In tarot divination, there is a tendency to look at the Major Arcana (aka “trump”) cards that turn up in a reading and say “That’s all well and good as a philosophical abstraction, but what does it really mean for this particular person or situation at this point in time?” Their archetypal aim can be so far removed from the mundane target of explaining “life in the trenches” that it’s often challenging to link the two in any kind of meaningful and constructive way. They can seem like irreconcilable opposites; one is remote and exalted in the extreme while the other can be about as gritty as it gets. It suggests the old back-country colloquialism: “You can’t get there from here.”
We’ve told ourselves all kinds of inspiring things about them in our rush to fit them neatly into our “empowerment” model of the Universe. The Fool doesn’t invariably signify a “dumb move,” it can depict a grand “new beginning;” the Hanged Man doesn’t automatically show a sacrifice, we’re just “waiting things out;” Death isn’t only an inevitable ending, it offers a chance to reinvent ourselves; the Tower doesn’t merely symbolize total devastation, it presents an opportunity to build anew; Judgment isn’t always a non-negotiable “calling to account,” it’s an eye-opening revelation about a promised reboot. What we’re trying to do is take a relative enigma and fashion it into some kind of reassuring certainty. It isn’t always a “sow’s-ear-to-silk-purse” proposition, but the urge to downplay the less appealing aspects of their testimony in favor of a more sanguine outlook is always there.
I’ve made a couple of previous attempts to set the “lay of the land” in archetypal terms when creating tarot spreads. This one is not so much a single layout as an approach to capturing the significance of the trump cards in pragmatic human terms within the scope of a reading. Each three-card vignette begins with a higher purpose, devolves into a hands-on “coming-to-grips” with its inscrutability and ends with a “snapshot” profile of the type of “moral character” (to use Aleister Crowley’s term) best suited to bringing it to fruition. Much of this alignment is elemental and astrological in nature rather than functionally qualitative, although I’ve tried my best to make it both. I’m not going to present all possible three-card sets here; like Crowley, I’ll let the seeker “work out for oneself these correspondences” (which may not necessarily agree with mine). Recognize that these simple series don’t represent the only path from Point A to Point B when attempting to ground the archetypal influences in our private reality, just my own opinion about the most unencumbered and efficient use of the energy.
As far as tapping into these insights in a reading, I would use a second deck and lay the three pre-selected “best-case” cards in a row or column as an optimal foundation or “road-map” for the rest of the cards drawn, and then compare the draw to the ideal scenario to see how likely the situation is to work out according to its recipe for success. The lower-numbered trumps (0 through IX), as the “will cards” of the title, involve inductive reasoning, building up the projection from First Principles, while the higher-numbered trumps (XVII through XXI), the titular “wish cards,” require a more deductive approach that works backward from the desired outcome to identify the “building-blocks” needed to get there; in the latter case it might even be reasonable to swap the order of presentation for the sequence. One conveys “Who can I become and how can I get there?” while the other speaks to “Who am I and how does it support what I want?” The middle trump cards (X through XVI) demand a more judicious and nuanced choice of the mediating – or “way” – card.
The approach doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to three cards, but I would keep it to a single trump at one end and a single court card at the other, and expand the middle with additional minor “way” cards to reflect a developmental progression and not just a single-pointed means of coping. This would enable using the concept as the basis for larger spreads: the trump card would sit beneath the “current situation” or “heart of the matter” card and the court card would underlie the “final outcome” card to show the most credible “mode of becoming” for the querent; everything between the opening and closing cards would describe the “process.” A five-card layout seems perfect for this technique.