This conflict-resolution spread links tarot divination back to its Italian game-playing roots. The card-selection method presented here uses two decks to determine which card of a pair is to be read in each of five “conflict engagement” areas. It is based on the simple “trick-taking” game “War,” in which one card bests another in a series of head-to-head “reveals.” In that game, tied pairs are put into a pile that goes to the person who takes the next trick; the winner is the player who has the most cards at the end of play. I got on this track while thinking about teaching my five-year-old granddaughter to play War with her Stephen Farmer animal oracle deck (“Hmm, the Bear eats the Deer, you win!”)
Here there is no ultimate “champion,” just separate scenarios based on different types of engagement that may or may not mesh into a bigger picture. Ties of identical rank or number require context-specific judgment to decide a winner, or both cards can receive equal prominence in the matter as determined by the querent and the reader. The cards in the “Winner” column are then read to describe the outcome and a possible resolution. The scope of this spread ranges from internal, psychological struggles to widespread external discord, with various types of adversarial group interaction between the extremes. Not all areas will apply in every instance, but they are all populated “just in case.” For example, if I were to experience severe mental stress over something occurring on the world stage, I would look first at the cards in Areas #1 and #5, and then examine the intervening areas for evidence of other factors that could be “adding fuel to the fire.” Although we may not be able to do anything about external affairs, this analysis could help us clarify our understanding and orientation.
A little more detail about the “highest in red, lowest in black” provision of the spread is in order. There is an old rule in trick-taking card games that in the red suits, Hearts and Diamonds, a high “pip” card will beat a lower one, while in the black suits, Clubs and Spades, a low-numbered pip will defeat a higher one. In the realm of tarot (although there is some disagreement) the consensus has been that Wands (aka Batons) relate to Clubs due the physical similarity of the emblematic implements, and are therefore treated as “black” in this analogy; Swords are associated with Spades, the French word for which — épée — means a form of sword, and are also “black; Cups have always been Hearts and consequently “red;” and Pentacles (aka Coins or Disks), as the last remaining suit, must be equated with Diamonds and are also “red.”
Thus, for example, the 2 of Wands will beat the 3 of Wands, while the 3 of Cups will beat the 2 of Cups. If the suits are mismatched — say, Wands and Cups, Wands and Swords or Wands and Pentacles — the normal low-to-high number progression will prevail. If there is a rank-or-number tie, the premise that there is no “winner” for that conflict area doesn’t work with this spread; the solution is to either make a judgment call regarding which one best fits the nature of the question or give both cards a say in the outcome. (Personally, I lean toward the second option since it would add some complexity to the one-card answers.) Although it isn’t a formal part of the spread, an additional card or two can be added to the “story” in any area where the winning card is ambiguous; it would be best to draw these from a third “impartial” deck.