This essay is a condensation of several previous posts on the subject of tarot timing from my earlier blog, https://parsifalswheeldivination.com/.
Accurately deducing the likely moment (or, for that matter, the day, week, month, quarter or year) of occurrence for future events as part of a tarot reading is a risky undertaking, and I seldom offer a professional opinion unless I’m specifically asked for one by my client; even then I will generalize and may tap-dance around it a bit by saying “soon rather than later” or vice versa. Given the range of personal and societal variables operating in any individual life, there is simply no way to be sure and many readers refuse to put it as a direct request to the cards. Building the timing into the question is probably the safest approach: ask “What will happen in this situation within the next three months?” rather than “When will this specific event occur?”
For those of us who believe that tarot divination is an effective tool for identifying future possibilities and tendencies in an individual’s personal reality, the question of “when” looms large on the predictive horizon. There is a divergence of professional opinion on the subject of how long a reading is “good for.” Some people say they have had a forecast come true years after the reading that produced it. In my personal experience, a life-reading with the Celtic Cross has a reliable duration of around three months, but may go out to six months if the context of the question supports it. (For example, inquiring in February about how entering college in September will turn out is a legitimate question, assuming acceptance has already been received.) To fill out the timeline, I treat the “recent past” and “near future” positions as a couple of weeks to a month in either direction. I sometimes think that proposing too short a span for advancement of a situation can come across as a “money grab” aimed at getting the sitter back in the door for an updated reading.
In most cases, asking about something that could take a year or more to mature is not a credible pursuit since too many variables can intervene over such a long range to throw the picture out of focus. I’ve done it from time-to-time, but I will concentrate more on the “tone” than the “substance” of the target period, and speak with more confidence about the near-future scenario that sets the stage for the eventual outcome. I usually describe the intervening cards as “signposts” along the road that point the way toward the final destination, showing the status of the situation as it unfolds and the stance the querent should take in navigating it. In that sense, “when” becomes more a question of progress toward the goal that can either accelerate or delay the result depending on how the querent chooses to engage with it. My own version of the Celtic Cross follows the old model of considering the “cross” section to involve the circumstances of the matter and its development (the “environment of the question”), and the “staff” section to show the querent’s response to those developments as they emerge; any “psychological” aspects of the reading appear in the “staff” because they qualify how the querent might react to the stimulus.
I’m not a fan of the shorter “Past/Present/Future” spreads because they leave too many gaps in the narrative that have to be filled with intuitive guess-work. As a story-teller I feel constrained by the narrow scope of such readings; they feel like they’re “on rails,” to use an old electronic gaming metaphor, with little opportunity for creative adaptation or adjustment in the rush to conclusion. We may tell our sitters that nothing about the situation is carved in stone, but if our tools are too rigid to support that perspective we aren’t truly delivering on our promise. I often feel like I’m wearing a too-tight pair of shoes, with no room to wiggle my toes. Larger spreads afford more breathing room to explore the querent’s options for matching speeds with the projected flow of events and judging the twists-and-turns of a capricious fate. My favorite analogy for how I work this angle is that of a sports broadcast: there is typically a play-by-play commentator who describes developments on the field in a matter-of-fact way, and a “color” commentator (usually an ex-jock) who provides anecdotal flourishes about the players and the history of the sport. Viewers get a more well-rounded sense of the game than if they were just handed a stat sheet.
Timing of events with the tarot is the proverbial “tough nut to crack.” None of the standard methods I’ve explored (and few of those I’ve created) work very well, primarily because they don’t pass the “giggle test:” you may be asking about a situation that has a reasonable expectation of resolving itself within a week or two (for example, the outcome of a job application) and the cards tell you “ten years.” Uh huh, right. The only rational assumption is that you will never hear back (which might be true if they’ve hired someone else and you don’t inquire to find out). Unfortunately, there isn’t a “no way, no how” default in any of the timing models I’ve seen, so we have to improvise by deducing that from the card meanings. Here is my latest stab at compiling the grab-bag of techniques I’ve been using for the last few years into a single table. I’d say it can’t be worse than anything else that’s out there, and it might prove to be better when I’ve tweaked it some more. I make no claims of legitimacy for this material; it was just an interesting experiment that may turn out to be useful in practice.
Accurately foretelling the time-frame for an anticipated event is the second of the “Three Great Challenges” facing any diviner. The primary focus of a predictive reading is obviously “whether” the event is going to happen at all; next comes “if yes, when?” The question of “where” is a distant third, usually overshadowed by secondary considerations for the main thrust of the inquiry — “if yes, what, why, how and who?” I’ve experimented with more complex approaches to the timing of events, but have always thought that simpler has to be better (even though it still doesn’t escape all constraints of judgment and common sense).
Here is my latest attempt at simplification. Although they might suggest further delays, I’m not going to use reversals with this spread for the time being.