Recently, I asked friend and colleague Mary Ellen Collins to lead some of my Tarot Circles, giving me a break to catch up on some writing, paperwork and other tasks. I have always tried to surround myself with smart, talented people like Mary Ellen, and I am always grateful when folks are willing to share their skills with our local tarot communities.
Mary Ellen let me know, after one particular Tarot Circle, that many questions came up around using tarot to predict timing. She was hoping that I might shed some light on this thorny topic. Great! I’m happy to have a reason to create a new tarot handout!
I am hard at work on that very handout, which I will share in all the usual places when it is finished. But the greater question remains- is tarot an effective tool for predicting the future? I have to maintain that it is, but with some limitations. I think there are a few reasons these limitations exist.
The first is the emotional investment of the reader. It is very hard for readers to make accurate future predictions if they have an emotional investment in the subject matter. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t read for ourselves. It does mean that we do better when we turn to the cards for spiritual counsel and attitude adjustment rather than prognostication. In general, it is always better to ask the cards “What must I do to prepare for the future?” than “What does the future hold for me?”
The second is that readers have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some readers are great at understanding the intricacies of relationships, but can’t figure out finances. Some readers can forecast global events, but can’t see what is happening in their own families. Readers need to understand and honestly present their strengths and weaknesses.
A third reason that predictions are tricky is that the wheel is always in motion. Whether it is free will or divine intervention, changes occur. A strong possibility today may be less of a possibility tomorrow, depending on who did what. That’s why it is always good to ask questions, such as: “What can I do to create the best possible outcome?” or “How can I best nurture my new job (or relationship, or venture)?”
A fourth reason is that sometimes knowing the future changes the future. In other words, there are just some things we are better off not knowing. I trust that the cards, and my guides, will give me only the information that is the most helpful, and for the greatest good.
So, all that being said, what is the right way to use the cards to predict the timing of future events? That depends on the reader. There are numerous traditions and various techniques, and another interesting philosophical dilemma.
The technique that I use and teach goes like this. Read a bunch of books and websites, talk with other readers, and learn different possibilities. Try out different ones that appeal to you until you see how the cards speak to you.
An esteemed friend and colleague, Dax Carlisle of Tarot Guild, disagrees with me. He suggests that a reader decide on a particular system and program it into their subconscious. Once that programming is in place, the reader should never deviate from that system.
I think the difference between these two schools of thought may be where one puts emphasis in answering the question “How does tarot work?” I think most of us feel it is either a function of communication with the subconscious mind, or a function of communication with the angels and spirits around us. Personally, I think it is both.
So far, I get my personal best results when I focus more on communicating with the spirit world than I do when I focus on communicating with the subconscious. It is easier and better for me to ask the cards how they want to speak, rather than to tell them how they will speak.
In any case, most of us agree that tarot reading involves making an agreement about what each card can mean. That is true for predictive reading as well as for contemplative reading. My friend Dax , and many other great readers, might say that once you make that agreement, stick with it. I say, only stick with it for as long as it works. If you are ready to read on a deeper level, the cards will start to speak with you on deeper levels. The more open we can be to their messages, the more information we receive.
Another important point to ponder is the importance of patience. Many times clients ask questions in desperation. “When will I find a boyfriend?” When will I get a job?” “When will my diet work?”
These can be legitimate questions, and deserve the most accurate answers possible. But these questions call also indicate impatience. And sometimes impatience actually slows things down.
Tarot cards are amazing for many reasons. One is that they teach us what we need to know as readers, as well as give information for clients. A case in point is Major Arcana 14, Temperance. I often associate the key word “Patience” with this card. A common alias for this card is “Time.”
Think about that.
A card often called “Time” advises “Patience.”
Here’s a poem for Temperance, from the 78 Poems Project.
Water poured from cup to cup, and metal turned to gold
Sorrow turned to patience, and ego turned to mould.
One foot on the water, another balancing on land
Not a drop is spilt by the angel's gentle hand.
Caution guards the recipe, stirring grace with balance
Art and time make alchemy with these select ingredients.
Change forged of disappointment, mingling with hope
Built on tragic lessons learned that gave us skill to cope.
Expectation and assumption gone, accepting what will be
Still the angel blends the cups, creating perfectly.
Perfect are the cups' contents, and perfect is the measure
And perfect are the woes and joys, blended into treasure.