I admit to enjoying the challenge and satisfaction of reading cards in a completely open-ended fashion (not exactly in a vacuum; let’s call it a “rarefied atmosphere”). Like Google, the cards “know everything.” Approached properly (that is, with sensitivity and diligence), they will invariably speak the truth in one form or another, although not always plainly or entirely to-the-point. While most readers prefer being handed a specific question to answer since they believe it saves time and effort, it can substantially narrow the scope of useful insights received. I favor operating without such boundaries, which I think encourage staying too much “in the groove” of the querent’s conscious perceptions when the true value of a reading may lie in subconscious awareness of peripheral factors at work in the matter that can be as profound as they are subtle. The multiple layers of interpretation encoded in each card through long-standing tradition will often touch on aspects of a situation that the querent had no particular interest in until the reading brought them to the surface. Even if the sitter had a specific focus in mind at the start of the reading, these apparent divergences will frequently circle around and attack it from another, often more deeply psychological, angle. I find this especially useful when no overt connection between the cards in the spread and the querent’s practical circumstances presents itself at first glance. A jumble of mismatched meanings can begin to make sense when examined through a different lens.
It has been suggested to me that this way of reading lends itself most effectively to the practice of general “life-reading,” where the querent has no strong opinion about the nature of the inquiry and just wants to know what the immediate future will bring. To be honest, I usually start from this position anyway since I’ve noticed that the cards always find their initial voice without being shoehorned into a rigid framework (think of it as setting a preliminary “theme”). I then “dial in” the details of the reading through interaction with my sitter, creating a joint narrative that gradually unearths the root of the matter. More recent practice has shown the Lenormand Grand Tableau layout to be the quintessential example of an approach that can cover the entire range of life experience in discrete segments, each addressing a specific mundane “department” of life (health, work, romance, money, home, family, etc.), which can then be assembled into a coherent story through various techniques of interpolation. These measures create internal flows and linkages in what is otherwise an all-inclusive, essentially borderless map. I’ve found this style of reading to be so compelling that I have created spreads for use with the tarot cards that adopt portions of the same model.
Here is some additional reading on the subject: