Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Tarot Card of the Week: March 8-14, 2010

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
— Haruki Murakami

After our gifts of Grace and healing from the past couple of weeks, we are faced now with the Three of Swords. Since we so recently received it, you can read my more traditional interpretation here. But today, in part because less than ten minutes after pulling this card I received shocking news of a friend’s death, I am prompted to share this instead.

Grief is an inevitable part of living on this Earth.  But beyond its inevitability, our Celtic ancestors understood that sorrow is necessary.  They understood that it is connected intimately with our joy.

But unlike many other philosophies and viewpoints, they did not consider that we simply swing between the dualities of joy and sorrow. Their wisdom tradition offers a third, equally necessary component: the solace of dreaming and peacefulness.

Thus, they believed that joy, sorrow, and quietness are intertwined.  You cannot have one without the other two being nearby. This, in their view, was the way of the fully realized human spirit, and the orderliness of life itself: in order to be in balance and have wisdom, we must equally embrace our experiences with grief, happiness, and the surrender to peace.

This is echoed by the Three Noble Strains of Irish and Celtic music. (Parts of the following are based on information from Terri Windling’s  The Enchanted Harp,  from a recent workshop on the Sidhe, led by shamanic teacher Tom Cowan, and from the Irish lore website, Triskelle.)

The Dagda, or The Good God, is a Father God figure of the Faery Race, the Tuatha de Danaan. He is the master of magic, bountifulness, as well as a skilled artisan and invincible warrior. He is the son of Danu, the Great Mother Goddess, after whom the Tuatha de Danaan are named. He is also the father of Brighid and Aengus Mac Oc.

In addition to the Cauldron of Bounty, one of the Four Treasures of Ireland brought by the Tuatha de Danaan, His gifts are His battle club and harp.

With His harp, The Dagda oversees the proper ordering of the seasons. The seasonal changes were obviously essential for the farming of the land, and survival. His harp is known by two names: Daurdabla, translated as Oak Of Two Woods, and Coir Cethair Chuir, Four Angled Music.

Three Noble Strains of Ireland

Boand was the consort of The Dagda. As She gave birth to the Dagda’s three sons, His harp played along to ease Her labor. The harp groaned with the intensity of the pain as Her first child emerged, and so She named Her eldest son Goltrai, the crying music.

The music made a merry sound as Boand’s second son was born, and so She named this child Gentrai, the laughing music.

At last, the final infant emerged to music that was soft and sweet. She called the child Suantri, the sleeping (or healing) music.

These three strains of music are still essential to the Celtic musical repertoire. Every traditional harper is expected to be able to bring audiences to tears, to merriment, and to a lulling, healing drowsiness. This is demonstrated in the Scots-English ballad about King Orfeo (a harper in the oldest songs, a fiddler in later variants). He played three strains of music before the King of the Faery Underworld: the notes of joy, the notes of pain, and the enchanted Faery Reel.

As Celtic shamanic expert Tom Cowan has noted, we live in a matrix of sorrow, joy and peace. Everything in the sunlit lands of humanity contains its opposite. But instead of being pulled apart by duality and the conflict of either joy or sorrow, the place of healing and transcendence is the third road, the place of peace.

Our world is out of balance when we condemn, numb out, or deny Goltrai, the sorrow. Without it, there can be no joy. And when we spend all our time and treasure seeking only joy and happiness, sorrow brings real suffering to our spirits, and peace will elude us completely.

We must learn to stop fearing, conquering or hiding from our heartbreaks.  Instead, we can embrace those sorrows, for they will direct us to where our joy will come again. Peace is the surrender, and the trusting that this, too, is good.

In what ways are we being invited this week to understand our sorrow?  Let us discover together what is good and what is beautiful, even in the deepest mourning.

In memory of B.T.
In love may he return again.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • March 8, 2010, 1:26 pm Kendra

    My condolences on the loss of your friend. And thank you for a beautiful post – I am going to share with a friend who has also had a loss.

  • March 8, 2010, 2:04 pm Madeline

    Greetings Beth– I am meditating on the concept of SURRENDER a lot lately. My family is still being bothered by a stalker-woman, an odd thing in this society, a WOMAN stalking a MAN but that’s the reality in my family right now — my grown son is dealing with it through legal means but it is quite an energy drain on all of us– sigh– my natural state of Joy has been tested this past 6 months, but in meditation I HAVE SEEN what you remind us of:That the places where JOY came from will again bring..JOY! Like those daffodils poking up through the snow– there is a karmic wheel and what comes around goes around, or something like that!

