Here is a complex. multi-input spread that is intended to be used at the “brainstorming” stage of any important initiative, either personal or professional. It takes its inspiration from the “fishbone” (or “Ishikawa”) diagram used in root-cause analysis but instead focuses on developmental insights rather than forensic ones; my working title for the spread was “The Dancing Flounder,” but then I came to my senses. Its main stem includes four typical anticipatory action phases: proposed action, anticipated reaction, suggested resolution and projected consequences. Two high-level forecast positions (an optimistic “best outlook” and a pessimistic “worst outlook”) are provided as an early indication of the advisability of the proposal. There are also six variables that serve as inputs to the decision, three to show available assets in support of the action and three to describe current obligations that might impede it; these are left undifferentiated in the design and should be given “resource and liability” meanings that fit the context of the specific question. Some examples would be “readiness” factors such as funding and staffing (or lack thereof), access to credit, infrastructure, location, reputation, performance history, existing debt, market conditions, maturity, timing, competition and anything else of significance that pertains to the upcoming opportunity. The cards that fall in these positions will shade their relative importance and impact one way or the other. The three most compelling examples of each should be chosen for the reading, and can be placed in any of the applicable positive or negative input positions. If there are more than six worthy candidates for this analysis, another reading can be performed for inclusion of secondary considerations.
Card #1, the proposed action, can be either pre-selected according to the topic of interest or pulled randomly at the start of the deal. The four negative input cards can be drawn from the bottom of the deck as “base” cards, suggesting that their influence is more difficult to come to grips with. Reversals may also be used to show aspects of the situation that are less straightforward in nature, requiring more disciplined handling.
The concept of “quintessence” cards is used to allow for a “split decision” by the individual decision-maker or team; they can be compared to the “Consequences” card to see if they are in agreement with the projection or at odds. The four even-numbered cards on the “positive” left side of the spread are summed and reduced numerologically to a number between 1 and 21, yielding a trump card that provides a “Do it, consequences be damned!” recommendation, while the four odd-numbered cards on the “negative” right side similarly produce a trump that furnishes “Don’t do it!” cautionary advice. The idea of “assertiveness” is applied to suggest which option should be given the nod; for example the Chariot as the even quint and the Hanged Man as the odd quint would be strong testimony in favor of going ahead, while switching them favors holding off. The elemental and planetary correspondences provide another layer of subtlety in making this assessment; the Tower (Mars) pushes hard for its agenda, while the Empress (Venus) is more inclined to take a “wait and see” attitude. Fire and Air cards are emphatic while Water and Earth cards are more reserved. Careful weighing of opposites is often required in making this call.
A word about the quintessence: in standard numerological practice, summing and reducing can never produce a zero result, which leaves the Fool out of the equation unless one renumbers it as 22 as some authorities recommend. Personally, I resist this work-around, instead opting to treat reversed cards as negative numbers to be subtracted in the calculation. I see this as a more elegant and organic solution that not only allows the Fool to appear in its normal place but also permits a reversed quint card, giving a more nuanced perspective. (A mildly assertive but reversed quint card could be overtaken by a slightly less enthusiastic but upright alternative.) This may complicate the decision but can offer a more realistic picture of the relative merits of each option in a “too close to call” scenario. The other atypical thing I do when deriving the quintessence is to assign the unnumbered court cards the numbers 11 through 14 (Page through King) since I believe all of the cards in the target population should be included in the roll-up; I can see no good reason to exclude any of them.