Empowerment & The Three Of Swords

or:  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Darker Side of Tarot

We all read tarot for different reasons. The best way for me to sum up my own personal practice is in the idea of empowerment – I consult the cards with the intention of giving myself a base of self-knowledge that will assist me in both my day-to-day life, as well as major goals. Lately, I’ve found that the Three of Swords, one of the cards I have historically most dreaded, has become one I am almost thankful to see show up in a spread.


3 of arrows by speakofsecrets.com

The Wildwood’s 3 of Arrows – a sure sign of self-induced stress


The Three of Swords – or rather Arrows, since The Wildwood Tarot serves as my main working deck – traditionally favours a theme of jealousy, heartache, and betrayal. In reading for myself, this card has come to represent self-induced stress. When it makes an appearance, I know there is a situation arising where I will be playing the starring role of being my own worst enemy.

So where do I find empowerment in that message? My understanding of empowerment is that it is different from affirmation – empowerment requires us to look through the lens of reality, whether that be rosy or harsh, and make constructive decisions and actions based on that. It is for this reason that I appreciate the “darker” cards of the tarot such as the Three of Swords making an appearance in my consultations.

Basically, I want tarot to give me an ass-kicking.

Cards such as The Tower, The Devil, The Three of Swords, and the other less-than-warm-and-fuzzy cards deliver the wake-up call I’ve come to rely upon from tarot. They pose the tough questions I am searching to connect with in my practice, the ones where when I choose be truthful about what I see lead me towards becoming more genuinely aligned with she-who-I-aim-to-be. They hold up a mirror that demands honest assessment, or serves as a warning: has my ego been running rampant? Have I been allowing my fears to shape my decisions? And in the case of that Three of Swords, is that self-imposed stress I see upon the horizon?


the tower by speakofsecrets.com

It’s difficult to dislike a Tower as lovely as the one featured in the Distant Past Tarot


The bitter truth of it all is that sometimes we need to be taken down a peg or two, or find a way towards saying no to a tantalizing yet pressure-inducing offer – I’ve avoided more than one disaster-in-the-making by seeing that Three of Swords looming on the horizon. These cards serve as guideposts in navigating the minefield of not only our own inner world, but the exterior world as well, and who doesn’t appreciate being called out or given the head’s up when it is truly in our own best interests?