The Ides of March: Three of Swords Personified

No one knows where the Tarot came from, who created it, or how old it may be. But if Tarot originated in Roman times (which it didn’t) and if each Tarot card was created in response to a single event (which it wasn’t), then surely the Ides of March would have been the day that the Three of Swords was conceived. Just ask Julius Caesar.

You can’t say the guy didn’t have it coming … you don’t get to be the ruler of a global empire by being a prince among men. And it wasn’t as if he wasn’t warned: a seer had foretold that if he could make it through that day he would likely live to see many more. And yet he continued in his arrogance.

And so, on the 15th of March in 44 bce, true to the form of Three of Swords, his friends in the Roman Senate stabbed him in the back.
Twenty-three times.

We all know how this feels. (Not literally of course, but in the “how could they do that to me?” kind of way that perhaps occurred to Julius as he slumped to the ground.) The cruelty of a word, the shattering of one’s illusions, the unexpected betrayal, the morphing of a friend into a conspirator, the evaporation of trust, the piercing disappointment when we realize that things will not be as we wish them to be. Et tu, Brute?

There are three important things to keep in mind when the Three of Swords appears in a Tarot reading:

  • This is a Sword card, and the Tarot’s swords are about what happens in the mind.  Even though we probably have an emotional reaction when we see it, this is not a feeling-oriented cup card. The Three of Swords is about a shocked awareness, damaged perceptions, and dashed expectations. Sorry, things aren’t going to be working out as planned and that’s why your head is spinning.
  • When the Three of Swords appears, a hidden fault line has broken open. The fly in the ointment has risen to the surface. The fatal flaw has been revealed. Something unpleasant has been sitting underneath and we now must face whatever fact that might be.
  • The Three of Swords is not the final word, but a call to rethink the matter. We are at “3,” not “10.”  Any “10” card indicates  the completion and finality of a matter; a “3” is just the resolution of the first phase, and so there is more work to be done.

None of this makes a Three of Swords experience any easier to take. No one likes to be stabbed in the back. We feel terrible when friends deceive. Words can cut to the bone just as handily as a sharpened blade. And many times we don’t even see it coming.

As with all the cards of the Tarot, the Three of Swords shows us a part of life, an experience which we all will face at one time or another. No one likes to see the Three of Swords appear, but this is not intrinsically a “bad” card,  nor is it something particularly to avoid.

The best we can do is be aware as possible, deal with disappointments when they come, and take some time for recuperation once the Three of Swords has had its say.

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1 Comment

  1. Josephine Mori said,

    March 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    As has been said, the truth shall set you free but first it will piss you off.


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