Storm clouds crowd in the upper third of this card as sheets of torrential rain hurl to the ground far out of view. A large red (stylized) heart floats in the center. Three swords pierce it from above, passing through such that they appear to cross each other within the body of the heart and the sword tips are seen behind, having completely traveled from front to back.
“Sorrow” is appropriately named. It is a painful card, even under the best of circumstances. However, it is not a card of betrayal. The 3 of Swords is the aftermath, not the cause. That emotional pain so deep, the body responds with a physical ache. Usually attributed to matters of love, this anguish can be a response to anything that gone against the Querent’s wishes. Loss of employment, loss of treasured items, loss of confidence, et cetera.
This is not a permanent state, though it feels like it when completely enveloped in it. After the shock of the event has worn off, it is up to the sufferer if to remain in sorrow, or to move on to what ever may follow. Some can recover quickly. Some require time and/or help to resume. Each person reacts differently and should not have their pains doubled upon by terrible clichés and empty homilies.
Crowley mentions the “sorrow of Buddha” in connection with this card. Where a person has experienced something so wondrous and outside the boundaries of everyday life, that returning to the mundane life is painful. Poets and painters know well this sorrow.
Ill-dignified, a terrible experience becomes crushing. All structure is lost, and there is only pain that can not be mitigated. The source is unknown and no relief works, neither time nor self-administered. The sufferer becomes isolated, even from themselves, and the simplest of tasks becomes unbearable as sorrow deepens into depression. It is an ill time, indeed.