Every tarot reader has their own reading style. Some of us use a lot of cards in a reading, other try to dig a lot of information from a very few cards. Some of us use a specific spread, others simply lay out cards and read them, or design a custom spread for the individual reading.
This post is specific to tarot spreads, either traditional or custom-made, which have a last position designated as “final outcome”, “future resolution” or “future events”.
If you use a spread like this I am sure you have noticed that sometimes the card that falls into that final position is poignantly on-point, offering a vision of a hopeful future with wishes fulfilled. It’s a logical end to the story portrayed in the reading.
Sometimes the card that falls into the outcome position can be interpreted as advice – what you have to do to have the desired outcome, versus a specific future prediction.
Sometimes the card that falls into the final outcome position is clearly undesirable. It may suggest an outcome that is less favorable than desired. It may suggest coming to a place of being stuck, with no outcome other than a continuation of what already is.
Speaking as a professional reader, I have to say that this is a lousy way to end a reading.
If you read in a card-by-card linear fashion, that final outcome card may be the way you close the reading. If the card that appears there isn’t a great note on which to end, what can you do?
I believe in ending a reading on as positive a note as possible. I don’t think this is sugar-coating, fluffy or Polly-Anna. I think it’s spiritually appropriate.
There’s a pertinent quote attributed to John Lennon. “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
I believe that my job as a tarot reader includes giving people a message that is uplifting and hopeful, even in dark times. That doesn’t mean I advocate giving false hope, but it does mean that, just like John Lennon, I want to glimpse forward to the time and place when things will really be okay. Or, at the very least, I want to show the gift that is present in the shadow, and the opportunity that comes along with challenge.
There are a number of ways to continue a tarot reading past an uninspiring final outcome card.
Here are my three favorites.
1. End on a Major.
If the final outcome card is not a Major Arcana, continue drawing cards and laying them in a path from the final outcome card, until you get a Major Arcana. Interpret the Major Arcana card as the final outcome, and the cards that came before as the path to get there, and advice along the way.
2. Let the Spread Give Questions, Not Answers.
If you perform a comprehensive spread such as the Celtic Cross, you can find many questions within that spread. Interpret the spread to give whatever information you see, but also find within those cards questions, and areas where you want to dig more deeply. Which cards make you say “I want to know more about that?”
Then, pick up all the cards, shuffle them, and use the cards to answer those questions, one at a time, in a dialogue, or in a series of small spreads.
This way, the reading is over when the questions are all answers, not when the final predictive card is read.
3. Clarify the Final Card.
If the final outcome card is a dud, you can ask specific questions about it and pull cards to clarify it. Simply place one or a few clarifying cards next to the outcome.
As you pull the clarifying card, you can ask a question like “How can we change this?” or “How can we mitigate this?” or “Where is the gift in this?”
Let those clarifying cards answer those specific question in regard to the outcome, or simply blend their meanings together to give a broader view of the outcome than you had before.
Many modern tarot readers shy away from predictions, recognizing that the future is never set and that free will matters. Nonetheless, many of our tarot spreads include these pesky “future” positions which are clearly predictive.
Even an intentionally non-predictive spread sometimes foretells the future when a card appears that describes nothing from the past or present, but clearly makes sense in retrospect, after the event or condition it predicted comes to pass.
Whether or not we strive to predict the future, the cards will often reflect our upcoming events, opportunities, solutions and resolutions, and sometimes will give helpful advice for getting there.
If our focus is to help our client stay positive and proactive, we can use these interpretive positions to offer possibilities and perspective, rather than a doom-and-gloom prognosis over which the client can have no control.