This post has been inspired by an earlier article called, Eon Quiz and Robust approaches to Tarot Readings.
In that article I posted a quiz that asked people how they approached a health related Tarot reading. The participation from others was incredible, and inspired a follow up post called Eon Quiz I – Health Question.
The discussions that resulted from these two posts focused on two distinct areas; Ethical, and reader style (predictive versus therapeutic).
In this post, I want to focus on the predictive style, and in particular, three techniques that can be used to answer a Health based question. My main interest is in discovering which, if any of the techniques we explore, is the most robust and bulletproof.
We’ll start this article with an example Tarot reading, and explore three possible techniques to use – always with an underlying emphasis on finding the most robust one.
Example Tarot reading
Despite my best efforts to make this post as universal as possible, everyone will have slightly different interpretations on what the positions in the Celtic Cross Spread signify. I don’t actually think it really matters what definition you use for what position. However, for those of you who would like to know how I read with this spread, here is a link to a post where I go into greater detail on this aspect of the Celtic Cross Spread.
In order to keep this reading lighthearted yet useful, I’ve actually done a real reading … on my friend’s cat. This person asked for a Tarot reading on the cat’s health, and with their permission, I’ve used their reading in this example.
In the example that follows, I use the Thoth deck. In order not to exclude people who are unfamiliar with the imagery, I’ve listed the cards used (and the associated positions) after the image.
A list of the cards used in the above example:
- The present: 5 of Cups
- The card that crosses the 1st card: 4 of Disks
- The card positioned above – it provides clues to the distant future: Ace of Wands
- The card positioned below – it provides clues to the distant past: 3 of Swords
- The card to the left provides clues on the recent past: Hanged Man
- The card to the right provides clues to the immediate future: 3 of Wands
- The bottom card in the column to the right of the cross provides clues to the client’s influence on the question (is this the cat?): 6 of Disks
- The next card provides clues to the environmental influences (that means anything outside of my friend’s and cat’s control): 10 of Cups
- The next card can be read as a potential outcome card and provides clues as to the influence of change (an awesome clue for the future): Prince of Disks
- The last card is traditionally seen as the outcome card. Death (…ah…)
1st Technique – Elemental influences
The technique of using Elemental influences to explore someone’s health is quite simple. The first step is to scan the cards and note the distribution of the Elements. Let’s do that now:
- Fire: 2 cards – Ace of Wands, Three of Wands.
- Water: 4 cards – Five of Cups, Hanged Man, Ten of Cups, Death.
- Air: 1 card – Three of Swords.
- Earth: 3 cards – Four of Disks, Six of Disks, Prince of Disks.
The next step is to use that information to predict someone’s (or in our case, the cat’s) health.
Applying the technique
Normally, in health related questions, the influence of Fire indicates vitality. The more Fire cards the better, particularly if there is a large concentration of them in future positions – it indicates vitality returning to the client. In this particular case we only have 2 Fire cards, yet they’re positioned well within the reading (the future cards).
Alternatively, we only have one Air card ( … Swords are traditionally associated with medical procedures and operations). Does this indicate that it won’t come to that?
There are 4 Water cards and 3 Earth cards. This is a fairly nice balance between the two passive Elements.
What does all this tell us?
Well, there’s clearly more passive Elements than active elements. This indicates that it will take some time (relative to the reading) before the cat’s health either improves or deteriorates. Does this tell us that this illness will be lingering for a while; or at the very least, some time passes before any noticeable change in the cat’s health occurs?
With some active Elements present, especially Fire, we can be assured that things do change, but is it for the better?
I’m encouraged by the presence of Earth Elements. It indicates a strong constitution and that the best possible treatment is provided – the kind that provides the cat with a solid chance to improve.
Why use this technique?
The strengths of this technique lie in its simplicity and ease of use. The technique itself will cost no more than 10-20 seconds of your life. It’s really fast to use and it gives an overall impression of timing, imbalances and blockages in a quick and effective manner.
I use this technique as a way to “get into” the reading. It helps direct the flow of the Tarot reader’s story.
Why it’s not robust
It’s too simple. Although it does provide us with a framework for figuring out what has importance within the reading, it doesn’t actually provide any concrete answers.
This is a great technique to use, but it’s not really a “primary” technique but rather a “secondary” or back-up method to the main method used by the Tarot reader.
It could also be argued that it’s deck specific and relies on certain attributions from systems (in my case, the Golden Dawn) not in keeping with the deck creators intentions. Although it can be adapted, it’s not really a universal method for reading Tarot cards.
