Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Gift of the Three of Swords

We tend to focus more on the darker, scarier cards in tarot.  Where are the happy bunny cards? I'll get to them. But just so you know, they have their dark sides, too, just like the darker cards have some light. The dark places in life have their own virtues as described in this poem by Rumi an early 13th century Persian poet:

The Guesthouse


This being human is a Guest House.
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from above.



In line with my current obsession with all that is bleak, sad, and upsetting, how about this one? Ooomph! Not one, not two, but three swords piercing a heart. Dreadful card. The stormy sky doesn't help matters either. This image, from the Robin Wood deck doesn't mess around with the symbolism. There's no mistaking or second-guessing this card. This HURTS.

By Robin Wood
Published by Llewellyn 1991
Sigh. Yes. Yes, it does.

This card is about heartache, no kidding. You know when you've just gotten really bad news, painful, heart-piercing news and at first you feel nothing but searing pain? And then your mind begins to engage and you start to process what you just heard. It's what happens when you begin to mentally reconcile the bad news, processing it in one's mind to gain emotional stability. It's the act of trying to make sense of what one knows in one's head to how one's heart feels.

There's no way I can say this card isn't hurtful because it usually is.  The intensity of the pain is relative to the situation, but painful it is.  However, it's a painful truth you need to know. A good illustration is to first look at the 2 of Swords where the individual is blindfolded and withholding judgement.  They're not convinced, they're maintaining the peace, waiting for more information to decide.  Then blam! Ace of Swords incoming! That's the big sword in the center.  And now it all makes sense. A painful truth truly is better than living a lie. 

So that Rumi is on to something.  Far be it for me to sugarcoat any of the starker, gut-punching cards in the tarot deck, but there is something valuable to be gained from the darker moments in life.  I won't lie and tell you it's going to be easy or that it won't hurt, but I will tell you, in 3 of Swords moments, that the truth that you're hearing is something you need to know.  And I'll confess that there are times when I've been in that 2 of Swords place so damn long I plead for that third sword just to break the tension.  Just give it to me straight.

I think that's often why we turn to tarot, for those straight answers.  We're hoping to cut through the crap of our own wishful thinking, our giving the benefit of the doubt, our denial and illusions to hear the real, unvarnished truth.  That's the goal anyway.  Whether the reading actually gives it to you depends on whether you're ready to hear it.  Sometimes we're not ready, and that's fine.  Another time.

I have always loved that poem of Rumi's because it reminds me that everything will be alright. Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.  Even then.  Because maybe you needed some new things anyway and you were too busy trying to make your old things work for you when they no longer did.  Because you will survive it and you will be OK.  Even though you may not be grateful to the messenger, the message is invaluable.  And maybe you won't realize this in that moment of heartrending pain, but you will.  Then you will know the gift that is the 3 of Swords.




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