Scarred, but not bleeding – Three of Swords

Having received the intriguing Secret Tarot by Marco Nizzoli as a present this morning, and being unable to sleep tonight, I crept quietly to my desk and drew a card at random by candlelight.

It was the Three of Swords.

The Three of Swords, from the Secret Tarot by Marco Nizzoli

One thing that I instantly like about this deck is that, whilst many of the cards draw on traditional ideas for their central imagery, many are re-imaginings of those old concepts. So where we once had a heart, driven through with three piercing silver swords, this card tells a different story.

We’re still with the theme of heartbreak and sorrow

In this deck, the suit of swords pertains to ‘the kingdom of sorrow’ – but the image here is more empowering. The Waite-Smith image shows little but this huge red heart, whereas here the focus is on ‘where next?’ Our horserider has clearly been in the wars, has experienced deep pain, betrayal and loss. Her battle-flag, bearing the three swords, is torn and ragged. In the deep snow all around her we can see the bones of those who have been overcome by the bleakness of their sorrow and have never found the strength to return. But our brave soldier looks to the future and knows there’s hope there, despite the wounds she still carries.


When faced with the Waite-Smith Three of Swords, it’s hard not to gasp.

Beautiful in it’s three-toned symmetry, it’s hard to see anything here but the bright red heart, the cruel swords and the miserable rain.

But there’s significance in the heart’s retention of it’s shape. It does not collapse or even bleed. It really does indicate heartbreak and sorrow, but promises that this is a temporary situation, reminding us that the heart is a stronger organ than we sometimes feel.

Marco Nizzoli’s image takes this to the next level, encouraging us to climb back on our horse and lift our eyes to the horizon. We’ll always bear the scars of life’s tougher times, but we also carry the strength to incorporate these gently, quietly and wisely, and then move on.

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  1. Cath says:

    I recently got the Secret tarot deck and just today I stumbled upon this 3 of Swords. I have to say I was really confused. I got here absolutely by chance, after reading the last of your “bits and bobs”. And I have to say – thank you for clearing my thoughts to me with this wonderful explanation. 🙂

    • Beth says:

      My pleasure Cath – the Secret Tarot is a really interesting deck, isn’t it. I gave mine away a couple of years ago (too many lithe naked ladies and not enough naked-everybody-else!!) but I regret it now, it really added to my card musings and interpretations.
      Hope you have fun exploring Little Red Tarot! xx

  2. You know, I’ve always kind of liked the 3 of swords in Waite-Smith; I think it would make a great tattoo. But I get why people are uneasy with it. I’m really impacted by the observation that the heart maintains its physical integrity even while being skewered. I will definitely be incorporating that concept into further readings.

  3. Lara says:

    I particularly like in this one the absolutely typical sweet patience of the horse. Like the rider can make a fuss but the horse is there, interested, able, fully willing to continue on once the drama up top realises they can. I love horses in tarot, or anywhere!

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