Back when I was employed and had to rise before dawn to get ready for work without waking my wife, I used to judge the promise of the coming day by whether or not I slid my slippers on the right feet on the first try in total darkness. If I got it wrong, I prepared myself for challenges, and if I had to grope around for them by hand, I was really in for a rough day. This fanciful “yes-or-no” divination was often eerily accurate. Flipping a coin is still a time-honored way to get random advice, even if the results do average out to 50-50 in the long run. (But, of course, the real reason I don’t gamble is that, if I have a 50% chance of winning, I still lose 80% of the time.)
The quest for an uncomplicated yes-or-no approach to reading the tarot is a long-running saga among novice and seasoned readers alike. The main problem is that tarot is more useful for narrative story-telling than for pursuing succinct answers. Some readers use single-card pulls for this purpose, but another common objection is that – in these psychologically fraught times – there are no entirely “good” or “bad” cards in the deck, everything is context-dependent so no one card can provide a reliable verdict. Every larger spread is a blend of influences, so the reader must seek a preponderance of evidence in one direction or the other in order to decide. It’s an inverse proportion: the more complex the analysis, the less clear-cut the advice for the querent. Sooner or later, the whole purpose of the reading can become mired in psychobabble. Unless the querent has come for a general life-reading, the reader has failed to hit the target.
In my own case, although I’ve created a few relatively straightforward “yes-or-no” spreads that I posted here previously, I find that a three-card draw with the middle card as the “principal” or focus card and the two flanking cards as modifiers is as good a method as any. I still apply a “yes-leaning” or “no-leaning” emphasis to every card based on traditional value judgements, and couple that with Elemental Dignities to determine whether the focus card is strengthened or weakened in its potency for “good or ill.” For example, the Sun as the focus card with the 4 of Wands on one side and the 6 of Wands on the other (three decidedly positive cards in a row) would be a resounding “Yes!” while the Moon bracketed by the 5 of Cups and the 8 of Cups (one definite “maybe” and two gloomy nay-sayers) would come across as a rather emphatic “No.” Of course, all kinds of combinations are possible that can shade the outcome either way, and many that produce no influence on the focus card according to ED rules, leaving it at its base value.
The best option of all would be to help our querents rephrase the question so it eludes any “yes-or-no” pitfalls. But if their all-consuming passion is to know whether or not the object of their affection is similarly disposed toward them, it won’t do them much good to receive chapter-and-verse about how their quarry is distracted by other matters that preempt all thought of romance, and how they might be able to work things around to their own advantage. It’s possible that nothing a querent can do will make any difference in the situation, so a straight, no-frills “No” may be the most merciful response.