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Tarot card meanings and how to interpret scary cards

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I take part in tarot-related forums on the web, and one site I ran into that mentions “scary” tarot cards inspired me to comment on the cards people find scary or difficult. Although the tarot can deliver sobering messages and warnings, there are no cards that are inherently "bad" to get. The pictures on some of them frighten people when they show up in their reading, however.

Here are two minor arcana cards, which on the Waite deck, have unsettling pictures. The Three of Swords features a big red heart in the sky, with three daggers piercing it. The Ten of Swords is a man lying face down on the ground, with ten swords sticking out of his back.

The Three of Swords: Swords are associated with the element of air, the mental plane, and one's thoughts, beliefs, ideas and perceptions. (Air signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.) To get the meaning, you combine it with the meaning of the number 3 The number 3 is ruled by Saturn, and represents structure, rules, stability, and restrictions. It can also mean “no”.

The Three of Swords has interesting disparate readings as it appears in an answer to a question. One reading is that it means something doesn’t happen that is expected. If someone asks, “how’s that lawsuit against me going to go?” –let’s say the Jusitice card is in the water position in the layout(indicating a legal matter) and the Three of Swords is in the earth position, then it’s saying the lawsuit will never come to trial. Falling in the earth position, it suggests that it only exists in the air realm, or in one’s head. For some reason, this lawsuit is a non-event in the life of the questioner.

Ten of Swords: One important meaning of the 10 of swords is that it points out a change in identity.

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Elissa Heyman practices psychic counseling and healing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and anywhere in the world by phone. Her website's free offerings include essays, guided meditations, and a monthly newsletter with predictions. Appointment information at, 505-982-3294.