I separated the Major Arcana cards of the RWS deck into three subgroups: those cards that have either a pronounced or insinuated “lean” to the left (the past), those that are gazing or aligned straight out of the card, facing the observer (the present), and those that favor the right side (the future). The key elements in this determination are the gaze, posture or gesture of the human figure or the directional flow of the action in the scene.
As we might have supposed in advance, a majority of the trump cards (13 out of 22) are neutral in orientation. After all, universal archetypes just are; while they may strongly influence a situation, they don’t do anything – it’s a human prerogative to “do” something in cooperation with them (or allow something to happen due to neglect). Of that group, only the figure in the World seems ambiguous: her body is facing to the right but her head is turned to the left. This implies the continuity of manifestation, acknowledging the past while stepping off into the future. It could be argued that the Hanged Man and the Tower are facing “down,” but they are still aligned with the center, suggesting circumstances in the “here-and-now.”
Of the left-facing group, the Moon as the key figure in that card imparts a “past” focus, which aligns well with the Moon’s correlation to “memory,” also reinforced by the crustacean emerging from the pool. The other four cards are clearly facing to the left. The Fool would seem to be miscast, since it usually implies “beginnings,” but much has been said in the esoteric literature about the figure carrying his memories of the last cycle in his satchel. He would seem to be looking back toward the World of his previous incarnation, another indication of continuity. With these cards, I would look for something of major importance from the past, corresponding to the nature of the particular card, that will be brought forward and resolved, whether or not the querent wants to deal with it.
Of the neutral group, the Wheel of Fortune has no human figures by which to determine facing, and the figures that are present are moving in a circular fashion, first forward and then backward; thus, directionality is conflicted. The assumption is that things could go either way; it implies a “one step forward, two steps back” scenario,” with hopes for the future riding a razor’s edge. In the Tower, the structure itself is the central feature and it gives no hint of a trajectory; the figures are falling straight down in “real time,” with only the lightning bolt coming from the right to show that arrogance could not be suffered to be continue. All of these cards suggest something unavoidable that is staring the querent in the face right now, daring him or her to blink.
Of the right-facing group, the Empress and Judgement give only the faintest impression of future developments. The Empress is comfortable where she is, and may only be idly contemplating the implied childbirth that has been proposed as her destiny. While Judgement has been seen as a harbinger of transcendence, the image isn’t giving anything away regarding the fate of the candidates for resurrection. Death and the Sun clearly indicate two sides of the same coin, with the Sun moving into the light and Death courting the shadow. The status quo is ripe for change either way. These cards – the smallest of the subgroups – stand at the threshold of significant change and are prodding it along rather than just letting it take its own course.