Three – Sorrow

Three of Swords – Sorrow

Sorrow means distress caused by loss, grief, disappointment or misfortune.

The Three of Swords show irreconcilable differences manifest as time goes on. You are unable to maintain the new sense of identity with the old situation – something has to give. The patches can no longer be patched up. Continue in the same way, and you will get ill.

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Image of Three of Swords in Rider-Waite tarot deck
Three of Swords

Three swords piercing a heart; cloud and rain behind.

Removal, absence, delay, division, rupture, dispersion, and all that the design signifies naturally, being too simple and obvious to call for specific enumeration.

Additional Meanings: For a woman, the flight of her lover.


Mental alienation, error, loss, distraction, disorder, confusion.

Additional Meanings: A meeting with one whom the Querent has compromised; also a nun.

Book of Thoth

Image of Three of Swords - Sorrow tarot card in Book of Thoth
Three of Swords – Sorrow

The idea of division, of mutability, the idea of the airy quality of things, manifests itself in the Three of Swords, the Lord of Sorrow. Here one is reminded of the darkness of Binah, of the mourning of Isis; but this is not any vulgar sorrow dependent upon any individual disappointment or discontent. It is Weltschmerz, the universal sorrow; it is the quality of melancholy.

The Three of Swords denote sorrow and breakups.

More information

Golden Dawn – Lord of Sorrow

Sorrow of a deep and brooding nature; the joy and gaiety that attends the release from this sorrow.


Nun, Separation, Removal, Rupture, Quarrel.


Error, Confusion, Misrule, Disorder.

Image of Etteilla Three of Swords
Etteilla Three of Swords


Estrangement, Departure, Absence, Gap, Dispersion, Remote, Delay. Scorn, Repugnance, Aversion, Hate, Disgust, Horror. Incompatibility, Annoyance, Opposition, Unsociableness, Misanthropy, Rudeness. Separation, Division, Rupture, Antipathy, Part, Cut.


Distraction, Insanity, Delirium, Mental Alienation, Absent-Mindedness, Crazy Behavior. Error, Miscalculation, Loss, Detour, Gap, Dispersion.

Paul Foster Case

The radiant Eye in the circle suggests understanding. But it is understanding gained through sorrow.

Time period

Second decanate of Libra, under the combined rulership of Saturn and Uranus, from October 3rd to October 12th.


Sorrow, disappointment, tears. Delay, absence, separation, divorce. Disruption of friendship, interruption of cherished projects, quarrels; mischief-making acquaintances; yet sometimes the position in the layout suggests Platonic friendships and is usually a symbol of honesty and fair-dealing in money matters.


Slander; selfishness and dissipation; deceit and with respect to promises; loss in legal affaires.



Thierens: Three of Swords

Departure, absence, rupture, delay, division, removal, being-far-away. Also aversion, hatred, disgust, etc. Contrarieties, opposition, unsociable qualities, gruffness, separation, etc. Reversed: Mental worries, troubles and even alienation. Error, mistake, loss. A nun.
The element of Earth on the Third house acts in the way of the mind and mental processes, and must appear as ‘troubles,’ etc., because it gives the feeling of the mind being burdened, which might easily go as far as oppression. If the burden becomes too heavy, either the body or the soul may suffer severely, and pain, affliction or mental aberration may ensue. This card must generally mean bad news too, the message which brings news of the affliction. It may be a corrective to a too easy and volatile imagination. It will in most cases denote some sickness, as a result of the pressure or oppressed feeling in the mind or in circumstances in general. It may be the result of worrying. The house of Gemini also suggests some suffering on account of distance, separateness, being far from one other. And the oppressed mind, which cannot have its way, may easily denote the spiritual condition of a nun or some one who takes refuge within the precincts of a monastery. In this case, however, the motives are not of the more elevated or exalted order: there is spitefulness, vexation, bitterness on account of unrealised hopes, want of idealism. So this does not indicate the idealistic type of monasticism. The card typifies the worries of the lesser sort of mind, also small talk, evil thought, the wrestling of the inferior mind with matter and all that may be expected from it.
Oppression, worries, being burdened, baffled hopes, troubles, tendency to separateness, rupture and seclusion, pessimism. Removal, absence, delay. Small talk, bitter and evil thought, sickness; in bad cases alienation. Error of judgment, wrong opinion, hatred, aversion, etc. In general: affliction. Scheming, but not in a good sense.
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Article Name
Three of Swords Sorrow tarot card meanings
The Three of Swords show irreconcilable differences manifest as time goes on. You are unable to maintain the new sense of identity with the old situation.

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