AUTHOR”S NOTE: I will follow this up shortly with an example reading showing how it is to be used.
To help resolve the endless debate (or perhaps to generate more debate) on whether an allusive, intuitive approach to reading the cards or a literal, logical one is most informative, I decided to create a spread that requires each camp to “try it the other way.” I’m also aware that the “left brain/right brain” cognitive divide has been found to be a myth, but it serves my purpose here to illustrate a point.
You will need both an “emotional” deck and a more “rational” one to attempt this (I think we all know which ones those are in our own collection). I would consider the more “Hermetic” decks that are loaded with arcane symbolism to be “rational” and decks like the charming, evocative Chrysalis Tarot to be “emotional.” The RWS would have been “rational” if Waite hadn’t withheld so much of his occult knowledge, but I think Pixie turned it around the other way with her prosaic images.
Note that the third card in each chain has special significance for the “Quint Card” answer, depending on whether it is elementally well-dignified or ill-dignified. If it is strong and closely attuned to the quint card, it might be seen as “unlocking” the answer in a way that strikes right to the heart of the matter; in sports terminology we could consider it an “ace,” a “hole-in-one” or a “bullseye.” The two five-card series are read as alternative stories leading up to the outcome.
I see this layout as offering two parallel paths to an answer. One speaks to the “analytical” (or “deductive”) mind and the other to the “creative” (or “inductive”) mind. (If you’re unfamiliar with the concepts, one breaks a subject down into its constituent parts and examines them individually to arrive at a better understanding of the whole, while the other assumes the nature of the whole by “stacking up” its component parts and striving for a “gestalt” perspective.) In my own work, I find myself in “analytical” mode with interpretation around 60% of the time and a more freely associative mode for the other 40%. I don’t consider myself a psychic, so a knowledge-based approach “leavened” with a little of the storyteller’s inspiration, imagination and ingenuity is most comfortable for me. (I think “intuition” is an overused word; it’s one of those expressions that gets tossed around glibly as if everyone agrees on exactly what it means.)
The intent with this spread is to do both chains and see which one “resonates” (another overused word); that would be the interpretation I would favor, although it can be useful to have both for comparison.
A few more thoughts on the third card: I’ve just started reading Alain Bougearel’s book on French cartomancy, which draws heavily on de Mellet’s writing in de Gebelin’s Le Monde Primatif. It talks about spread structure invariably being a line in sentence form, with subject, verb, object, and qualifiers (adverbs). The “object” card is considered the “principal” and those adjacent to it modify its interpretation (sounds like the root of Elemental Dignities to me). Although I came up with this spread before I started reading the book, these ideas reinforce what I called “The Key to the Answer.” In that light we might think of the third card here as the “little” (or preliminary) answer and the quint card as the “big” (or final) answer that could be qualified by the earlier one.