Sorrow: Betrayal, Inner Turmoil, and Loneliness
The Three of Swords. Sorrow. Sadness. Secrecy. Heartbreak. Betrayal. Loneliness. Inner turmoil. Chaos. Disillusionment. Perversion. The Three of Swords corresponds to the Sefirot of Binah; stability, the birthing ground, and the plane. Binah is where the energy of the Suit begins to take form and gain potential. In most of the suits, this position is positive, bu the Three of Swords has a distinctly negative connotation. In many ways, the Three of Swords is like Geburah (chaos of motion) come early. In the realm of the abstract, corruption and morally evil things come to the fore much more readily than in the realm of the physical: and so when the pure ideas of Swords finally reach the place where they can be born, they suffer negativity much more quickly. The abstract does not mix well with any notion of the material, and its potential, while great, is easily sullied by perversions of the mind.
And so, then, we have Sorrow. The abstract ideals of the mind, when realized, often fall far short of reality, and so then we give ourselves in to sorrow. Binah represents also duality, and when this duality is combined with the energy of Swords and its principles, is not what one expects; so the duality is betrayed, and heartbreak comes to the fore. This card is the sorrow that comes with the realization that the world is not perfect. Life is imperfect, and often brings despair. That is what this card stands for; the sadness that results from the realization that great principles cannot be applied effectively to the realities of the world, and so its potential is thwarted.
The duality betrayed leads not only to heartbreak, but to loneliness and secrecy as well; in this way this card represents the feelings one has when one’s ideal notions of a relationship are shattered. There is a sense of betrayal that accompanies the Three of Swords as well; the world (or other person) has wronged you somehow, and not lived up to your expectations; the Peace has been shattered, and Sorrow has taken its place. No more is there the inner tranquility and calm of the Two of Swords; the inner spirit is now in turmoil, and the calm has become grief.
The Rider-Waite illustration shows a heart being pierced by three swords, while rain pours down from dark clouds. This artwork very clearly illustrates the idea of heartbreak and betrayal, as well as sadness and dreariness. The Thoth art shows three swords, not crossed to defend the peace as in the Two of Swords, but rather all points at the same target: a flower. The flower of peace is being threatened, and the geometrical designs of the Two of Swords are now less regular and more curved. Dark stormclouds loom in the background. The flower is wilting and losing its petals; it is dying slowly. This card strongly gives off the idea that the universe has betrayed the ideals of peace; the world is imperfect.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the roles of loneliness, sorrow, heartbreak, and other dismal states of mind in your life. Does it seem like the world is out to get you? Do things never go right? Are you in anguish inside? How have secrets been affecting you? Reversed, it asks you to look for this card in ways you might not expect; it reinforces the idea of Inner turmoil, maybe hidden from the outside. Is someone’s sorrow contained within them? Is your own sorrow hidden from yourself?