Shadowscapes - Three of Swords


Heartbreak, receiving little solace, lonesomeness, isolation, betrayal.

-- from

This card shows a swan, its body pierced by three very ornate swords. A heart-shaped seal on the gray wall behind the swan, is stained as if it (the wall) had bled in sympathy. The wall is cracked, even more so around the seal.

I haven't gone through the whole deck to make sure, but this is one of two cards that I find remarkable in how PML not only gave a face to the pip but that face is an animal's (the other is the spider in the 8 of Pentacles.) This card reminds me of the ballet Swan Lake. A beautiful princess, cursed to turn into a magnificent white swan, was meant to be freed by a prince who pledged to marry her. Instead, he was seduced by a black swan princess, and the white swan died. If I recall, she died of heartbreak when the prince transferred his affections, not from a hunter's arrow or from some terms of the curse?


What is striking in this card is the cold setting, made of cracked walls, like and old edifice that no one maintains anymore.

The circle with the bleeding heart in the center makes me think the building is an ancient temple of love where you can usually find peace and safety. But it's not the case anymore. The blood on it, is clear and thin but it doesn't flow like water. To me, it's the representation of a psychological trauma contrary to the wounded swan which is the physical expression of this trauma.

The outcome of this is, the temple is now ignored and its walls fall into disrepair. The swan probably came here to find refuge and get healed or maybe it got sacrified for a lost cause. Obviously, it got unexpectedly stabbed by three different swords, probably from various persons.

However, the swan is still alive, struggling to survive out of its environment and deeply wounded. Only a few amount of blood is visible at the end of the sword through its chest.
Its plumage is still pure but its left wing may hide some more serious injuries.

This is one of the reasons why it's important to distinguish the blood from the walls and the one from the swan. The red heart and the walls really seem to be some alive entities that are bleeding themselves because of an appalling offense toward them.

Another detail in this card is very significant. How the swan is laid on the small rocky edge looks dangerous. At any moment it may fall over and get more injured. You can notice, it's looking down maybe at something, or someone that we can only imagine. That point may warn of a possible worsening if nothing is done.

This card raises so many questions such as, who stabbed such a beautiful creature ? For wich reasons ? Will the swan survive ? What is it looking at ? What is that place ?...
Most of the answers are in the way this situation will be handled.

To sum up, the two main feelings from this card are, in my view, the sharp pain and the uncertainty. Uncertainty about what causes such an horrible situation and where it is leading.

A last detail adds an impression of torment and suffering, the whirls of air around the swan that connect it to the circle and the heart. They look rather violent and unpredictable but they for sure express the intimate relation between the mind and the body when either of them is in trouble and involves consequencies on the other one.


I just got this deck, and I am only starting tarot, but I love this card so much. I drew it the other day, and was amazed at the emotional response I had when looking at it.

For me, it represents heartbreak, but I also saw sacrifice and acceptance in the swan's attitude. For me it represents the feeling you get when you have to accept a terrible truth, but that calm acceptance, though it hurts, is also the first step towards healing and forgiveness. I don't see anger in this card. It's the moment you accept pain as your own, as inevitable, but as ok. I still see hope after that.

Another time I drew it and I saw the idea of a difficult choice that puts the heart into conflict, a decision that may hurt someone, but you have to do it anyay, so the heart is pierces by the different options.


i wonder why are the swords' handles different? in the rest of the suit, the swords look pretty much the same [on a single card], but not this one. it also appears as if just one sword passed through the swan.. from the back = stabbed in the back =utmost betrayal :( but somehow, the swan expected it??
maybe whoever stabbed it, tried the same thing before and wasn't successful? and each time used a little bit of a different method, hence the difference in the sword's appearance.