This example reading involves a couple I used to know whose relationship can best be described as more than a little dysfunctional. The question was “What is going to become of them?” I performed the spread in two ways, first considering reversals, and then turning all of the reversed cards upright and applying Elemental Dignities. I used the Waite-Smith Centennial Pocket Edition.
The die-roll gave me a “1” so I turned up the first card in the top rank, which was Judgement reversed.
The reversal led me to the second card in the middle rank, the Queen of Wands upright.
Therefore, the next card was immediately to her right in the same rank; it was the Knight of Swords reversed in the third column.
The reversal of the Knight dropped the run down to the fourth card in the bottom rank, the World reversed.
Since there was nowhere lower to go with the reversal, I moved on to the fifth card in the bottom rank, the 3 of Wands upright, which ended the series.
Reading these cards, Judgement reversed tells me that they are unable to act decisively to rise above their present state and will remain bound to one another for the immediate future.
The Queen of Wands suggests that her pride is on the line and she wants, above all else, to maintain her composure. This egocentric attitude may be the “flash point” between them that incites his displeasure.
The Knight of Wands reversed shows that he does what he wants and is indifferent to her feelings of vulnerability.
The World reversed makes me think he will upset her once too often, “overturning the apple-cart.”
In the 3 of Wands one of them is turning away and will seek satisfaction elsewhere, perhaps at a distance.
The notable thing about this chain of cards is the descending flow, with prospects for “righting the ship” becoming increasingly remote. In that sense, the man on the 3 of Wands (which could represent either one of them) appears not to be waiting expectantly for his ships to return with riches, but instead hopes to board one and sail away.
Turning Judgement upright required me to make a “judgment call” as to its influence in fortunate or unfortunate terms. I often think of Judgement as “forcing our hand” or “making an offer we can’t refuse,” so I would read it as destabilizing or inimical to the status quo in this situation; consequently I descended to the second card in the middle rank, the Queen of Wands.
The Queen of Wands once again shows that it is a matter of pride for her. Because the Queen is a Fire card and thus well-dignified with Judgement, the series advances to the next card on her right, the Knight of Wands (now upright) in the third column.
The Knight is an Air card and friendly with the Queen of Wands. With two well-dignified cards in a row, the next card appears in the rank above, suggesting improvement in the situation; it is the Queen of Swords in the third column.
Because the Queen of Swords is an Air card and on good terms with the Knight of Swords, the next card is immediately to the right in the same rank; it’s the 7 of Pentacles in the fifth column, ending the series.
I read these cards as follows:
Judgement indicates that they will both “hear the call” for some kind of dramatic change.
The Queen of Wands facing the Knight of Swords implies that they will have a no-holds-barred tête-à-tête that finally clears the air.
The Queen of Swords passes judgment on this episode of detente and finds it good as far as it goes, bruises and all.
The 7 of Pentacles implies that they will settle for less than full accord going forward as a couple, but at least things will be less volatile.
It is noteworthy that most of the cards here are on the “optimistic” path, with only the decisive face-off straying into unsettled territory, which might be expected. Their mutual understanding returns them to solid ground, while the 7 of Pentacles (unfriendly to the Queen of Swords) at the end offers a somewhat drab conclusion, as if they’re going to stick with each other out of sheer inertia and force of habit. Still, some believe “half a loaf is better than none.” Another platitude that might fit the occasion is “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”