“Cheap Shots” #24: A Herd By Any Other Name

Preponderance: A fancy word that simply means “lots more of one thing than another.”

A herd of mostly-brown horses.Herd_of_Horses.jpg

The consensus among my tarot forum-mates is split as to whether it’s best to look for dominant “signatures” in a reading first – for example, many more cards of one suit, number, rank or orientation than any other – and perform the card-by-card analysis only after considering the overall “lay of the land.” This division seems to spring from different readers’ normal approach to laying out the cards. When I began my study and practice of tarot, the usual mode of dealing was to place all of the cards face-up in the spread, so it was possible to do a quick scan of the entire series before diving into the details. The purpose wasn’t to offer the querent a preliminary assessment of the situation, but to guide the reader along the most direct and efficient route to the outcome. In this manner, more time and effort can be spent on aspects of the reading that provide the most revealing “big-picture” insights, thereby enabling the reader to focus the eventual specifics in the most economical and practical way. When reading for paying sitters “on the clock,” any technique that serves to boil the reading down to its essentials without leaving  the querent under-informed is useful in meeting tight time constraints. Used to its best advantage, this top-down approach to reading can also give querents more “bang for the buck” in the time allotted.

Readers who set out all of the cards face-down and turn them over one at a time for reading before doing a summary overview of the whole spread don’t see the value in gaining a leg up on the broad dimensions of the querent’s circumstances. Although I have yet to pin down the source, this convention appears to have been established by newer writers in the field of tarot who sought to impose their own ideas on the practice. The stated objective is to avoid confusing the novice reader with too much information all at once. My impression from numerous conversations on the topic is that most readers who decipher a spread in small bites aren’t professional face-to-face readers, but amateurs who have the luxury of all the time they need to puzzle out the story in the cards. Many read only for themselves or a small circle of family and friends. The rise of on-line reading also minimizes the need for readers to think on their feet. Another perspective comes from readers who like the mystery of unveiling the story one card at a time, which is fine as long as there is time to indulge this preference; I often leave the outcome card face down for this purpose, as part of what I call “the theater of tarot.”

When I read the cards, I find it not only efficient but also highly instructive to look for a preponderance of any one feature in the spread. Sometimes this can show that the question that is foremost in the querent’s mind isn’t the real reason for wanting to consult the cards. A querent who is struggling with work or business problems might be expected to receive numerous difficult Wands or Swords cards in the reading, but the dominance of discouraging Cups cards could suggest that emotional trauma of some kind lies at the heart of his or her distress, spilling over into other areas of life. A large number of ill-favored Pentacles, especially if reversed, could show that money-management weaknesses underlie the dilemma, literally “unearthing” the cause of the trouble for the observant reader with an eye for the big picture.

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