When I hear a skilled diviner described as having “the gift,” I usually think of it in its more complete form as “the gift of second sight,” or precognition, regarding future events and circumstances. This technical definition – which comes from a Gaelic phrase translated as “two sights” – is commonly lumped in with similar psychic epithets under the vague title “intuition,” which seems to be the interpretive mode du jour for many modern readers. The method of divination – in my case it’s usually cards – delivers the evidence but it still takes an inspired knack for sorting out the pertinent details from the range of possible meanings to arrive at a convincing conclusion. Can this skill be acquired by “brute force” (that is, through book-learning and dedicated practice)? Most certainly, but my suspicion is that, without an accompanying spark of imaginative or visionary conjecture, the results are likely to be rather mechanical – what I describe as the “Lego-block” technique of stacking up standard keywords to create a narrative. Frankenstein’s monster moved like a human being (after a fashion) but that didn’t make it remotely human. Similarly, a well-honed vocabulary does not a storyteller make; that nicely-turned phrase is more than simple word-smithing, it takes a healthy dose of ingenuity to bring it to life.
For me, “the gift” comes on as an overwhelming wave of insight regarding the probable import of a particular series of cards in combination. Granted, some of this impression comes from years of experience with similar arrangements of the same cards, but that really amounts to secondary testimony: the initial, totally automatic response to the visual display is typically the most reliable, and more academic considerations merely flesh out the picture. I’m more inclined to jump directly to a vivid metaphor or analogy to embellish my analysis of the cards than to drag out a string of routine keywords. These extemporaneous, entirely unrehearsed conversational tropes often contribute more to my sitter’s understanding of the emerging situation than any amount of elaborate explanation. The abstract symbolism that can be impervious to expression in more mundane language often shines brightly when creatively recast in cultural, social, literary or historical terms that speak directly to the querent’s life-experience.