If there is a number that is unconsciously attuned to us, it is three. It is impossible to list all the ways threes function in our lives. With just a basic understanding, you will begin to see the threes as inseparable from the way we relate to the world and each other.
As with all of the Tarot numbers, we can choose to make them as complicated as we want or as relevant as we want. I choose relevancy over complexity every time. Always ask first “Why do you believe that? What makes more sense to you, a mysterious meaning… or a function that you use each and every day?” Meaning only exists when a number is organic and relevant.
Threes Are Everywhere
Threes are easy to think of as being complete. Not in the sense of being finished or done, but complete in as much as we think of entire with no necessary part left outside. The number three feels right. It feels proportioned and comfortable.
You can discover the relevancy of threes without even trying. The Christian bible mentions threes at least 523 times. We are granted three wishes. Incantations are repeated three times. There are three primary colors. Three notes form a complete musical chord. Popular folklore includes three little pigs, three blind mice, and three bears. We riddle with animal, vegetable, or mineral. A sentence has a subject, verb, and object. Three strikes and you’re out.
What makes a three substantial is its simple geometry. Regardless of how three points are arranged, a triangle can be formed by connecting them. When a triangle is formed, it creates the first two dimensional shape and things begin to feel solid. A three also offers architecture and physical stability. A tripod is the simplest legged support that is dependable under load. And of course, we perceive our physical world in three dimensions. This dependability of the threes tells us how things are ordered.
Lists of three are considered a universal way to prove a point or provide evidence: a single occurrence is a fluke, a second is a coincidence, but a third shows a pattern. This principal is so fundamental to the human mind, that is is used both consciously and unconsciously when one wishes to unequivocally state their beliefs.
But threes don’t always work out in an equal manner. The bound twos are transformed when a third element is introduced. We see it in the birth of a child, as the creation of life changes the relationship and produces a new idea: family. Jewish wisdom identifies the number with creation, where two opposite entities synthesize and form a harmony of three. Conversely the addition of a third person can produce friction by becoming a situation with a third wheel. This new three can be felt as a destabilizing force to the pair. In this way threes become a method of comparison, where one is not like the other two. Taken further, threes are sometimes associated with a love triangle between people. For these reasons this unequal quality of three can be associated with creativity, but also deconstruction; or increase and decrease.
Ultimately, The threes answer the question why or how. We explain existence in terms of three, such as: birth, life, death; mind, body, and soul; and in many cultures as the heavens, earth, and the abyss. We perceive in three dimensions: height, width, and length. A complete story has a beginning, middle, and end. Within these qualities of why and how, three is often associated with wisdom, for people manage time by organizing their present, anticipating their future, and applying the experience of the past.
Using Threes in Tarot
Remember the Tarot suits are bound to the numbers, and may be primary, secondary, or equal to the importance of numbers depending on the context of reading the cards. When the threes show up, consider asking or describing what you see in terms of why or how.
You may also see the number three in terms of degrees; such as a modest but adequate quantity. When we talk in terms of a few cups or swords, we are accounting for more than a couple but definitely not a lot. Regardless of the quantity, suits in the amount of three are well-ordered. They are so well-ordered, threes can signal completion or adequacy, where no more is needed. This order tells us exactly how things are related, with an organization that begins to become less clear as we move into the higher quantities.
If you want to get esoteric with the threes, go for it. But please always ask yourself if it makes sense first. The threes should feel complete, familiar, and satisfactory to us. Complicated does not always equal better.
Stay tuned for the Fours.