Wait For The Ricochet

There is a 1970s hard-rock song by Deep Purple called Child in Time, replete with Ian Gillan’s visceral moans and screams (remember “Primal Scream Therapy?”), with a verse that has me thinking about “outcome” cards.

“Sweet child in time
You’ll see the line
The line that’s drawn between
Good and bad
See the blind man
Shooting at the world
Bullets flying
Taking toll
If you’ve been bad
Oh Lord I bet you have
And you’ve not been hit
By flying lead
You’d better close your eyes
Ooohhhh bow your head
Wait for the ricochet”

The thought behind it is that, just when you think you’ve dodged a bullet, you’d better not poke your head out of the foxhole yet because there could be unexpected repercussions. In the world of tarot, relying unequivocally on the outcome card in a reading can leave us vulnerable to this very predicament.

A couple of weeks ago I ran into such a ricochet, not just from one but from both barrels. As captured in this previous post (https://parsifalswheeldivination.com/2018/03/30/a-tarot-and-trauma-vignette/), I fell off a work-stool and broke a rib against a bookshelf. The reading I did to look at long-term consequences came up with two of the most sanguine cards in the deck: the 9 of Cups (the “fat, dumb and happy” card) and the 10 of Cups (the “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” card) at the very end. Dodged that bullet in good style, right? Well, a week after that accident I had severe abdominal pain from soft-tissue damage that sent me to the doctor for X-rays, and on top of that I got a head cold that had me coughing and sneezing, not something you want to do with a broken rib. If I could scream like Ian Gillan, I would.

Although the situation here is slightly different, the modern way of handling outcome cards that don’t make sense is to pull more cards (“clarifers”) that hopefully bring things into sharper focus. I have a constitutional aversion to clarifier cards (if they were intended to be in the reading they would have shown up in the draw), but I think there are good options for building additional guidance into a reading in advance of actually struggling with the outcome card. One is to automatically tack an extra card or two onto the spread design as a kind of long-range outlook going beyond the “end of the matter.” I’ve seen this proposed in other books and it sounds reasonable, but I wouldn’t use it for every spread that has an outcome card. A second approach is to perform a second reading using the previous outcome card as the new Significator, as A.E. Waite suggested in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (also see my “Rest of the Story” spread posted previously). But an even  better way that can be used with any spread and that doesn’t introduce extra cards as an afterthought is to derive the “quintessence” (a numerical roll-up) from all of the cards in the layout. (and I do mean all, including the court cards; to do otherwise is like baking a cake without putting in the eggs and oil). This produces a trump card that summarizes the “big picture” in the situation.

In my particular reading, I included court cards in the quintessence (the King of Cups as “14”) and subtracted the value of reversed cards (mainly because it’s the only way in numerological terms  to get the Fool to show up as “0” instead having to rethink it as “22,” something I prefer to avoid). I came up with the Empress reversed, which looks like “discomfort” writ large. If I had done the “quint” when I originally analyzed the reading, I would have come away with a slightly different conclusion: recovery is assured, but not without a measure of pain. Putting it more bluntly, one of my forum mates once said “The Empress reversed can be a royal bitch.” Amen to that.

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