A long and close examination of Tarot images pays off. Initial impressions of scariness in a card can be resolved in more than one way. The first thing to keep in mind is this: the card poses not just the predicament, but also a solution. If you participate in the image fully enough, you will find it.
Here’s an example: Let’s look at the three of Swords in the Waite Coleman deck:
Grey skies and slanting rain are in the background; in the foreground, three swords pierce through a red heart.
This card gives an initial alarming impression of heartbreak and loss, but is that what it’s really about?
The suit of swords in general is associated with the faculty of thinking, reasoning. The three of swords in particular is about pain – pain caused by the way we are thinking about things, rather than a pain caused by real loss. The sword-struck heart on this card is a Valentine cutout – a sentimentalized short-hand for feelings, not the real deal – and represents false heartbreak.
When we draw this card, we should examine what we are adding to the difficulty of the moment by the way we frame events. It may be that we are not going deep enough, or we are not quite wise enough, to recognize the tricks that we play on ourselves with our own minds. This card can help reveal some of those manipulations to us, or at least alert us to their existence in the situation.
With this richer perception in mind, we could even welcome the appearance of the three of swords!