Exploring the Minor Arcana: The Threes

In this series we'll be diving into the world of the Minor Arcana. Each segment will group the cards by number where we can engage in their themes and differences. For the insallment on the aces click here or the twos here


Things get really interesting with the threes, a number that's all about creation: the act of making something from the union of two. The most obvious and oft-cited metaphor for this is birth - a child created from two partners. We can also look beyond this example (some find it limiting and rather heteronormative) and apply this "rule of three" to any combination of two separate parts that results in something new. For example, an idea and action joining together to create a new business. 

By nature the threes deal with creativity and growth. Like all tarot cards, this can go in different directions. Take the celebratory three of cups, for example, and contrast it with the dire and dramatic three of swords; some combinations are more constructive than others.

Threes also indicate a turning point, moments that unfold after the director calls "action!" They're active and dynamic unlike the more stationary twos. Because of this threes show times when change is afoot and the querent can harness the energy presented to them as they see fit.

Explore In-Depth Minor Arcana Meanings

The  Three of Wands is an excellent example of the process of moving into a phase of action. Though visually similar to the Two of Wands this card represents the act of committing to a plan and putting your feet on the ground. The decision has been made and now it's time to put it into action. We can think of this card as action springing from an idea and commitment. 

The Three of Swords is a striking and intense card that shows us the pain and intensity of suffering. Sometimes when two things come together they produce hurt and sadness. This is part of life, too, though we might not welcome it with open arms. Interestingly, this three is rich with energy and begs the question "what do we make from our heartbreak?"

The Three of Cups is radically different. This card seems to be shouting "yay!" and is welcome in any spread with its clear message of celebration and happiness. A true friendship card, the Three of Cups shows us the beauty and joy that springs from connection with others. Additionally, it illustrates the importance of cultivating and caring for our relationships. Sharing good times and being open with our love can energize us and invite in more bounty to our lives. 

Finally, the Three of Pentacles brings things down to earth with a depiction of collaboration and hard work. This is a card that represents the physical act of creation: making something out of nothing with the help of a community with diverse skills. This three grounds creativity in the act of doing, anchored by hard work and the power of delegation. The Three of Pentacles is welcome news in any business matter or practical undertaking. 

Overall, threes show pivotal moments where energy is being released to either expand or dissipate. How have threes showed up in your tarot readings? Share your thoughts in the comments below.