I have to confess to shamelessly manipulating the title of John Crowley’s “otherworld” book, Little, Big, for this essay. Sometimes a chance opportunity is too good to pass up. I recently came across a question on one of the Facebook tarot pages, “What is a good two or three-card spread?” As a great fan of detailed insights in a reading that don’t require profound leaps of intuitive guesswork, my knee-jerk reaction is “None of them,” but that’s not being fair to an honest inquiry. For the “TL;DR” crowd, you can always jump to my previous comprehensive post on the subject of small spreads and disregard the present philosophizing:
I’ll skip the single-card pull as being relatively useless and, in an age that frowns on binary thinking, I’ll also dispense with the two-card “either-or”draw as too conceptually barren. Three cards at least allow a little breathing room to consider something more than a linear path to the answer, allowing for some “push-back” against the more transparent implications in the spread. This obviously sets aside the common “past/present/future” forecast as being a literal rendition of things that are for the most part understood, inviting the “I already know that, tell me something I don’t know” objection from the querent.
For me the “sweet spot” in a three-card reading appears in the “action/reaction/ resolution” scenario (the academics among us might say “thesis/antithesis/synthesis”). Perhaps the best illustration of this is the spread I created last year that uses the “if/then/else” data-routing logic of the computer programmer (it sounds dry, but trust me, it isn’t). The simple idea is that, if a particular condition exists, the path forward takes a certain trajectory, but if different circumstances pertain, an alternative action (or possibly no action) must be undertaken. This plays perfectly into my usual “action-and-event-oriented” approach to the tarot, in which I seek situational awareness and developmental insight rather than psychological nuances. You might say I “read for results, not for speculation” but I wouldn’t go quite that far; I do have a little mystical poetry in my soul that fancies some inspired storytelling.
Hers is a link to another example that adds a Significator card to represent the querent or the subject of the reading: