Ah, a visit from one of my favorite cards, the Three of Swords. Who could miss the intense image of a giant red heart pierced by three swords, plunked in front of raining clouds? We might as well start here. After all, a wound deserves our immediate attention, and this one looks like it might be serious.
If you haven’t noticed already, I have an enormous soft spot for the more dramatic-looking tarot cards. Does something appear scary and overtly negative? Chances are I love it. And it’s not because I’m an unbearable optimist, the sort of person who skips past the pain to point out the silver lining. I don’t work like that because I think it’s highly unadvisable.
I mean, look at the Three of Swords. It takes quite a mental leap to rush past the grave, almost comically overdone, injury the poor hear is being subjected to. And even if we were to do so, we’d still have to contend with the flat beige clouds and cascading rain. Hmm… it really seems like this card is focusing us to focus on pain. I wonder why?
The Three of Swords speaks to the toddler and teenager in us. A part of our personality that needs to howl after skinning a knee, acting as if we know for a fact we’ll have to amputate the leg instead of just put a band aid on a scrape. Often, we’re told this kind of reaction is overdone. Can’t we just skip to the part where we’re calmly applying Neosporin and informing everyone “don’t’ worry, I’m fine”? But think about why we cry out in the first place. Something hurts us and we instinctually express it. To both release some of the scary, shocking energy we get from a painful experience and to cry out for help.
The Three of Swords serves a very important purpose. How do we act in the face of pain? And can we recognize that these reactions actually serve to heal ourselves through self-expression and reach out to others? Perhaps this lies beneath a bunch of baggage: shame and embarrassment over our weakness, anger for what happened, even older emotions that need to get out. All of these can make us lash out in our pain, looking for someone to blame. We can also play up the drama, wallowing in it and exaggerating. Underneath it all, I believe, still lies a tender vulnerability and the inescapable delicacy of being alive.
It is this challenge – how to deal with our pain – that comes to the forefront of this week’s reading. Why do I love the Three of Swords so much? Because it shows us how the immediacy of our pain brings us a great opportunity to embrace our humanity, vulnerability, and tenderness. We need other people to hear our cries of help and simply acknowledge our situation. Expressing it constructively allows for a great deal of beautiful human tenderness. And, to be real, I’m also a big pragmatist when it comes to pain. If we face it head-on, we are able to deal with it in the moment, feel it, and move forward. Also known as getting it over with, constructively.
So much of our weasely behavior comes from avoiding pain which can lead to lots of needlessly built up meaning and drama. We must wail loud when we fall down both physically and emotionally, feel the pain, assess the situation, and accept the helping hand when it’s offered instead of brushing it away.
So what’s ailing us this week? This reading suggests that a lot of big things are coming home to roost. Judgement is another blunt card that tells us we’ve been receiving some big, unignorable truths as of late. A giant angel has descended from the heavens and is blowing a trumpet in our faces. Subtle. And yet so refreshing! How often do we get such clear messages? A pity these ones aren’t more positive. The trumpet is sounding screechy instead of melodious. Still, we must hear it and listen attentively.
It’s not ideal, but we’re actually in a position to move forward quite gracefully. And yes, I think we can incorporate some emotional messiness into our idea of a graceful transition. I’d rather deal with all the information as it comes and honor all the complicated feelings that come with a complicated time. If we choose to heed the call of our pain, to really listen to what our hearts and wounds are telling us, we’ll be poised to make something that actually reflects and serves the world as it is.
There’s a strong thread in this reading moving from left to right. The red of the angels wings and flag, the red of the pierced heart, and the red robes of the figures in the III of pentacles. Think of it as emotional alchemy. We hear some truth, it brings us pain, we feel the pain and build something from it.
The Three of Pentacles is a card that shows us the process of creation in its beginning stages. We’re building something, laying out the plans and hashing it all out. And we’re not alone. Three figures are joining together and they look quite different. We have what looks like a monk, a young lad with an apron, and a delightful character who looks like a Medieval version of Shania Twain in the “That Don’t Impress Me Much” video.
Pain and suffering has a great capacity for bringing together seemingly disparate groups of people. Of course, lash out with anger and blame and the opposite happens. This week we have a choice. What happens when we express our pain well? Others hear it and it brings us together. Once we get together, we get things done.
Now is a week to turn towards our pain, listen to it, express it well, and get ready for ways we can ge togther and create something we’d like to see in the world. The reading is quite clear on this: we're transforming the thoughts and feelings of the three of swords into the physical and tanglible three of pentacles. We can really make something we can feel and touch here. It’s difficult and it takes some bravery, but we’re in a much better position than we think to move forward wiser and more connected to the world.