Alchemical Study Group - Three of Swords


On this card we see a red heart with an eye in the centre crying two tears, one red and one white. Three swords are thrust into the top of the heard. The tears fall to rocky ground below where sits a red rose.

This card represents pain and suffering, but also shows how our suffering can lead to new growth. In the book Place says that the eye symbolises the soul and suggests and awakening consciousness. He also says that suffering is necessary to achieve the consciousness of the higher self.

Because this is a sword card, and represents the mental realm it is also important to ask what part your own thoughts and expectations and mental habits play in your current suffering. Is the suffering a wake-up call to encourage you to change your mental patterns to enable growth? If the rose is the goal of Alchemy then suffering can be seen as an opportunity to grow and to become all that we potentially can become.

Like the Five of Vessels this is another card that, although it speaks of pain, it also reminds us of the gift of opportunity that pain can provide for us.


A Red Rose can be indicative of the goal of alchemy--hence its placement on the back of the deck.

Suffering and growth is a major theme of this entire deck, and alchemy in general.

The tears could be indicative that suffering does lead to growth but only if you release the tears. This indicates another link to the Five of Vessels, it is only from the broken that the contents are truly free, the tipped over vessel leaks its contents letting it out but not allowing it true freedom.


(from the book)

Three swords enter a heart from the top, their downward thrusting implying negative or destructive aspects. The eye in the center of the heart symbolizes the soul, and suggests an awakening consciousness. The tears shed by the heart nurture the rose--the goal of alchemy--which grows in a harsh landscape of rocks. The significance of the number three here is the
rediscovery of consciousness on a higher level, but still incomplete and lacking the dimensionality of the higher self. Within the insight gained, there is still suffering. However, the suffering is necessary for growth, to achieve the consciousness of the higher self.

Tarot wisdom: You are experiencing sorrow, pain and suffering, either emotionally or physically. The card also shows that your own thoughts are behind your suffering, and your disappointments come from your expectations. Remember that pain has a purpose and opens the way to growth. Tears shed are like rain, nurturing something new.


Three Swords are thrust down into The Bleeding Heart causing great pain and suffering. Tears fall from a single eye as food for a rose growing out of rocks where nothing else grows. The heart-shaped vessel floats in the air; so, the thoughts of being aware during this suffering cultivates the goal of the work, symbolized by the rose. The single eye is a symbol of awareness, especially self-awareness. Every time there is pain or suffering it is a reminder to be aware. This struggle is the work. The work generates the heat necessary for the alchemical transformation.

Matt 6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.