AUTHOR’S NOTE: It’s a rare diviner who doesn’t occasionally encounter an almost entirely neutral tarot reading, one that is about as exciting as dishwater, and who doesn’t have a good feel for how to shine a constructive light on the forecast. A common practice is to simply keep pulling cards until something more inspiring or at least less insipid shows up. As a proponent of useful structure in tarot prediction, I’ve always found this to be too sloppy (when it isn’t also too incoherent or too unwieldy) for my own purposes; instead I prefer a more incisive way of handling such clarification that doesn’t merely create more confusion. Here’s one way I might approach it (but only if I fail to eventually puzzle out the meaning through deductive and intuitive analysis).
This example Celtic Cross layout was intentionally designed to include as aimless a set of cards as imaginable. The hypothetical question was about career potential for a man who felt entirely adrift in his long-term employment situation and wanted to know if and when things might “break” for him. The initial pull didn’t give him any comfort in that regard. The basic 10-card spread is my personalized version of Eden Gray’s model from her 1960 book The Tarot Revealed; I chose not to use reversals for this demonstration.
The idea I’ve come with is to focus on the “staff” section of the spread that reveals the querent’s reaction to the developing scenario presented in the situational tableau of “cross” cards. I propose to reshuffle the deck and add one more card to each of the four positions to suggest a way “out of the box” in a proactive manner, hopefully offering some traction for recovery. For any position that is particularly resistant to clarification I may shuffle the remaining cards and draw one more to create a three-card trajectory providing a more robust outlook for positive change in that aspect of the matter, but certainly no more than that since I can foresee a case of “diminishing returns.” At a minimum, what comes out of this would be a “side-trip” into a slightly rewritten script for the saga, and at best it would describe an alternate path that amounts to a whole new chapter to explore. I (think) I’ve convinced myself that this doesn’t constitute narrative “cheating.”
First I will give an abbreviated synopsis of the back-story.
Situation As It Stands: Hanged Man covering; 4 of Swords crossing. Although he is not entirely uncomfortable, the man feels becalmed and anticipates no opportunity for improvement in the foreseeable future. He has become complacent and fatalistic in his expectations; it reminds me of the “urban myth” about boiling a frog.
Established (Distant) Past: 8 of Pentacles. The individual began his career several years ago as a diligent and highly productive contributor to the manufacturing team. Although he didn’t move up in responsibility, he was content in this role for some time.
Recent Past: 2 of Pentacles. He has recently come to feel that he is just going through the motions and has been given too many balls to juggle. He is constantly being kept off balance by shifting priorities in the workplace, and feels that he has just been “marking time” and “shoveling against the tide.”.
Present: 2 of Swords. At the moment he doesn’t know what to think about his future. There appears to be no clear-cut avenue for advancement, and his motivation has reached a low point.
Near Future: 7 of Cups. The prospects for any kind of growth are completely baffling to him.
Self-Defeating Attitudes and Behaviors (aka “Fears”): 8 of Cups. He has become resigned and embittered, and has been “stewing” over it for a while.
Querent’s Environment: 6 of Swords. He has been “keeping his head down” for too long and doesn’t have a clue whether he is coming or going in the organization.
Aspirations for the Future (aka “Hopes”): 7 of Pentacles. The best he can hope for is to continue plodding along and keep his head above water. There is scant encouragement for doing anything more.
End of the Matter: The Moon. This outcome card “doubles down” on the 7 of Cups, giving a more profound sense of disillusionment. There seems to be no obvious path to satisfaction in the matter.
Then I rolled up my sleeves and pulled the four “clarifying” cards for this decidedly unsympathetic perspective
For the seventh position I drew the 3 of Pentacles. I call this the “plan the work and work the plan” card, which tells me that the man must buckle down and do something concrete to get himself out of the emotional doldrums. Just trying harder on his current road won’t accomplish anything.
The additional pull for the eighth position yielded the 3 of Wands to amplify the “coming or going” dilemma. The ships in the image are departing the harbor, indicating that he will remain “at sea” for a bit longer and should stay calm and optimistic that they will return with the “goods.”
The 2 of Cups tied to the 7 of Pentacles in the ninth position implies some kind of gratifying outreach that makes me think he could be “made whole” at least partially in the situation. It could mean a small but heartening uptick in his fortunes. It could also portend that he will receive an offer from another department in the company.
In the tenth position, the 9 of Wands conveys the impression that unrelenting vigilance will be necessary to reach a satisfactory result in the matter. This does not look like it will take any of the heat off the man in trying to see his way past the murky forecast symbolized by the Moon.
I decided to pull another card for both the seventh and tenth positions to create a little more substance and direction in their augury.
The Ace of Pentacles in the seventh position looks like any plan he decides to put into motion will pay off by giving him a “new lease” on his career ambitions. (I call it the “golden opportunity” card.) He may have to start at the bottom of a divergent job chain as indicated by the germinal 2 of Cups but it will be much more rewarding than where he is at the moment.
The Queen of Cups in the tenth position is a card of enduring patience and kindness. It’s possible that someone higher up who is sympathetic to his languishing career will step in on the heels of the 2 of Cups and champion his cause, thereby giving him a boost in confidence that he only has to hold on a little longer. The plan suggested by the 3 of Pentacles should include initiating contact with this person, who may very well be a middle manager in another group.
In summary, I believe this model holds a lot of potential for “beefing up” lackluster readings that start out as especially vague and dull.