The End (By Any Other Name)

The “outcome” card has been a formal fixture in tarot spreads at least since the time of Arthur Edward Waite, and much earlier in cartomantic practice. The “Gypsy fortune-teller” was expected to deliver an answer, an informative guide to a specific destination and not just an uneventful trip report. Since the 1970s, divination has been crowded into the background by the New Age self-help  phenomenon and its psycho-analytical mandate. But in my experience, this is largely limited to personal use of the cards. Every sitter I’ve read for professionally has wanted to know “What,” “When,” “How” and sometimes “Who,” not just “Why.” The pragmatic angle  is uppermost in their minds; everything else is just filler that adds little value to a typically brief reading session. My self-created spreads almost always have some kind of “resolution” card, even if a timeline leading to an outcome scenario isn’t present. The simplest model is Hegel’s “Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis” argument, by which an action begets a reaction (either from another person or the Universe-at-large), and their creative interaction ideally produces a solution rather than remaining forever at odds. Coming to a credible conclusion is part of being an effective storyteller, and “cliff-hanger endings” are of little use in tarot reading.

Getting to “The Answer” in a reading can be a thorny proposition. There is a tendency to throw softballs at the querent in what should be a hardball game, often falling back on the “nothing is carved in stone” dodge. While this may be true, it isn’t necessarily helpful in all cases. While they might be satisfied with assumptions built on reasonable probabilities and likelihoods,  querents facing an important decision aren’t comforted by hearing “anything could happen.” Even a best-guess prediction couched in caveats is better than saying “It’s entirely up to you.” That’s not what they paid to hear, and not what we as diviners should be delivering. Even if we can’t entirely dispel the fog of confusion, we should do our best to part the mists and let some light in.

There is an emerging trend to perform “no layout” readings in which the cards are thrown and read without regard to position meaning; this is supposed to be a liberating experience for the reader who struggles with linear structure, but to me it seems more like cutting the middle out of a story and offering it as a completed plot. As long as we inhabit a temporal reality, every situation has a past and a future, not just the “eternal Now” these loose arrays insinuate. I’m a firm believer in positional spreads as a template for crafting compelling narratives; when thoughtfully constructed, position meanings serve as plot devices by which to move the story along, and the outcome card is the clincher that should provide not only closure but also the “last word” in advice for the querent.

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