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3 of Swords: a personal experience with negative tarot cards

Golden Tarot

Over the years, I have either read, or taken part in, conversations surrounding the difficult cards in a tarot deck. What I prefer to call, negative cards (though I am by no means the only one to refer to these cards as negative). And it would appear the term "negative" is terribly out of fashion with the "light and love" brigades out there, those worshipping at the altar of new-age positive vibrations, or perhaps those not familiar with life's many vicissitudes and suffering.

Isn't it great dear that no blood is staining that beautiful carpet? (New Mythic Tarot)

On one side of the story lies the claim that every tarot card has a positive aspect to it, and you only need to see this in order to transform its negative energy to a positive one. Given that tarot is a visual representation of various stages or lessons in life, one needs to be careful in interpreting its imagery, so that you describe what is happening in the actual card as opposed to what you would like the card to mean. And if your life experience has been blessed by a lack of profoundly challenging and deeply painful experiences, by no means does this give you licence to sanitise, minimise or brush with a positive patina these experiences for others. As any teacher worth their salt knows, such experiences must be lived through, felt, acknowledged and processed long before they serve as the rich humus for the seeds of a new beginning.

Now I am not in any way saying one has to focus on the negative experience exclusively, relive a trauma, or go through life colouring every experience through the lens of past betrayals - but neither am I saying that there is no such thing as a negative card in tarot. In fact, there are quite a few of them, all equally gut-kicking and might I add, quite fearsome in their visual representations (and don't worry, in a deck of 78 cards, the few negatives are by far outweighed by the many positive cards).

Vanessa Tarot

With all of this in mind, I would like to share the other side of the story, which is a personal experience with the 3 of Swords. The story starts around 2010 or thereabouts, when I found myself staring at a pregnancy test, incredulous at its positive answer (perhaps might I add, with the wisdom of hindsight, why I'm so weary of those who peddle exclusively in positivity).

Allow me to fill in the background to the story, by mentioning that while I was in a relationship at the time, it was not exactly one conducive of a long-term stable commitment. At best, I felt ambivalent about having a child with my then-partner. At worst, I knew deep inside he was not the one for me long-term (and as a spoiler alert, he confirmed my suspicion later on, for various reasons that I won't elaborate on here).

Anna K Tarot

Suffice to say, I was now faced with that life-changing decision so many women have faced for aeons in our history. I was also 30, and I also knew that having a child was something I wanted, but for me personally, it had to be with the right person. I was in the middle of post-graduate study, had no savings and no illustrious career to fall back on. All these factors swirled around in my head as I booked the necessary appointments for a medical termination. I vividly remember being asked how sure I was about proceeding with this, one of many questions, and saying something like 80% to sound convincing and not risk the chance of having the process drag on any longer, or worse, be denied.

Because the reality for me was that I wasn't completely sure, and I had deep fears about going through it, even in a country that has free public health, is extremely well medically equipped and offers a supportive environment and services to all regardless of one's background. I think women - all women - no matter what their personal stance or belief around abortions, hold deep seated fears about putting ourselves through something so invasive, heart-breaking and frightening. I would not dismiss the impact of centuries of botched attempts, and the karmic residues of collective trauma left to linger on future generations (of course, nowadays one can safely take a pill to induce a miscarriage, alas that was not an option for me at the time).

So there was I, trying to not think about what was coming, all the while dragging the emotional burden of it all wherever I went. With each passing day, the ticking of the clock grew louder and the hormones soared higher. One night, feeling particularly down, I grabbed my trusty Haindl Tarot. At the time, this was my "go to" deck for difficult questions, and I had, and still do have, an incredible bond with it.

I sat on my bed, and asked Spirit for guidance and advice on what to do, and drew a card.

The Haindl Tarot: Mourning

And I got it. That keyword, that tear. Telling my child I was sorry, sorry I could not have them. Saying goodbye and letting them go. It was so, so painful, the mourning of my child I could not carry on. That experience remains forever in my memory, and the reason I can write about it today, while still a painful exercise, is nowhere near as painful had I not gone through that process of mourning and sorrow. And that is the 3 of Swords in a nutshell - it is pain, and sometimes that is deep, deep pain. The kind that shakes you, humbles you. It's crushing, all enveloping. When the 3 of Swords appears, you may have to dive deep, all alone and with no armour, and the depths may well swallow you with no light to guide you out. And you better be bloody honest, with yourself, about whatever situation you find yourself in.

Not long after - and about 4 days before I was scheduled for the procedure, I miscarried. While physically excruciating, psychologically it was a huge, huge relief. And a powerful reminder to follow the guidance presented in the cards, no matter how painful that may be. I could never prove it, of course, but I knew then, as I do now, that my miscarriage was not a random coincidence for me. That my time spent with the 3 of Swords was the catalyst for the soul of my unborn child to break away and leave, knowing I was not ready to have them. This deep knowing, this gut-knowing, is so very different from intellectual knowing, the world of reason and statistics and facts and figures.

Deep cuts watering the seeds of new growth (Interim Tarot)

Many years later, I can look back on this experience from a place of detachment and understanding, and of course I can see the positive inherent in that image: that acknowledging the need to be honest about what I was going through, and mourning a loss, and going through all the pain and sorrow of it all, contained within the release needed to move through it, and beyond it. As the Biblical saying goes, and the truth shall set you free. However, before one gets to reap any of the wisdom inherent in such cards, one must first acknowledge and face the sorrow and pain of loss clearly portrayed in its imagery.

Until next time,


Rider Waite Smith Tarot: telling it like it is


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