbolize the inner turmoil, sadness and crying associated with the 3 of Swords.

While most interpretations focus on the apparent negativity of this image, there are some more positive elements hidden within. The three mountains in the distance signify an important spiritual truth – what the heart endures can lead to higher wisdom. The storm will eventually pass, and light will break through the clouds again.

The Upright 3 of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

The Upright 3 of Swords Tarot Card Meaning
The Upright 3 of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

When the 3 of Swords appears upright in a Tarot reading, it points to emotional turmoil, sorrow, grief and heartbreak. You may be dealing with separation from a loved one, betrayal, rejection or serious inner pain. Infidelity and broken trust are other difficulties associated with this card.

While the 3 of Swords is never an easy card to receive, its purpose is not to permanantly damage, but rather to enlighten. It reveals that our suffering can be the source of spiritual awakening, wisdom and growth. By fully accepting and moving through the painful experience, we gain deeper understanding of ourselves and others.

Let’s explore the specific interpretations of the upright 3 of Swords in different aspects of life:

Love Relationships

The 3 of Swords often appears when a relationship is coming to an end. This could signify a breakup, divorce, betrayal or separation. One or both partners are likely experiencing deep heartache and grief. Infidelity or broken trust may be at the root of the pain.

If you’re single when this card arrives, you may be processing a recent breakup or betrayal. Old relationship wounds from the past may resurface so they can finally heal.

Overall, this card reveals a time of emotional turbulence in romantic partnerships. Letting go and allowing yourself to fully feel the pain is key to moving forward. The purpose is not to suffer, but to release relationships patterns or expectations that no longer serve your highest good.


In career readings, the 3 of Swords can signify disappointment, failure and disillusionment in your work or business. Plans may suddenly fall apart, or you could experience conflict with coworkers and miscommunication.

This card reminds you that setbacks and “failures” are part of any career path, especially for entrepreneurs. View them not as losses, but as learning experiences to build emotional resilience and adaptability. Any career pain flushes out what’s not working so you can realign with work you truly love.


Financially, the 3 of Swords can point to an unexpected loss of income or security. You may experience a demotion, get laid off or lose a major client. Investments and assets could also rapidly lose value.

On a positive note, this shakeup forces reevaluation around priorities and where you allocate money and resources. Though finances may be tight for a period, you gain wisdom on building security and abundance in ways aligned with your values.


For health, the 3 of Swords can signal heart problems, either physical or emotional. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, high blood pressure, palpitations and anxiety. On an emotional level, this card points to deep grief, sorrow, heartache or trauma which must be tended to in order to find healing.

This card reminds us how emotional health directly impacts physical health, especially regarding the heart. Don’t ignore emotional pain or it may manifest physically. Seek support and take time for self-care as you move through this turbulent period.


Spiritually, the 3 of Swords signifies a “dark night of the soul.” Your previous beliefs and assumptions about life are shattered, allowing existential questioning and a deepening of wisdom. There can also be a test or loss of faith.

The spiritual lesson reveals that faith in even the hardest times can lead to renewal. By fully accepting the presence of sorrow in life, we open to appreciate beauty, joy and divinity in new ways. Out of brokeness can arise newfound wholeness and peace.

The Reversed 3 of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

The Reversed 3 of Swords Tarot Card Meaning
The Reversed 3 of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

When the 3 of Swords is reversed, the overall meaning is healing from pain, cultivating forgiveness and moving forward after a period of grief or sadness. The difficult experience is now transitioning and becoming integrated as an important part of your spiritual journey.

While remnants of heartache, betrayal or loss may linger when this card appears reversed, you’re embracing a more positive mindset. The cutting harshness of the upright 3 of Swords begins dissolving as compassion and understanding grow.

Here are interpretations of the reversed 3 of Swords for different aspects of life:

Love Relationships

For love, the reversed 3 of Swords indicates you’re moving on after a breakup or betrayal. The initial rawness of grief is fading. Forgiveness, both of self and others, allows wholeness to return to your heart.

You may still feel tentative about opening your heart again after it’s been hurt. Take things slowly when meeting new people. Focus on self-love and inner peace first. When the time is right, this card gives reassurance new love and companionship can enter your life.


If career disappointment or job loss struck in the past, the reversed 3 of Swords brings recovery and a fresh start. You’re ready to pursue new opportunities from a wiser perspective. Setbacks teach resiliency and redefining what work fulfills you.

Look for inventive solutions and out-of-the-box ideas as you move forward. What seemed like an ending now appears as a powerful new beginning, with better alignment to your skills and values.


Reversed, this card indicates financial recovery after a loss or hardship. Cutbacks and sacrifices made during the difficult period now allow stability and comfort to return around money matters.

Going through financial hardship gives you greater clarity about needs versus wants. You may actually find contentment living simply with less. Wise budgeting, money management and planning help create security.


For health, the reversed 3 of Swords is a positive omen indicating healing is underway. Emotional recovery can translate to physical revival as well. Communicate openly with medical providers to find the best care plan.

Self-care and stress reduction will continue restoring balance and well-being. Have faith in your body’s natural ability to heal itself when provided with proper care and time. Deepening mind-body awareness supports the healing process.


On a spiritual level, the reversed 3 of Swords reflects Integration of painful lessons into a renewed worldview. Questioning beliefs during the “dark night of the soul” phase leads to graduating with new wisdom.

You feel more tolerant, compassionate and open after difficult emotional and spiritual terrain. Moving through suffering deepens empathy, humility and faith. Your connection with spirit and sense of meaning is now restored in an uplifted way.

3 of Swords Tarot Card in Yes or No Questions

3 of Swords Tarot Card in Yes or No Questions
3 of Swords Tarot Card in Yes or No Questions

The 3 of Swords brings a “no” answer when it appears in a yes or no Tarot reading. It signals pain, separation and difficulty regarding the situation at hand. Things are likely to get harder before they get easier.

However, keep in mind this “no” answer serves a purpose – to reveal an outdated approach or perspective needing release. By fully feeling where things have gone awry, you gain clarity for moving forward in a wiser way.

Trust that while the path may be rocky at points, your highest good is still guiding you. Growth and learning often necessitate hardship or failure before new understanding unfolds. You’ll emerge on the other side stronger in spirit.

3 of Swords Tarot Card and Numerology

In the Tarot, each card is linked to numerology, which provides further insight into its meaning. The 3 of Swords contains two key numbers for interpretation – the number 3 and number 3 energy (since swords correspond to air signs).

Number 3 Meaning

  • Creative self-expression
  • Joy, enthusiasm, optimism
  • Expansiveness, imagination
  • Sociability, friendliness
  • Uplifting energy

Number 3 Energy

  • Mind, intellect, communication
  • Thinking, analyzing, learning
  • Language, writing, speaking
  • Problem-solving, curiosity
  • Mental agility and wit

The primary meaning of the number 3 reflects the emotional nature of the 3 of Swords – deep sorrow, grief or heartbreak. This intensely painful human experience can lead to great creative expression as an outlet for healing. Writing, music, poetry, art and other creative mediums help channel difficult emotions into something uplifting.

The number 3 energy of air signifies the realm of thoughts, ideas and communication. When this card appears, examining thought patterns and stories we tell ourselves around loss is illuminating. Changing internal narratives to emphasize learning and growth shifts energy to a more positive state. Communicating feelings openly and clearly also aids the healing process.

3 of Swords Tarot Card and Astrology

The 3 of Swords correlates with the zodiac sign Libra. Libra is ruled by Venus and associated with balance, harmony, partnerships, social intelligence and beauty.

Libra energy emphasizes the importance of relationships and restoring equilibrium when a relationship fails or ends painfully. However, self-love and self-care are vital first steps before healing connections with others.

Venusian qualities of affection, art, and enjoyment of life’s pleasures can help counteract the sorrow of the 3 of Swords. Being gentle with oneself and rediscovering beauty and joy in small delights brings light to darkness. Diplomatic Libran energy gives the grace to resolve conflict and reestablish peace.

Saturn, associated with karma, challenges and reflection, is also linked to this card. The grief of the 3 of Swords forces introspection around one’s approach to relationships. Committing to the personal growth that comes from difficult Saturnian lessons restores wisdom around social bonds.

3 of Swords Tarot Card Combinations

The 3 of Swords combines with other cards to add additional layers of meaning to a Tarot reading. Here are some notable combinations with the 3 of Swords:

3 of Swords + The Tower: Unexpected heartbreak, breakup or betrayal. What you thought was stable is suddenly destroyed. Let go of controlling outcomes.

3 of Swords + 5 of Cups: Refusing to move on from grief about a loss. Being stuck churning painful memories prevents healing.

3 of Swords + 6 of Swords: A difficult but necessary transition out of heartache. Time and distance help provide peace and closure.

3 of Swords + Strength: Having courage to face deep pain or trauma. Finding gentleness and wisdom through suffering.

3 of Swords + The Sun: The darkness of grief and loss lifting to reveal renewed joy, vitality and optimism.

3 of Swords + Judgement: Painful closure of one chapter so a new phase can begin. Facing something difficult finally allows moving forward.

3 of Swords + Ace of Cups: After heartbreak, being ready to love again and welcome companionship into your life.

3 of Swords + Wheel of Fortune: A destiny shattered, leading to new soul growth. What seemed like an ending makes room for something better aligned.

3 of Swords Tarot Card Designs

The Rider-Waite-Smith deck features the classic imagery of the heart pierced by three swords. Other decks incorporate different artistic spins on this card while preserving the essence of sorrow, loss and pain.

For example, the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot displays a heart wrapped in thorns, representing how grief can make it hard to open your heart again. The Shadowscapes Tarot reimagines the 3 of Swords as a piercing bolt of lightning, shattering what came before.

The Luminous Void Tarot conveys emptiness and being emotionally gutted after loss. Almost every deck keeps the 3 swords and often the stormy sky to maintain the traditional symbolic meaning of the card.

While the imagery changes, the interpretation remains focused on acknowledging and moving through difficult emotions to gain wisdom, strength and new perspective.


What does it mean when 3 of Swords is your Life Lesson card?

Having the 3 of Swords as your Life Lesson card means learning how to fully experience grief, heartbreak and emotional pain when it inevitably arises. Avoidance or denial only prolongs suffering. By compassionately feeling sorrow, you gain deep wisdom around love and relating.

Is the 3 of Swords a “bad” card?

The 3 of Swords is challenging, but not inherently bad. It reveals areas where healing and growth are needed around loss or pain. This suffering holds potential for awakening and rebirth of the spirit. How you meet the struggles shown by this card determines outcomes.

What does the 3 of Swords mean in future position?

In the future position, the 3 of Swords warns of impending heartache, sadness or grief. Examine where things may be fragile in relationships, work or finances so you can navigate this upcoming period of darkness with awareness and courage. Seek support.

Is the 3 of Swords about third party relationships?

The 3 of Swords can sometimes represent a third party situation interfering in a partnership, indicating cheating, betrayal, or outside romantic/sexual connections straining a bond. Jealousy, enmity, and distrust arise from this “three’s a crowd” dynamic.

What happens if I’m scared of the 3 of Swords appearing?

Fear or avoidance around the 3 of Swords leads to repressing painful emotions and important messages needing to surface. Its intensity is meant for awakening and learning. By genuinely facing and working through the sorrow, its transformative power is unlocked.

Key Takeaways

  • The 3 of Swords represents heartbreak, grief, sadness and emotional pain, often from experiences of separation, loss, betrayal or disillusionment.
  • It indicates a difficult “dark night of the soul” passage where former beliefs and assumptions are shattered, making room for deepened wisdom.
  • Common interpretations include breakups, third party situations, infidelity, loss of job or financial hardship.
  • Though emotionally devastating, the 3 of Swords ultimately serves your soul’s growth and evolution through experiencing sorrow.
  • When reversed, the card signifies recovery, moving forward, and integrating the painful lessons into a renewed, emotionally wiser perspective on life.
  • Interpret the card within the context of the surrounding cards and the question asked for best insights about how its energy is manifesting.
  • Have courage to feel pain fully so it can transform and open your heart to greater compassion, humility and spiritual illumination.


The 3 of Swords represents some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching experiences we face in life. The piercing of the heart signifies deep grief, sadness and pain over relationships ending, dreams being destroyed, or trust being lost.

However, out of even the bleakest moments come profound lessons and the opportunity to be reborn with greater wisdom. By fully embracing sorrow when it arrives, we open to profound healing and new levels of joy. Grief can uncover just how courageous, resilient and spiritually awakened we truly are.

When the 3 of Swords appears, know that you have the inner strength to move through this challenging time. On the other side awaits not just recovery, but a hard-won sense of wholeness that integrates the painful experience into a new chapter of understanding and growth. Have faith in where this necessary journey is leading.

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