The Art of the Draw

There is a old phrase used in card-playing circles that has made its way into general usage as an expression of the fickleness of life: “the luck of the draw.” It’s a philosophical bookend to the related sentiment “Play the hand you’re dealt.” There is a fated quality to both that doesn’t sit well with modern prognosticators, who believe that there are no absolutes and everything is subject to constructive intervention, even if it’s only to “make the best of a bad situation.” The psychological fluidity of human consciousness begs for a more flexible handling of  the nuances of divination, one that eschews the hard-and-fast rules of traditional fortune-telling.

And yet – unless we simply treat them as props for our psychic forays into the hidden nooks and crannies of someone’s private Universe – we must still reconcile ourselves to the nature of our tools. For example, in all forms of cartomancy and other techniques  of random sorting, the “art of the draw” is the main thing; the cards or lots must be delivered to the reading in a way that responds to the querent’s innate understanding of his or her personal circumstances. Failing that, the attempt becomes more of a force-fit by the reader than a sensitive, shared exploration of the querent’s subconscious knowledge of the situation.

As cartomancers, we all have personal preferences for how to accomplish this crucial first step. Shuffling, cutting and dealing the deck in a variety of ways is certainly the most common, but the old standby of simply pulling the cards in series from the top of the shuffled pack has been re-imagined by many modern diviners. Some readers have the sitter reassemble the segments of the cut deck in any order they chose, which I think is an excellent idea; others apply their own hands-on twists to personalize the process. The one I find least convincing is “fanning” the deck like a stage magician and having the sitter pull cards from random spots in the fan. This appears to be a misguided attempt to completely randomize the selection, when the goal of shuffling and cutting the deck is actually to arrange the cards in the proper sequence to tell the querent’s story. Fanning pretty much eliminates the need to even shuffle the cards, and in my opinion defeats the purpose of artfully configuring the deck for the reading; not that it won’t work, but it just seems rather soulless and mechanical.

Personally, I like the tactile immediacy of overhand shuffling (I’m less enamored of riffling-and-bridging, and don’t get me started on tarot apps), and I expect my sitters to participate to some extent, even if it’s only to cut the deck after I shuffle. I want them in the middle of things, not just sitting passively on the sidelines, watching and listening. The more involved my clients are in guiding the flow of the reading, the more ownership they will take of the outcome. I tell them it’s their reading, not mine. I’m just the translator.

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