Three of Vessels

Element: AETHER

Upright: Meet your Shadow, Introspection, Find your Potential
Reversed: Denial, Superficial Shadow Work, Lack of Discipline


Two scenes are displayed in this card, shown in two different plans.

The background plan shows an underground scene with working miners. Their hard work is the extraction of treasures from the crude ore. In other words, they explore the depths of the Earth, the unknown, drawing raw materials (prima materia) from the rock. 

The miners’ work is to find precious minerals, which is a symbolic representation of the valuable treasure we are all looking for. An almost unknown substance, it is, however, needed to complete the Great Work.

The foreground gives us the image of a tree. It resembles the Philosophical Tree, symbol of the creative imagination that transcends space and time. Its roots grow deep in the underground world, where the miners extract the ore, and it symbolises our subconscious mind.

The trunk incarnates the manifested reality and physical world, but it is also the connection to a new distant sphere – the celestial. In this mysterious dimension, the golden branches and leaves thrive unreachable. 

The golden boughs remind us of the voyage of the hero Aeneas to the Hades. According to the legend, he could not pass safely through the underworld without the golden “amulet”. Aeneas descends to the bottom of the Earth, searching for the knowledge he could not find anywhere else.

This mythological scene reveals to us the connection between the depths of our subconscious mind and the higher levels of our consciousness. Similarly, in our card, the prima materia extracted by the miners is the one that fortifies and fertilises the Great Tree.

A small figure uses a ladder to reach the golden boughs. This symbol of elevation shows a personal development with different steps, as an act of individualisation. This ladder has ten steps associated with the crescent evolution along this suit of Vessels and represents the many degrees of this personal journey.

On the other hand, a ladder also allows us to go back, taking the fruits to the earth plane. This process of going back and forward is many times related to our own ascension.

Overall, we can see in this card two stages of self-improvement.

It works symbolically as a mirrored image, exemplifying the hermetic axiom “As Above so Below”. What we do in the depths of ourselves is reflected in our spiritual realm.

Upright Meaning and Interpretation

Meet your Shadow, Introspection, Find your Potential.

This is a clear call from your unconscious to deal with your past and unresolved issues.
When you search for your potential, you extract other issues and bring them to consciousness. The miners can be seen as small triggers, agitating old memories hidden in our unconscious minds.
A “shadow work” is needed.

You try hard to keep your darkest portrait buried “six feet under”. You can ignore, hide and ban that side, but it is a part of you.
Conscious and unconscious minds live in eternal conflict and reconciliation seems unreachable.

This introspective voyage aims to find and confront the parts of yourself you have been repressing such as fears, traumas, or desires. It is a period of transitions and self-awareness when you get rid of things that no longer serve you in order to walk towards a new stage. Every process of awareness bears its demons but it is demanding to face them so you can progress in your ascension.

The tree represents the soil of your mind, as the roots feed in the waters of your unconscious and grow towards the light, branching the golden boughs of our creativity. We normally transport a lot of unresolved stuff to our daily lives.

How often do you question your actions? 

The ladder encourages this necessary connection between the two realms: every step we climb we will get closer to collecting the fruit. 

Reversed Meaning and Interpretation

Denial, Superficial Shadow Work, Lack of Discipline. 

If this card in reverse appears to you, you clearly do not want to meet your shadow. Instead, you are doing very superficial work here. All demons are hard to face and exorcise. It is not comfortable at all to look in the eyes of something buried inside our minds.

It is easier to assume that everything is fine, that you do not have any problem left to solve.
Do yourself a favour and take some time alone. Do you feel the need to expand your intuition, to connect with your essence?

You are shaped to hate and fear what you do not understand; and it often feels more natural to pursue instinctive violence rather than rational solutions. Maybe you try to justify that violence when you “demonise” other people, projecting your own flaws onto them. This behaviour is not conscious most of the time.

You must start facing the facts; be aware of this necessary shadow work.