Daily-Draw Tones and Overtones: Variations On a Theme

I’ve found over many years of working with them that single-card daily draws are more useful for showing the background “tone” of the upcoming day than for trying to pinpoint specific activities or events. They are too limited in scope to effectively convey all of the ramifying “overtones” that can accompany the main theme, which may change from one hour to the next. Of course we can always flank the daily card with a few companions and attempt to turn the group into a “narrative sandwich,” but they don’t always meld as smoothly as a good grilled cheese, and this clash of “flavors” can also defeat the purpose of the simple pull. It can become an exercise in futility, especially when the cards portend “big things afoot” that are most likely not going to happen.

Taking a page from the “quintessence” book, rather than simply tacking on what for all intents and purposes are “clarifiers,” I prefer to consider deriving the “overtones” from the card already drawn. However, with only a single card to work with, this can be a decidedly hit-or-miss proposition. If we have pulled a trump card, all of them except the Fool have at least one of what Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm call “numerological counterparts.” Working from the bottom up, the Magician equates numerologically to the Wheel of Fortune and the Sun since both reduce to “1” (1+0 = 1; 1+9 = 10; 1+0 = 1); the High Priestess is connected to Justice (in the RWS deck) and Judgement (1+1 = 2; 2+0 = 2); and so forth. Starting from the top, the World relates to both the Hanged Man (21 – 9 = 12) and the Empress (2+1 = 3; 1+2 = 3; 12 – 9 = 3) and on down the line. These counterparts can be paired with the “tone” card for reading, but it can be a case of bludgeoning ourselves with “100-proof” overkill when describing a day that we anticipate spending in the hammock. (We won’t go into the probability of being hit by a falling tree or a plummeting airliner.)

If we draw a court card or “pip” card and assume that all cards have a numerical value, with the court cards we are limited to the counterparts of Justice (11), the Hanged Man (12), Death (13), Temperance (14), the High Priestess (1+1=2), the Empress (1+2 = 3), the Emperor (1+3 = 4) and the Hierophant (1+4 = 5), which once again suggests having to shoulder a heavy load when nothing of the sort is presently conceivable based on the routine flow of daily life. Barring some kind of unforeseen exposure to risk, medical emergency or freak accident, conditions usually just aren’t ripe for it. When a “pip” card (Ace through Ten) is pulled, the trump-card counterparts are restricted to The Magician (both directly and as a reduction of “10”) through the Wheel of Fortune. Overall we get rather spotty coverage with this method, and an over-emphasis on the interjection of major developments when all we’re after is a little “seasoning” in the circadian stew.

This led me to seek a more nuanced way to enhance the flavor profile of this rather monotonous “box of chocolates,” which in turn brought me once again to the idea of using dice as an adjunct to the cards. There are some interesting convergences between the two that make it a worthwhile match-up, even if they are mainly philosophical and not utilitarian. The spots on the faces of a single six-sided die add to 21, echoing the World card, and there is a definite “diurnal feel” to some of the other combinations – the spots on any two opposite faces of the cube add to 7, the number of days in the week; counting the spots “around the block” in either direction yields 14, the number of days in a British “fortnight” (American “bi-weekly”). When the spots on the die are multiplied by the numerical values of the cards and the results numerologically reduced, a much broader palette of possibilities emerges that should cover the full range of trump-card counterparts (including the Fool if either “casting out nines” or subtraction of reversed-card values is used in the calculation). Because this is a more involved process than the typical daily draw, it may be more reasonable to use it for weekly or bi-weekly readings.

I’ve decided to use only the 40 “pip” cards and the 16 court cards for the draw (in two independent operations); the pips are more closely aligned with the mundane aspects of day-to-day existence than are the rest of the cards, and the court cards are best suited to show what “stance” the querent should take in response to the testimony of the pips. If more significant adventures are on tap for the period, the trump-card counterparts would ideally shed light on them.

Here is the methodology in a nutshell:

Separate the deck into trump, court and pip-card segments. Set the trumps and courts aside.

Shuffle and cut the 40 pip cards in your usual manner, then lay a rectangle of four cards face-down on the table.


Take a single six-sided die and roll it onto the four cards as a way to select one of them (if it lands “on the line,” roll again). Here I’m using a loose “box” of small boards to contain the roll so it doesn’t bounce out-of-bounds. In this example I rolled up a “five-spot.”


Turn over the card that the die lands on. (Here it’s the 3 of Coins.) This is the “tone” for the day.


Multiply the number on the card by the number of face-up spots on the die and reduce as necessary to a number between 1 and 10; place the card of that number from the same suit diagonally to the “tone” card. (Here it’s the 6 of Coins, reduced from 3×5 = 15 to 1+5 = 6.) This card represents the amplification (or, if a lower number, simplification) of the “base tone.” (If the calculated number duplicates that of the first card, introduce the second card from a different deck; a doubling of the emphasis suggests a static day ahead, either reliably stable or stubbornly unchanging depending on the “tone” shown by the cards.


Using the same technique, determine the trump card that matches the calculation, with the exception that the reduction should be stopped as soon as a number below 22 is reached. This is the primary “overtone” for the “tone” card sequence (in this case the Devil). Place it next to the “tone” card.


Select the trump card that is the “archetypal equivalent” of the “tone” card; this is the secondary “overtone,” and it will typically fall somewhere between “1” and “10,” the Magician and the Wheel of Fortune. Alternatively, “reverse reduction” can be used to raise it to a higher-numbered “up-slope” counterpart as I did here. Place it directly below the “tone” card.

If there is a choice between two or three trump cards, use the one that agrees most closely with the element of the “tone” card’s suit. (In this example, I could have used the Empress [3], the Hanged Man [12 = 1+2 = 3] or the World [21 = 2+1 = 3] as the archetypal counterpart for the 3 of Coins, but I chose the World mainly because it represents both elemental Earth and Saturn, thus reinforcing the Capricorn correspondence for the primary “overtone” card, the Devil.)


Shuffle the 16 court cards and randomly select one to show the “stance” the querent should adopt in dealing with the events of the day, as described by the “tone” and “amplification” cards and modified by the influence of the two “overtone” cards. Place it immediately to the right of the “amplification” card. (The cards in this example imply a financial opportunity with powerful “market forces” at work in the background, and the Knight of Swords indicates a need to forcefully capitalize on it.)


Read the “tone” card, the “amplification” card and the “stance” card as a story describing how the querent’s day (week or “fortnight”) is likely to unfold and how it should be navigated. Apply the primary “overtone” card to show how external events might intrude upon and shift the focus of those developments, and the secondary “overtone” card to supply either corroborating or countervailing evidence. Here the Devil and the World are putting the 3 of Coins and 6 of Coins “through the wringer.” It looks like financial plans (3 of Coins) that seemed destined for success (6 of Coins) may go awry (Devil) unless a firm grip is  kept on the reins (World) through aggressive oversight (Knight of Swords).

As I was putting the cards away. I noticed that the other three face-down cards in the original four-card layout were all Swords. The dice roll  clearly picked out the one that was different, which makes me think it wasn’t coincidental.

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