One way to expand upon this technique is to look for different types of influences as well as obvious patterns within the spread. For example, the ratio between Major, Minor and Court cards; if there are groups of cards with the same number (such as the Four of Cups, Four of Swords, Four of Disks, Four of Wands bring present within the same reading); if the Court cards are looking at each other; where the Court cards are looking etc.
2nd Technique – Elemental Dignities and Card Pairing
I don’t want to spend too long on this technique because not everyone is familiar with it. For those of you who would like more information, check out a collaborative series of How-To articles that Catherine Chapman and I wrote on Elemental Dignities.
To keep this section of the article brief, I’m just going to read the cards in pairs. I’m going to pair from the outside, and work my way in. In other words, I’ll pair cards 1 and 10, 2 and 9, 3 and 8, 4 and 7, 5 and 6 together. Each card pairing takes us further into the future.
This technique will provides us with an overall story framework for the cat’s health.
Applying the technique
- Card 1 – Five of Cups paired with Card 10 – Death: Here we have 2 Water Elements interacting with each other. This indicates an emotional evaluation of “events”. There is a fear of loss and saying goodbye.
- Card 2 – Four of Disks paired with Card 9 – Prince of Disks: This is another pairing where both cards are the same Element. In this case, Earth. The Prince of Disks and the 4 of Disks show us what a strong constitution the cat has. He’s holding onto his life – he hasn’t given up.
- Card 3 – Ace of Wands paired with Card 8 – 10 of Cups: This is the first pairing in which we have enemy Elements. In card pairing, each card (whether or not they’re “friends” or “enemies”), is considered equal strength within a reading. It seems that where the cat is living (10 of Cups, associated with families) is providing the right kind of healing environment. The Ace of Wands looks to the future, and a return of health. It’s almost giving us a snap shot of “his fighting spirit”, to quote Homer.
- Card 4 – Hanged Man paired with Card 7 – Six of Disks: Here, the Elements are friendly with each other. Despite nobody seeing any improvements in his health for some time (Hanged Man), his body is strong (6 of Disks).
- Card 5 – Three of Swords paired with Card 6 – Three of Wands: Again we have two friendly active Elements. Hmmm…this pairing isn’t so clear cut. Remember, both cards are equally strong so it looks like this illness will be around for a while. Perhaps we are looking at an operation and return to health. The Three of Swords, in this case, being an operation and the Three of Wands being a return to health. Alternatively, we could be seeing short term improvements ahead of a relapse, and ultimately the cat’s passing.
Why use this technique?
As you can see, we now have a story line … of sorts. Although the outcome isn’t completely clear, card pairing did provide us with some valuable and useful pieces of information. This is the real strength of the technique – its ability to provide us with useful information in a very short time frame. Like the first technique, this won’t take longer than a minute (depending on the spread and amount of cards) in use.
Why it’s not robust
There are some limitations to it. The first limitation depends on the spread that the Tarot reader is using. If you use a spread that has an odd number of cards in it, you will end up with just one card, whereas, if you use an even number of cards (like the Celtic Cross which numbers 10) you will end up with two cards at the end.
This is significant because, as in our case, when you end up with two cards (which you pair) the outcome is vague. The value of this technique is greatly improved if you use a spread with an odd number of cards. This means that it’s impossible to pair the last card. This “outcome” card then brings a greater level of clarity.
Naturally, you can just deal an additional card to ensure that you transform your spread from even numbers into odd numbers, but, this isn’t always natural or desirable.
I’ve found that his technique is a great way to end a reading, but not to begin one. I like to use this method as a way of validating my earlier interpretations. If this method ends up creating a similar story to the one I’ve been telling then I’m given more confidence as to the accuracy of my earlier interpretations. If, however, it says something completely different, then I know I need to reassess the reading.
Overall then, this is another great technique that does have strength behind it, but it needs to be used within the right context. For me, it’s real strength lies in its ability to diagnose and validate my previous interpretations. It’s also awesome at bringing out other additional information at the end of the reading.
3rd Technique – Divinatory Definitions
This is usually the very first technique we learn as Tarot readers. First, we learn the DMs of the cards and second, how to apply them to a positional based Tarot spread – such as the Celtic Cross.
The idea behind it is very simple. Let’s take an example card, such as the Seven of Wands, and apply it to various imaginary positions.
- The past: Someone who, rather than trying to sort everything out in one go, dealt with their problems one at a time.
- The present: Feeling embarrassed, and run down. Perhaps their risk taking went wrong?
- The future: Although the client’s problems won’t go away, they confront the worst of them, and possible overturn them.
