The “One-and-Done” Single Use Dilemma

There are at least four instances (and one related case) I can think of where a card in the tarot deck is limited to a single appearance in a reading when it might be reasonable (and in some cases necessary) to assume that it warrants more than one iteration.

One of these is the 12-card annual “look-ahead” reading, in which it is entirely possible for the same energy to apply during more than one month but the card best describing it has already been “taken.” I solved this problem by doing a three-card pull from the full deck at the beginning of each month to show the details for the month that were only broadly suggested by the single card originally drawn.

Another complaint of those who use a significator (court card or otherwise) in their spreads is that it takes that card out of the “pool” for showing up anywhere else in the reading, even though it might be needed. There are three ways to counter this situation: 1) don’t use a significator card; 2) take the significator from a second deck; 3) just assume that you will get your information from the rest of the cards anyway. I have used all three of these at different times and found that the first two are the most satisfactory.

The third case involves use of the “quintessence” card, which is always a trump card calculated from the numerical values of the cards in the spread. What often happens is that the trump thus derived has already appeared elsewhere in the layout, making it unavailable for the “quint” position. Once again, the answer is to take this card from a second deck as needed (unless you don’t really care about having a visual cue in the spread for that purpose).

The last instance occurs when doing a reading involving two parties in which each has an individual path or chain of cards. Both paths might require the same card to most accurately display its portent, but one series has already claimed it. The most effective way to remedy this is to use a different deck for each chain.

Finally, there is an analogous situation in which we accidentally leave a card in the box when we take them out and don’t realize it until we go to put the deck back after doing the reading. In these cases the card isn’t available at all to add testimony to the narrative. Some people trash the reading since they weren’t “playing with a full deck” and then they do another pull, while others ignore that fact and figure they got the insights they were after regardless of the discrepancy. I’m “mystically pragmatic” about this (sounds like an oxymoron, huh?) and figure that the card didn’t show its face for a reason, so I don’t worry about it.

My point is that the usual hand-wringing that goes on over these difficulties is entirely unnecessary, since creative solutions are always at hand. Although some people say that there is usually another card that is close enough in meaning to “stand in” for the preferred one, I believe that there is no need to intentionally resort to such hair-splitting.

After presenting these scraps, I realized that I should offer some kind of “unified field theory” for coping with this situation from a more philosophical perspective. The one that works best for me is that whatever cards you draw will answer the question adequately, even if other cards would have been more precise in doing so. This seems to be the operative principle behind the practice of using partial decks, such as in the “Majors-only” spreads favored by many Europeans when using the Tarot de Marseille; also, although the consensus on the tarot forums is that it isn’t really legitimate, I sometimes read with a “Minors-only” sub-pack when it suits my purpose. The only approach I haven’t tried is “Courts-only” since they are more about “agency” – “Who’s got the ball?” – than about whether they’re actually going to score a goal. The idea that a different card can substitute for the preferred one (whether by accident or by design) seems to have some credibility. Another option, which I don’t personally endorse since it “depersonalizes” the draw, is to use an electronic tarot app to perform your pulls since a Random Number Generator has no limits on how often the same number can appear (unless the app programmers recognize the flaw in that logic from a tarot perspective and account for it in the code).

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