Three of Swords – Sorrow


My Personal impressions of the THREE of Swords

(29th May 2015) The first feeling I get about this card is doom and gloom with the dismembered flower being surrounded by darkness and chaos of swirling clouds and sharp angular objects. The snake on the hilt of the straight sword can be clearly seen so perhaps there is some transformation involved here. The two swords at the top are bent and the hilts are styled like rams’ horns, or maybe snakes unravelling? …coming apart? It all feels very uncomfortable. Yellow represents intellect and the yellow flower is being cut open to reveal its parts. This could also show how it was put together, piece by piece, leading to understanding of the whole. The symbol for Saturn is at the top – Saturn is darkness, time, old age. The Libra symbol is at the bottom and is about balance. So, this card could be about understanding the mind, over time, to eventually bring balance …after a lot of chaos and trauma? :/

THREE of Swords

Original Title: Lord of Sorrow.
Golden Dawn Model: Three hands holding three swords appear from clouds at the bottom of the card. the image is that of the Two of Swords, but the right and left swords are violently parted by a central third sword. The rose is destroyed and its five petals are dispersed into the air. There are no white rays.
Colours: Dark Brown, Indigo, Black, Blue-black, Emerald Green, Blue, Pale Green. (more details on page 242 of ref.[1])
Zodiac: Saturn in Libra. [1]

Description: It is very difficult for us to understand the nature of consciousness above the Abyss, where the actuality of things does not exist. In this absract atmosphere, there are no things or even forms of things — nothing but pure potential. The “sorrow” of this card is not the same kind of sorrow evoked by, say, the death of a loved one or the loss of a lover.It is a profound state of consciousness that, from our below-the-abyss point of view, we can only attempt to describe. Sorrow falls pitifully short of an accurate description, but it is probably the best word the English language can offer us. [1]

Description by Aleister Crowley: Binah is here not the beneficent Mother completing the Trinity with Kether and Chokmah. She represents the darkness of the Great Sea. This is accentuated by the Celestial Lordship of Saturn in Libra. This card is dark and heavy; it is, so to speak, the womb of Chaos. There is an intense lurking passion to create, but its children are monsters. This may mean the supreme transcendence of the natural order. Secrecy is here, and Perversion. The symbol represents the great Sword of the Magician, point uppermost; it cuts the junction of two short curved swords. The impact has destroyed the rose. In the background, storm broods under implacable night. [6]

BinahSephira: Binah ~ Binah, the third of the ten sefirot, is the the ultimate Object. Binah is ‘intuitive understanding’, or ‘contemplation’. It is likened to a ‘palace of mirrors’ that reflects the pure point of light of Chokhmah, wisdom, increasing and multiplying it in an infinite variety of ways. In this sense, it is the ‘quarry’, which is carved out by the light of wisdom. It is the womb, which gives shape to the Spirit of God. On a psychological level, Binah is “processed wisdom,” also known as deductive reasoning. It is davar mitoch davar—understanding one idea from another idea. While Chockmah is intellect that does not emanate from the rational process (it is either inspired or taught), Binah is the rational process that is innate in the person which works to develop an idea fully. Binah is associated with the feminine. The Bahir states: “For you shall call Understanding a Mother.” Classical Jewish texts state Binah yeterah natun l’nashim (“an extra measure of Binah was given to women”). In its fully articulated form, Binah possesses two partzufim. The higher of these is referred to as Imma Ila’ah (“the higher mother”), whereas the lower is referred to as tevunah (“comprehension”). These two partzufim are referred to jointly as Imma (“the mother”). [5]

Binah is the Great Mother of All, with symbols of space, time, fate, spinning, weaving, cauldrons etc. The Spiritual Experience of Binah is the Vision of Sorrow: as the Mother of Form Binah is also the Mother of finiteness and limitation, of determinism, of cause and effect. Every quality comes forth hand-in-hand with its opposite: life and death, joy and despair, love and hate, order and chaos, so that it is not possible to find an anchor in life. For every reason to live I can find you, buried like a worm in an apple, a reason not to live; the Vision of Sorrow is a vision of a life condemned to tramp along the circumference of a circle while forever denied a view of the unity of the centre. At its most extreme the creation is seen as an evil trick played by a malign demiurge, a sick, empty joke, or a joyless prison with death the only release. [3]


Three of Swords – Saturn in Libra – “Sorrow”
Emotional trauma. Rational mind trumping the irrational heart. [2]
The understanding of the mind. (The Lord of Sorrow)

Binah – Understanding: Creativity, Planning and development, Limiting things, Authority, The first critical impulse. [4]

Threes and Binah: The Three’s are connected to Binah – the understanding. The untouched energies of the Two’s have met the 3, the number of synthesis and harmony. They’re no longer solitudes, they face up their meanings and surroundings. The Three of the Swords is called Sorrow, the Air understands the dark side of Binah, the Swords express melancholy. [7]


  1. “Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot”, by Lon Milo DuQuette
  6. The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley