Recently, on the Tarot Professionals Facebook page, Marcus Katz mentioned the aphorism “The oracular moment is sacrosanct.” This got me thinking about the instant in time when each tarot card is randomly drawn from the deck to populate a spread. These linked cards are imprinted with the subtle influences inherent in that temporal interval, whether or not we are able to discern them; think of it as a concatenation or convergence of spontaneous impressions that are woven together by the diviner’s art. I’ve described divination as offering a window into the querent’s future circumstances “as augured by that particular moment in time.” In most cases, that instant is singularly unremarkable since, as the querent sits expectantly across the table, there is nothing especially urgent going on in the cosmic sphere that is likely to produce exceptional enlightenment, although it can always be considered unique in its import. Nonetheless, for the best result it is crucial to “seize the moment” to the fullest and give it your utmost attention.
However, if there is in fact a momentous event underway at the time of the draw, there is every reason to expect that it will have an impact on the mystical undercurrents in the reading. For example, the Full Moon and New Moon are two significant celestial occurrences that can flood the channel by which we receive our insights; these are especially sensitive periods if they involve an eclipse. The fact of a retrograde Mercury, which usually signifies miscommunication or misunderstanding, might only mean “communication of a different kind” in divination terms. (Despite popular belief, it isn’t an “all-purpose malefic” in a personal way, nor is any other adverse transiting “sky-pattern” that has no intimate link to your natal horoscope). When that combines with a lunar eclipse, a more fluidly impressionistic mode of discourse beckons as the normal flow of emotional and intellectual self-expression slows. Especially during the eclipse, the more furtive denizens of the astral regions may be emboldened by the occluded light and briefly “come out to play;” Lewis Carroll seemed to grasp this well in the vivid refrain of The Jabberwocky. It may be the closest one can come to the Astral Plane without formally engaging in “scrying in the astral vision.” A heady time to be a diviner, and one must not be easily beguiled.
Even knowing a client’s zodiacal Sun placement can offer opportunities to find connections between the moment and the individual’s private reality as shown in the cards. This situation is much akin to the casting of a horary astrology chart, in which the exact instant that the astrologer fully comprehends the querent’s inquiry becomes the time for which the calculation is made. That critical instant forms the entire basis for the prediction. The same is true for any system of divination, in which the act of prognostication should be the subject of solemn concentration that honors the sanctity of the “oracular moment.”
Back in 1965, British science fiction author John Brunner wrote a novel dubbed The Long Result. He lifted the title from a couplet in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s long lyrical poem, Locksley Hall, which — even though it was a rather sour rumination about the evils of human marriage — contained some remarkable visionary passages about the future of the world. Brunner quoted the verse about “the long result of Time” in the front-piece of the book, which led me to seek out the poem (no Google Search in those primitive times). The second couplet below foreshadowed my eventual interest in all forms of divination, even though at seventeen I didn’t know it yet.
“Here about the beach I wander’d, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;
When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.”
I first encountered astrology and tarot while in Germany in 1970, and took up the study of both upon returning to the US in 1971. When I began reading the cards for other people a year or so later, a tarot session took “whatever it took” in terms of the time needed to pull all of the threads in what was then my favorite layout — the Celtic Cross. An hour wasn’t unusual when there was no need to mind every minute, although eventually I polished my technique enough to give a full interpretation in 45 minutes or less, including any needed discussion with the sitter about uncertain card meanings. There was no sense of urgency since my readings were less “oracular” than exploratory.
Fast-forward to 2015, when I returned to professional practice after many years away. The first hurdle I encountered was the novel experience of having to read “on the clock.” I soon realized that even a marginally thorough Celtic Cross analysis simply won’t fit comfortably into the 15-to-20 minute time slot that my local shop owner expected her readers to accommodate. Thus began my endless quest to create smaller but still meaty spreads that would make the cut while incidentally forcing me to “seize the oracular moment” in no uncertain terms. The other side of the coin was that these “skinnier” spreads didn’t give me much satisfaction as a reader and clearly didn’t provide my clients the insights I thought they should get for their money. There have been no complaints but, having been accustomed to pursuing “the long result” allowed by adequate time, I was uneasy about having to offer the severely abridged version.
Not long ago I received a request to do a professional tarot reading that spanned up to a two-year period. I thought long and hard about attempting it, but ultimately decided that it wouldn’t be prudent, primarily because the topic was “personal life” circumstances, which can often be a euphemism for relationship matters, and situations involving other people and their frequently divergent agendas and destinies can shift dramatically over that long a period. Thus, the amount of generalization required of such a reading would render it fairly useless, placing it well beyond even what I call “SWAG” (scientific wild-ass guess) territory. That said, the Lenormand Grand Tableau can be valid for up to a year, but I don’t like to perform them for online readings since they cover so much ground and really demand direct client interaction for the best results. I’ve created a couple of year-long tarot spreads patterned after the pagan “Wheel of the Year” but don’t have a lot of confidence in them for professional purposes since I haven’t used them much.
Predictive astrology offers much better tools for extended forecasts because the oracular moment is encoded in a “time capsule” of calculated transits, progressions and solar returns, but the amount of work required to interpret a birth chart and two sets of “moving indicators” is daunting (as well as expensive for the client) and should be undertaken by a more polished natal astrologer than I am since I’ve been focusing on horary techniques for the last few years. I advise against pursuing a computer-generated report for this because, at least in my experience, they fail to adequately personalize the results and yield a somewhat spotty “patchwork” of individual meanings that lacks a convincing synthesis of chart features. Once again, a face-to-face consultation is the best approach.
Ultimately, I decided that I will no longer beat myself up by furnishing pared-down readings that don’t do justice to the potential in the cards. I have friends who say they can do a “live” Celtic Cross in ten minutes, to which I reply “Good for you, but I don’t see how you can give your clients legitimate value by trying to shoehorn ten cards into such a brief duration.” I certainly wouldn’t pay for such a rushed job no matter how accurate the outcome, since I like a bit of the performer’s art — the “theater of tarot” — with my nuts-and-bolts predictions. In addition, I enjoy story-telling tropes such as metaphor and analogy too much to adopt the economical verbal shorthand (basically “dressed-up” keywords) necessary to such a truncated approach. I suppose it comes down to whether we consider ourselves technicians or mystics; personally, I try to keep a foot in both camps.