Card Meanings for the Rider-Waite- The Three’s

The three’s represent a development- something that comes of actions taken. The keywords here are:

  • 3 of Wands- Assessment
  • 3 of Cups- Celebration
  • 3 of Pentacles- Practical planning
  • 3 of Swords- Heartbreak

Going Deeper

3 of Wands

The 3 of wands is similar to the 2 because of the person standing there is also looking out to sea. This time though the person has moved from the safety of his castle and is now on the shore. The world has opened up for him- he has taken the action promised in the 2. This would be the card that comes up when you have taken the action you wanted to take- for example, you emailed your resume or you moved in with your partner- and now you are waiting to see what happens next. This card signifies that having taken your action the ball is now in someone else’s court. You are waiting to see the results of your action. This is the time when you assess the situation. Did you do it right? Say it right? Could you have gone about it differently?

In relationship readings this card is often about waiting for your significant other to take the next step. You’ve already done everything you could so you need to see where your other is at. It is an assessment of the current state of your relationship. Are you both happy? Are you both having your needs met? Are you both on the same page? It can also mean that they are away but due home soon.

In negative spread positions this card can indicate a feeling of powerlessness. As if your whole life is at the mercy of the actions of others or the world at large. It can indicate a wistfulness or wish to be elsewhere- the grass being greener on the other side. Sometimes it can be about falling short in your efforts- that you haven’t done enough or done it in the right way to achieve the change or event you desire. It can also indicate too much navel gazing, that you are over analysing rather then acting.

As a person the 3 of wands can be someone who has their eyes on the prize, so to speak- someone who can see what is coming for them but who can also see the work they have to do to get there. Sometimes this card refers to a dreamer who is often thinking of far away places, but often this dreamer will do what is necessary to achieve those dreams.

3 of Cups

This is a happy card in general indicating celebrations, parties and generally good times. It’s about happy friendships and connecting with others on a superficial but fun basis. This card often appears when good times are at hand or a harvest of some sort. The harvest is usually something like a small reward for good work done, or a gift or thank you just for being yourself. You can expect lots of laughter and probably a good feast when the 3 of Cups appears. In the modern world this can also represent online social networking- or the sort of friends you only have online.

In relationship readings this is a great card to get. Again, it’s about good times, parties and celebrations. Maybe an anniversary is coming up, or wedding or other event to mark a significant step forward in your relationship. The 3 of cups is nearly always an actual event but it can on occasion simply represent good times in general, especially in spread position that represent the past.

In negative spread positions it can indicate too much of a good thing. Too much partying, too much food, over indulgence or living only for the party life. In it’s negative sense it’s about only living superficially, being or having a fair weather friend or the sort of friends who only show up when they want something from you then disappear when you really need them.

As a person the 3 of cups is the social butterfly, often someone you only see when you are out and about. Someone you’d happily buy a drink for but wouldn’t go out of your way to call.

3 of Pentacles

Once you’ve had an idea and taken action to make it happen you need practical plans to achieve it. The 3 of Pentacles is that practical planning. It’s the blueprints you need to make a building happen. It all has to work on paper before it a single nail it hammered. This often represents nutting out the details of a plan with someone else. Going through the details or fine print of a contract before you sign on the dotted line. It can also indicate that it’s time to consult an expert- a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, etc. Make sure you really do know what you are talking about when the 3 of pentacles appears. If you aren’t sure, double and triple check your facts and figures. It can also indicate binding contracts.

In relationship readings it can indicate a time when the “rules” are being laid down for your relationship. We can create these sorts of rules subconsciously or consciously like when you discuss the division of labour in housework. It can still be about practical planning in the sense that you plan where your relationship is going. Is this going to be a deep and meaningful commitment culminating in marriage and/ or children? Or something more free flowing? It’s about setting parameters of how you expect to be treated and how you interact.

In negative spread positions it can be about being too finicky, obsessed with detail and sweating the small stuff. It’s about everything having to be just so without room for mistakes or variations. In its negative sense the 3 of pentacles gets bogged down in semantics and details. It is about being unable or unwilling to see the big picture.

As a person the 3 of pentacles is the planner. This person needs to have everything organised and set out- they don’t do well making it up as the go along. They are project focused and will tend to take all the time they need to get something just right.

3 of Swords

Possibly one of the unhappiest cards in the deck. The 3 of swords is unfortunately about heartbreak, pain and loss. There’s no two ways about the fact that when the 3 of swords appears, something or someone is going to get hurt. There’s no need to shy away from this though. It is worth remembering that this too shall pass. We all experience both joy and sadness and sometimes the appearance of the 3 of swords is a timely warning that we are on the wrong path. If you continue with your current course then something will go wrong. Sometimes this is avoidable, sometimes it isn’t. But forewarned is forearmed. When the 3 of swords appears, don’t get your hopes up and don’t get too attached to the subject of your reading. Consider taking an alternative path.

In relationship readings, not surprisingly, the 3 of swords is not a good sign. Heartbreak, loss, pain. It’s time to take a deeper look at where you are and how you got here. Sometimes it is out of your hands and the heartbreak and loss comes at someone else’s hands. Sometimes it’s our own actions or inactions that led us to this point. If the 3 of swords appears it’s time to look deeper and accept the lesson that this pain has brought you. What could you do differently next time? The appearance of the 3 of swords is a timely reminder to learn to roll with the punches.

In negative spread positions it’s easy to see what the 3 of swords is about. However in positive spread positions the 3 of swords can be about a necessary pain like labour pains for childbirth. In positive spread positions the 3 of swords always talks about a gain from a loss. A pain that needed to be experienced to get where you need to go. Sometimes it’s a price you willingly pay because you know what the prize is at the end, sometimes it’s a surprise gain. In positive spread positions, the 3 of swords is about the silver lining on the cloud.

As a person the 3 of swords can indicate someone with heart issues (health wise) or someone who has had their heart broken and never really recovered. They are often seemingly fine on the surface but leave you feeling worse after a conversation with then you were before.


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