sticking point (noun): “a point, detail, or circumstance causing or likely to cause a stalemate or impasse.”
For those with enough cartomantic experience to instantly spot what is working in a reading and what isn’t, there is often one card (and frequently more than one) that stands out by defying meaningful connection to the matter at hand. This can range anywhere from “bad” cards in “good” positions within a spread to the subtleties of reversal or elemental sympathy/antipthy, but most often it stems from the apparent incompatibility of a card’s more esoteric or mystical connotations with the work-a-day context of the seeker’s question. Trump cards with their archetypal trappings can be notoriously uncooperative in this regard and court cards aren’t far behind, leaving us at a loss for constructive interpretation. There can be a cognitive gap between the exalted spiritual truth and the mundane reality that can be difficult to bridge. We often get hung up on ethical and philosophical dilemmas like “Can the Devil ever be a good card?” or “Does the Knight of Wands represent a person, a psychological characteristic or an impersonal force that is given anthropomorphic qualities?” (Human beings have a penchant for putting a familiar “face” on natural phenomena in order to personify them in recognizable mental/emotional terms – like naming tropical storms.)
Years of practice will usually produce a species of “truce” with these cards that permits a degree of comfort with their appearance in a reading; we have seen enough of them in combination to know what they are unlikely to mean in a situation, and then whittle down the remaining possibilities to reach the best option. It’s what Dr. Seuss called “calculatus eliminatus.” The challenge comes in trying to accomplish this with finesse in the middle of a face-to-face reading where there is little time to deliberate. While James Ricklef put his finger on the right approach with his observation “Let them simmer in your consciousness; they will eventually make sense, they always do,” this is cold comfort when an anxious sitter is staring at you expectantly from across the table. My personal solution is to engage my querents with suggestions about the possible relevance of puzzling cards and offer them an active role in deciding what they mean. This prevents going too far down the wrong road with what amounts to a “non-starter” from the querent’s vantage point. It’s a rare client who pushes back at me with the expectation that I should have all the answers. It’s as much a matter of personal style as anything; I prefer to be regarded as a “way-shower” and guide or coach than as an oracular wise-man, and usually describe my interaction with the sitter as a “mutual voyage of discovery.” The cards act to tease out the individual’s foreknowledge of the likely outcome through the power of suggestion once the gate has been swung open.