Cheap Shots #20: Sliding Scale or Slippery Slope?

This topic has reared it’s hoary old head once again on the tarot forums: why are the Lenormand cards considered to be totally literal (as opposed to more psychological) in their focus on events, and when did that start?  Since it was aimed at Lenormand reading, my reply was slanted that way, but it really applies to all cartomantic practice.

“I tend to treat all divination with a degree of elasticity. There is LITERAL spelt large, and then there is literal of a slightly fuzzier quality. This is why I prefer face-to-face reading: I can dial in the right degree of emphasis with the sitter. I would still expect to see something “of the nature of Snake” or whatever, but the manifestation might have a twist or two. I think this is where a bit of “free-style” interpretation comes into its own. Regarding when the idea emerged, it makes me wonder whether the Paris salons in the early 1800s were at all mystical, and whether Mlle. Lenormand wore robes and a turban, and had a crystal ball for ambiance.”

Quite naturally, unless our sitter is mortally afraid of hearing anything even remotely bad about the future, a reading that is precise and ultimately accurate as to details is the hoped-for result of a consultation. Although the delivery of stressful news can be tempered with a spoonful of empathy, saying “You probably shouldn’t get out of bed next Monday” is less useful than saying “Watch your step on the way to work next Monday, there is the potential for an accident.” Even if it never materializes, the querent has been made more alert to the escalated risk without being rendered unduly nervous. It’s all a matter of getting the right tone, and in a face-to-face session you can tailor that as needed.

The emergence of the psychological approach to cartomancy in the 1970s has pretty much confounded the literal directness of much divination. Now it’s “Is ‘X’ thinking about me?” rather than “How will ‘X’ act toward me the next time I see him or her?” Not only is trying to read the mind of a third party very shaky ground since someone’s attitude is a moving target, it turns the reading into little more than an exercise in wishful thinking.

On the other hand, being too much of a hard-line literalist can set the querent up for unnecessary anxiety. Saying “‘X’ is going to be a real bastard (or bitch) at your next meeting” might be literally true, but it isn’t constructive advice. Offering a heads-up that the situation looks a little volatile and to be prepared for some fireworks lands in “forewarned is forearmed” territory in a way that can empower the querent to be ready for any eventuality. Card-reading is much more effective at identifying the likely presence of friction in future developments than in predicting “X is going to punch you in the nose!” I like to call its forte “situational awareness and developmental insight.”

The same is true of being too rosy about a forecast. If that next meeting looks like all “hearts-and-flowers” but “X” got up on the wrong side of the bed and is as grumpy as an insomniac before morning coffee, the querent will be very disappointed to walk into that situation unprepared. As the title of this article implies, bringing a prudent flexibility to bear when judging the testimony in the cards is the wisest approach if we want to avoid losing traction on the “slippery slope” into divinatory limbo. As the old platitude has it, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

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