“Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows.”
I’m pinching those words from the old Ted Mack Amateur Hour TV show to illustrate one method of reading a three-card spread in tarot divination. There are differing opinions on this: some always read in a line from left-to-right, with the Past on the left, the Present in the middle and the Future on the right; others (especially those who use Elemental Dignities) take the middle card as the main focus of the reading and modulate it with the influence of the two adjacent cards; and a third group targets the trump, court or pip card that is the most potent by rank, number or elemental reinforcement, or that has the most relevance to the context of the question no matter where it sits in the series. The last approach will be my topic here.
When reading three cards, I like to lay them out in a triangle instead of a line, like this:
Because there is no beginning and no end to this layout, there is no need to worry about which card goes where (although force of habit compels me to place them left-to-right). I then examine the cards to see which one (if any) stands out as the most significant. That card will become the “noun” in the narrative sentence derived from the series, and the other two cards will serve as “qualifiers,” often in the form of adjectives and adverbs. The noun provides focus and definition to the subject of the reading, clarifying the “what,” while the rest of the cards provide anecdotal “color,” fleshing out the “how.”
This technique downplays the “Yes, but when?” aspect that always accompanies a “past/present/future” draw, while giving the querent a signature condition or event to watch out for as the situation unfolds that will perhaps shed light on the “why.” It could show circumstances that the querent is already living with, or something that is still over the horizon. Thus, it offers more of a “situational matrix” with “developmental potential” than a railroad track into the future. If no one card towers above the others as the crux of the matter, I will generally fall back on the middle card as the main theme of the reading.