a failure of knowledge

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Intro: Three of Swords Tarot Card Meaning - a failure of knowledge

Tarot Alley uses the Rider Waite type of deck for our meanings, symbols, interpretations, etc.

When determining the Three of Swords tarot card meaning, you should consider that it’s a Swords card and a Three. The Suit of Swords represents knowledge and intellect. Threes represent productivity and results.

In this way, we can determine that the Three of Swords represents a failure of knowledge. The results are not what you were expecting or hoping for. However, often this is not because of the process, facts, etc, but because of unrealistic expectations.

Take a look at the Rider-Waite Three of Swords displayed to the left (or above).

What is your first impression?

What’s happening in the background?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, just your interpretation.

Astrology: Saturn in Libra
Element: Air
Numerology: 3

Common Symbols

  • A Pierced Heart: to represent pain and discomfort.
  • Rain: to represent being distraught

Keywords & Concepts

  • Difference
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Heartache
  • Rejection
  • Variance

The Three of Swords for Personal Growth

Affirmation: I learn from failures and setbacks.

As the saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Be determined! Success is not instant or deserved, it’s earned through hard work. You must overcome your setbacks. Be determined to succeed.

Ask Yourself:

  • How can I get past my sadness/depression/emotions?
  • To what extent are my emotions a matter of choice?

Interpreting the Three of Swords

Generally, the Three of Swords represents a failure of knowledge. It’s time to open your eyes and see things as they really are. Disappointed? That’s okay, you need to acknowledge that things can’t always turn out as you want them to.

You need to exercise your critical eye by being your own best critic. Move past what’s gone wrong and embrace the truth, no matter how painful it might be.

The Reversed Three of Swords

How you read reversals is a personal choice. You can ignore reversals and read them as if the card is upright (this is what I often choose to do) or you can interpret reversals as variations of what they would mean upright. There are 3 common ways to read reversals: as a negative interpretation, as an opposite interpretation, or as a block on the upright interpretation. Check out How to Read Reversals for more information.

Typically, a reversed Three of Swords represents wallowing in a failure. Examples include:

  • Allowing yourself to be completely crushed by someone else’s opinions or actions.
  • Judging yourself too harshly
  • Holding yourself to unrealistic standards
  • Carrying a chip on your shoulder

Examples of the Three of Swords

Specific Interpretations

Specific situations are the general interpretation (from above) used for a specific situation (love, career, etc). There is no need to memorize these (or even look them up) if you understand the general interpretation. However, here are some basic interpretations for some specific situations:


If your relationships aren’t turning out as planned, you have two options: adjust your expectations or look elsewhere.

It’s okay to be sad because of a rejection or loss, but don’t wallow in it.


Plan the for the future by examining the things that have gone wrong now. Retrace your steps and identify – objectively – what went wrong. Brainstorm ways you can avoid or correct this going forward.


Don’t try to figure out what lessons your spirituality is trying to teach you while you’re emotional. Give yourself time. When you can think objectively, ask what an event might teach you.

the Three of Swords Tarot Card Meaning

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The Three of Swords tarot card meaning is all about a failure of knowledge. How do you respond to failure? Are your expectations realistic?

Once you feel comfortable with the Three of Swords tarot card meaning, check out the next card in the tarot deck: the Four of Swords Tarot Card Meaning.


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