The Threes are a collection of outcomes of the choices and decisions that were presented in the Twos, a grounding into reality of things that were previously considered, cogitated upon or negotiated. Three represents the blending of the two numbers before it, 1+2, bringing together the energy and power of the individual from the Aces with the blended, balanced aspects of the Two to produce a structure upon which further advancement can be made.
Test ideas in the marketplace. You learn from hearing a range of perspectives. Consultation helps engender the support decisions need to be successfully implemented.
~ Donald Rumsfeld
Threes are a power triumvirate, often seen in esoteric, spiritual and religious circles, with many variations of how they shape belief or power structures, with examples including Mind, Body, Soul; Head, Heart, Hands; Maiden, Mother, Crone; Father, Son, Holy Spirit; Creation, Preservation, Destruction; Past, Present, Future...
The Three is a step along the path of progression from the Two, but not yet quite 'solidified' into the more grounded and stoic energy of the Fours, hence they reflect some of the complexities, difficulties, fallout, celebration and issues with having made the decision in the Twos. So in the individual minors, we can see: a shift of emphasis from the consideration of what's in hand, to the horizon and what the future holds, turning our back on what we've decided to leave behind, as we forge a new future not yet fully conceived (Three of Wands); the realisation that we mightn't have all the answers or skills required to complete the task at hand, and that third-party input or expert consultation might assist our cause (Three of Pentacles); the whiplash of pain caused by the difficult decision made before it, separation or in cutting oneself free (Three of Swords); the celebration of situations and people who are dear to us, recognising their contribution and being able to come together as a group (Three of Cups).
“I DON'T CARE!" Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH, I'VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON'T CARE ANYMORE!"
"You do care," said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. "You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
A gamut of Threes in a reading would indicate that the situation has passed the initial 'decision' stage, but not yet at the 'product' stage, and is instead somewhere along the process or procedure leg, at a point where it's being built up, or put into action but not yet ready to launch. Threes grouped together indicate the need to look very closely at that process, to have the right balance of elements and involved parties to lead to success, so that you can move ahead from 'thinking about it' and get to actually 'doing it', rather than getting stuck at the 'working out the details' portion.
The Major Threes (Three of them - how lovely!), appear one in each of the Tarot Septs. The Empress is literally pregnant with potential - the decision was made to have a baby (at the Two stage), but she has not yet given birth (which would be embodied by the Four), but they have decided to add a third to that equation. We can see here how physical pregnancy embodies the power of the Three - that the situation is gestating, growing, forming, taking shape, being prepared for the world. The Empress is in the Physical Sept that talks of empowerment, and embodies the 'doing' of the thing, a physical cornucopia of things to do, to see, to consider, to bring together to try and form into a constructed whole. She is usually portrayed with a rod, to symbolise her authority over the situation; a cornucopia, or sheaf of wheat to show that this card talks about bounty, plenty, fertility - not just pregnancy but the growth phase of projects and finding their footing; sat on a cushioned throne, to reflect her appreciation of comfort, the little luxuries of life and allowing oneself to feel treated well; and surrounded by fields of golden wheat, clear streams and luscious forest, to demonstrate her connection with the land, with growth in conjunction with those natural resources that are readily available to the situation.
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
~ Oprah Winfrey
When we move onto the Hanged Man (XII or 1+2), this is a real departure from the energies that we've considered already, where it's 'formative'...but the Hanged Man is in the Mental Sept of cards, which characterises transformative energies. Now, further along in the process, it's essential to consider and reconsider ones options, to relearn what you already know, to consider alternative perspectives, and to add in the knowledge that has been gained on the journey to date, and to utilise it to potentially 'shake up' the situation, to reassess, relearn, add that knowledge into the current gestalt, so that the processes or product remain streamlined and efficient, and do not become obsolete, relying on outdated knowledge or actions. The Hanged Man encourages us to use periods of downtime or seeming 'reversals of fortune' to be powerful teachers, and to reformulate our actions based on the incorporation of that new world view. Reviewing feedback - especially the negative - can be a powerful tool for reconstruction, reformation and re-visualising an existing situation.
Finally we have The World (XXI or 2+1), sitting in the Spiritual Sept, the enlightenment phase. The World is usually seen as a card of completion, of finalisation, or finishing-up...but in reality, it's only a card that is the gateway to the next cycle, the next phase, the next loop...as such, it calls on us to exult in our successes, to acknowledge our strengths, to identify our failures and to bring this gestalt into our next cycle of development, blending those energies into the next workable progression...if we use the earlier pregnancy metaphor, then the Empress represents the physical pregnancy, the actual process of being pregnant...the Hanged Man talks about learning all those things from parenthood and considering all the impacts, positive and negative, from having children and being parents, before the decision is made to get pregnant again...the World is that jumping off point, calling on us to recognise those energies that move us from this cycle (having one child) to the next (becoming pregnant again). We can apply this 'energy of contemplation and consideration' to anything - the life cycle of a product, from conception to launch, through reconception and into V2.0; a relationship and how it needs to grow and develop like a living thing; a career and how it needs nurturing, growth and education to succeed and fulfil...The World is a culmination, the acknowledgement of all those energies brought together to form a new gestalt, a new framework, a new reality, as we move into that next cycle.
It's the Threes in Tarot that talk to us about moving from the decisions we make, toward solid foundations, via a process, getting from what we think and perceive to grounding that into solid actions or responses - they're a time of planning, organising, preparing and laying foundations.
What are your experiences of the Threes in Tarot? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Images are from the amazing Ellis decK, and are used with kind permission of talented artist Taylor Ellis. The deck is available from his website www.ellistrations.net