Today we move on to the Three of Swords, linked to Saturn in Libra. It also corresponds to the second ten-day period in Libra – this year, that’s from about the 3rd October through to the 12th (see Elizabeth Hazel’s excellent Tarot Decoded, published by Weiser, 2004, for more on Planetary and Zodiacal dignities).
Just to recap: Libra is the cardinal Air sign, so we’re looking at creative energy around activity involving thought, ideas, logic, reason. It’s about partnerships of all kinds, but the emphasis is on the contractual side of things – wanting to ensure equality and fairness within the relationship, be it personal or professional – rather than the romance and passion. Libra is ruled by Venus, so often takes on the role of peacemaker or mediator.
But here we have Saturn in Libra! One of the things that Saturn symbolizes is the imposition of limits and restrictions. Sometimes this works to our advantage – where would we be without some boundaries in place? But sometimes it feels as though it’s working against us. Through the connection to Kronos (the Greek counterpart to the Roman god Saturn), we have a link to time and chronology as well.
Interestingly, Saturn is what we call ‘exalted’ (not to be confused with rulership) in Libra, meaning that it’s very comfortable in this sign. Saturn in Libra represents the ability to establish and maintain relationships on an equal footing. Through the ‘time-management’ quality of Saturn, it also symbolizes the ability to organize and structure relationships based on harmony and balance. Discipline plays a big part in maintaining these partnerships, in which promises and commitments are honoured.
A connection to the Three of Swords isn’t obvious, is it? Traditionally, we’ve come to think of this card as representing a release of tension, and the need to accept that disappointment and pain are an inevitable part of life’s journey. I like Rachel Pollack’s view on this: that the way to deal with sorrow is to take it into our hearts, accept it, and to go beyond it. We see that in the traditional images in this card - often shown as a heart being pierced by arrows. I think too of Venus, Libra's ruler, when I see the heart; she represents harmony, which is what we're after here - the bringing into balance of sorrow and joy, if you like.
The Shadowscapes Tarot reflects this, I think. The swan is an ancient symbol of wisdom; knowing that hope can emerge from sorrow. We're in the suit associated with air and the mind; we talk about having heads in the clouds...perhaps we can see this as being about (as the accompanying book, details below, says) "...overcome the pain, the weeping of the heart is perhaps a necessary cleansing...lift up white wings to dance with the sky once again".
I also like Gerd Ziegler’s (‘Tarot: Mirror of the Soul’, published by Weiser Books) take on this. He talks about Saturn making all our limitations visible – the restrictions that we place on ourselves through fear and doubt place – and the need to bring clarity (the Swords) to this in order to bring things back into balance and harmony (Libra). The image in the Thoth deck reflects the heaviness comes with worry and sadness. The sword in the centre reminds us of the need for clarity, Saturn making all the restrictions (the two smaller swords) visible to us, showing us how limiting fear and doubt are.
Druidcraft Tarot created by Philip Carr-Gomm and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections
Shadowscapes Tarot created by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn
Thoth Tarot created by Aleister Crowley, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, published by US Games Systems, Inc.
Wildwood Tarot created by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Connections