3 of Swords and XX Judgment


3 of Swords, The Mary-el Tarot, 2nd Edition

The 3 of Swords

The Sola Busca is the oldest intact 78 card  tarot deck we have, created around 1491.  It featured alchemical  and philosophical symbolism as well as a  beautifully illustrated minor arcana.  It inspired at least some of the illustrated minors painted by Pamela Colman Smith  in the Rider Waite, which was first published in 1909.  In the 400 years between the two decks, the norm was to have unillustrated pip cards for the minor arcana.

3 of Swords, Sola Busca

The 3 of Swords from the Sola Busca shows 3 swords piercing a heart.

When I first painted this card I wanted the swords to be piercing something that was more related to Air so I chose a white dove which is symbolic of peace, purity and gentleness, also messages and presence of god.

As time went on I found myself envisioning the heart with this card rather than the dove.  I saw the heart as the heart of the Empress, a mother’s heart.  The heart, though, is not the symbol of swords in this card – it is the swords that pierce the heart.  It was not the dove, but the swords piercing it. 

The swords are the sorrows, loss and pain that is the risk and even the necessary balance of unconditional, selfless love. 

Roses have always appeared in our symbolic language because they are so dramatically beautiful, blood red, intoxicatingly fragrant and also come with painful thorns.

There is a red rose in the Empress and also in the 8 of Swords where on one side of the gate is the white and pure lily, idealistic and spiritual, vs the red rose on the other side, where there is the duality of life, blood, pain love, sex. 

3 of Swords, The Mary-el Tarot 1st Edition

Regarding the thorns on the roses and the swords in the heart –there is sweetness in these sorrows.  The sorrows break open the heart for gifts, blessings, love, revelations, and grace.

Conversely the heart tempers the swords.  The heart gives the swords strength and purpose.

What does it all mean?  I think it means that life is pain.  That you have to accept the pain with the love and the beauty.  The roes and the thorns.  Sorrows that allow the heart to bloom. That it is a sacrifice we make to live and love in this beautiful world

XX Judgment

Finally XX Judgment, the last of the 4 cards I repainted. 

XX Judgment, The Mary-el Tarot, 2nd Edition

The changes in this card were mostly aesthetic.  The phoenix remains as the main subject of the card.

Traditionally the Judgment card shows a Judgment Day scene with an angel blowing a horn at the end of times, calling people out of their graves to be judged and possibly to be sent to heaven or hell depending on the outcome.

I like the idea of a more circular vision for this card.  The phoenix implies not just one death and rising but a cyclical death and birth cycle.

I see this card as the outer edges of the dualistic world, and beyond it is XXI The World, who encompasses everything. 

It appears in a mundane life when the subject at hand has become obsolete and has come to the end of its useful cycle.  Its time to completely burn it down until nothing is left but ash, and only then can something new grow out of it.  It’s a reboot.


XX Judgment, The Mary-el Tarot, 1st Edition

Make mistakes and rise again.

Crash and burn, rise again.

Fall, rise again.

Fail, rise again.

Become obsolete, be refreshed.

Die, be reborn anew.

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2 Responses to 3 of Swords and XX Judgment

  1. Mischa says:

    Both are stunning. Your new vision appears more Asian in its rendering, but I love the ferocity of the first. I have already pre ordered the deck and am excited to receive it.

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