    A few odd blogs talking about “manners” lately– interesting– I find people with manners to be so soothing to the soul, and those without to be, well-ILL mannered ! and thus, only adding to the general worrisome zeitgeist on the planet just now..I mean,MANNERS are free!!! Luckily,I am mostly surrounded by caring considerate folks..makes the various rounds of karma easier! (stalkers aside!)
    Thanks for an inspirational site!

  • March 8, 2010, 2:06 pm Cathy Sky

    Beth, I also heard of yet another tragic death and have been praying for my friend Marcy, whose 2 and a half year old daughter, Charlotte, passed away in her sleep last Wednesday. This has been such a long season of losses and this most recent cut very deep and seems so harsh, I can’t help but holler WHY? at the Universe. Thank you for this gentle reading about the three of swords; it shed some light into dark places. Please send a good thought to my friend Marcy, Ocracoke musician, cancer survivor, angel-person, and her husband Lou.

  • March 8, 2010, 2:33 pm Dawn

    My deepest condolences on the loss of your friend. Peace and blessings to you and all the loved ones in their sorrow.


  • March 8, 2010, 3:43 pm Rick Loftus, M.D.

    Beth, I love this observation about peace being braided between sorrow and joy, and it reminds me of the “Middle Way” between aversion and attraction that is spoken of in Buddhist traditions.

    I, too, am grieving a loss; a week ago we announced the closure of my medical practice–it didn’t survive the Great Recession (hmm, what’s so “great” about it, right?).

    A couple of years ago I wrote a song about this idea of being beyond both joy and grief, in a place of accepting what is, and of peace, called “The Oak Does Not Complain”:

    Come with me beyond despair, beyond hope.
    We won’t guess, we won’t try, we’ll just cope.
    You cannot bring your burden into my boughs:
    Lay it down, lay it down, lay it down.
    Where there is strength beyond dimension
    Is the oaken’s path’s ascension.
    All we’d say is spoken,
    There is nothing here that’s broken.
    For the Oak does not complain.
    It solace lies beyond all loss and all gain.

    Peace to you in the passing of your friend, and to everyone dealing with all the loss of the past couple of years.

  • March 8, 2010, 4:26 pm Maria

    I’m so sorry to read of the loss of your friend. This is a wonderful post, and very timely for me, as usual. I am, thankfully, not dealing with losses such as you and others here have spoken about. What I am dealing with is inertia stemming from a fear of making changes that might ultimately lead to pain – and my lack of trust in myself to handle it if it does.

  • March 8, 2010, 5:34 pm denise

    To all who have suffered the loss of loved ones and of dreams these past few weeks, my heartfelt condolences and mental hugs to all. ~*~

    Beth, your post is beautiful and gave me a “welcome home” feeling as I read it…perhaps because my maiden name is Cowan! 🙂
    This has given me a new perspective of the 3 of Swords; thank you!

    Dr. Rick: a very splendid song! I hope you have been able to put it to music.

  • March 8, 2010, 8:24 pm catherine

    sending thoughts of sympathy to you and Rick…blessings on all the beauty your love ones brought your lives….. catherine

  • March 8, 2010, 10:54 pm Madeline

    Many posts about loss, including yours, Beth. Much empathy and prayers to all of you suffering losses right now.. May the Light peep through soon..

  • March 9, 2010, 5:23 am Arie

    May the Divine Light guide your friend.
    To return in Love and Peace.

  • March 9, 2010, 11:14 am Joanna

    I’m so sorry to hear of your friend’s death, sweet sister. Sending love & peace your way and to all who are touched by this passing.

  • March 9, 2010, 2:51 pm Joanna

    I just read this piece more fully. Thank you, thank you, for the teachings about the three: joy, sorrow and peace.

  • March 14, 2010, 6:11 pm Donna

    I came to your site today specifically to look at the Tarot card of the week because of some distressing news my family received. My sister’s fiance has been diagnosed with cancer of the brain stem and is most likely not going to live to see their wedding day. Thank you for this post and I am sorry to hear about your loss.

  • March 15, 2010, 9:56 am Beth

    Oh, Donna! This is so tragic! I am so dreadfully sorry to hear it. Sending you, your sister, and her beloved — and everyone involved — all the love and healing possible.