Every once in a while (and without a doubt more often than we would like), a reading begs the question “I know what was asked, but what does the seeker really want?” And the cards proceed to impose their own agenda on the story to the bemusement and bafflement of both reader and querent. Grappling with this situation can test the mettle of even the most experienced diviner, and squirming tongue-tied under an expectant sitter’s anxious gaze is a place none of us wants to be. There are two ways to look at it:
There is a widely-held opinion that, in order to receive the most accurate answer, the question must be very sharply focused and specific. More importantly, the reader must have advance awareness of the querent’s objective in seeking the reading. This is fine when the cards are cooperative, but when only a few cards are pulled there is a strong possibility that the other 75-odd cards will stubbornly sit on the verdict, resulting in the aforementioned interpretive scramble. Forcing the reading into a narrow box when there is such a large number of narrative threads available to pull creates a wide margin for error, leading many readers to fall back on “clarifier” cards or simply resort to much larger spreads that offer greater “wiggle room.” I won’t call it “fudging” (or at its worst, “bullshitting”), but it can certainly feel like that, and I’ve never understood why anyone would want to put themselves in such an uncomfortable bind.
On the other hand, when the cards are given “breathing room” to speak their piece without preconception or the bias of personal experience on the reader’s part, the message can coalesce in a more organic way through whatever intuitive channel we believe delivers our insights. In this scenario, sitters keep the question or topic to themselves and commune with the cards through what Caitlin Matthews calls “shuffling in” of their (or the Universe’s) foreknowledge of the likely outcome. While there is often a certain amount of unavoidable “dialing in” of the answer to the querent’s individual reality through the face-to-face dialogue, it beats having to back away from testimony that is patently inapplicable and find another path through the fog. This option was floated by Eden Gray as far back as 1960 in her book The Tarot Revealed, and was also implicit in the Golden Dawn’s late-19th-Century directive to “Tell the querent why he has come.”
Although I follow the second approach, I thought it would be interesting to create a small, to-the-point spread that acknowledges, in both its structure and execution, the potential for the cards to say something other than what the sitter expects. The idea is to cut right to the chase and not have to waffle needlessly over fuzzy distinctions of meaning. To recognize the chance that hidden factors might impinge upon the querent’s circumstances, I added the option to pull “shadow” cards from the bottom of the deck for each of the spread’s three key positions. This spread uses a pre-selected question or topic card, two “answer” cards and a quintessence card as the final, or long-term, outcome. Reversals may be used.