The Quintessence, Sub-quintessence and Grand Quintessence

The idea of summing and then numerologically reducing the values of the cards in a spread to arrive at a single Major Arcanum card as a high-level summary of the individual details serves as a kind of “capstone” on the narrative. This practice seems to have entered the modern tarot world via the books of German tarot writer Hajo Banzhaf, but I recently learned that it has an historical antecedent in French cartomancy via the technique known as tirage en croix. (Good luck finding an English-language explanation of that term. You might try the Lenormand blog of writer and cartomancer Andy Boroveshengra.)

I have elaborated on the original concept by proposing the use of sub-quintessence cards  that examine sub-sets of the overall layout, and a “Grand Quintessence” that integrates the values of the sub-quints with that of the normal run of cards. I’ve also adopted the practice of including the court cards in the calculation, something which Banzhaf advised against, since I believe all the cards on the table deserve to be included. The rationale for not doing so is that the court cards have no numbers on their faces, but they all have “concealed” values via their place in the series. Another alternative technique I’ve accepted is subtracting the values  of reversed cards in a spread (reversal is a subject for another post), thus enabling reduction of the total to  zero or below (something the usual method can’t produce), allowing the Fool to remain as “0” and introducing the idea of a reversed quintessence card. Here is a detailed explanation.

Updated Quintessence Text

I have also posted a visual run-through of all the possible options for calculating the quintessence:



7 thoughts on “The Quintessence, Sub-quintessence and Grand Quintessence

  1. ‘Tirage’ means ‘spread’ in the contect of Tarot, and ‘Tirage en croix’ simply means ‘cross spread’. This refers to the classic 4 card (or 5, if you include an additional fifth card as synthesis) spread commonly found in French Tarot books, in which the 4 cards form the branches of a cross. The functions of the positions are sometimes explained slightly differently according to various authors though. The fifth card, if it is used, is obtained by theosophical reduction of the sum of the other cards, but sometimes the fourth, as result of the preceding three, is also calculated in this manner, rather than by random shuffling and picking.

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    • Thanks for the additional detail. I learned that there was a precedent to Hajo Banzhaf’s “quintessence” in French Lenormand practice through a discussion on the Cartomancy Forum but this kind of clarity was hard to come by and its use in tarot wasn’t mentioned. All the descriptions I could find on-line were in French. I had forgotten the term “theosophical reduction,” but believe the principle is the same as the various other methods of reduction I’m aware of.


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