As you can see, we take the basic interpretation of the Seven of Wands and adjust its meaning depending on the meaning of the corresponding position.
Applying the technique
Let’s apply this technique to our example reading.
- Five of cups in the now position: My friend is upset.
- Four of Disks in the crossed position: There’s a lot of positives that will help my friend’s cat – good medical care, diet plan, financial resources etc.
- Ace of Wands in the crown position: A return of vitality and a new lease of life.
- Hanged Man in the past position: Looks like this cat has been sick for a while.
- Three of Swords in the bottom of the cross position: This indicates the medical care required as well as the level of sickness the cat will experience.
- Three of Wands in the immediate future position: An improvement in the cat’s health. This card also indicates a good relationship with all relevant professionals involved in the cat’s health.
- Six of Disks in the bottom of the column position. Typically indicates the person’s influence: A good card. Looks like there will be plenty of positive kindnesses and help occurring around the treatment of the cat. For me, this also represents the cat’s constitution and the strength of that constitution.
- 10 of Cups in the environment position: I can’t think of a better card to represent the cat’s environment. There are worse places to be … if you’re going to be sick.
- Prince of Disks in the hopes/fears position: I see this card as representing the cat and the cat’s health. A Prince, or in other decks, a Knight, can represent Events. In terms of health, this would be a good “event”. I also see this position as a potential outcome card. In this sense, it looks like there will be a period of stability and recovery for the cat.
- Death in the outcome position: This could indicate the physical death of the cat, but what doesn’t eventually die?
Overall, we can see an improvement in the cat’s health. The Hanged Man lets us know that the cat’s been sick for a while, or at the very least, has a history of major illnesses. The other cards point to the cat’s overall strength and fighting spirit. We can also see how other people play a positive role with the future of the cat’s health; and I would fully expect the Vet’s that are involved to be accurate in their treatment.
The Death card is troubling, especially when you consider that the Three of Swords, Five of Cups and Hanged Man are all present within the reading. Without trying too hard we know the situation is serious. But how serious? Yes, the cat’s death is a real possibility, however, so is a period of improved health. If we consider how important the Ace of Wands is when using this kind of technique, it alters the meaning of the Death card. Are we looking at the cat making some kind of recovery followed by a relapse?
Why use this technique?
It’s simple, can be used with any spread or Tarot deck, and its easy to use. It gives fairly clear information and provides a nice structure for the Tarot reader.
Why it’s robust
Because there are no real draw backs to this method. It’s robust in almost all circumstances and conditions. Of course, it does have its limitations. It pigeon holes the client’s life, and assumes a structure (the positional meanings that the spread uses) that the client’s life will easily fit into.
I remember a reading a friend of mine did years a go. A woman wanted to know if her husband’s health would improve. The outcome card was the Empress. There were other highly positive cards involved as well – such as the Star and the Sun. My friend predicted full recovery. A couple of weeks later her husband died. My friend and I couldn’t understand it. How could the Empress predict death? We spent years discussing. Finally, we had a moment of insight. The Empress can depict a woman who owns property – in other words, it represented inheritance. The cards didn’t lie, but sometimes it takes a while to figure these things out.
Another problem with this method is also part of its strength. Because it’s so easy to use, it’s also so easy to apply it incorrectly. Like my friend’s reading where the outcome card was the Empress, we don’t always “see” what the cards are showing us. This isn’t so much a failing of the method but rather a human failing … we can’t always see the forest for the trees.
That’s where the other “secondary” techniques come in. The other techniques can provide the essential checks and balance that every Tarot reader needs in order to ensure a robust methodology to predicting, not just health readings, but any type of reading.
Like anything in life. I’ve discovered that no one technique is instantly superior than the other. Yet, they all have their place within the Tarot reader’s tool kit. For me, some are more “secondary” than others.
Each Tarot reader will have their own spread, their preferred deck and their preferred techniques for health readings. I know I do! But this article isn’t about me, and how I do it. It’s about finding the most robust methods a Tarot reader can use for a health question, and for my money, using some simple DMs within a familiar Tarot spread is about as functional as you can get.
When we incorporate other “secondary” methods, we can add even more useful information. For instance, when I paired the cards, the final pairing left it open ended about the cat’s health. This isn’t really the case with the DMs method. Death is a fairly clear message but so is the Ace of Wands (Birth, something new etc). However we choose to conclude this reading (initially, the cat recovers, for now) it’s clear that it’s going to take some time.
Do you agree or disagree with me? What do you think is the most robust method? What methods have I forgotten about? As ever, these posts are only as interesting as your opinions on them. I’d love to hear what you think. I’ll see you in the comments