And the last card is…
Most of us have experienced that moment in a Tarot reading where everything's going smoothly and slotting together nicely until we place the final or outcome card, which seems to make no sense at all and looks as though it gatecrashed your reading!.
There are usually two variations on this theme, one where it paints a completely different picture to the rest of the spread, and the other when the cards seem to veer off in another direction entirely.
The negative card in an otherwise positive reading
If you’re using a positional spread, such as the Celtic Cross, then the outcome card is supposed to be as it states, the final outcome. When a negative card appears it can be very tempting if everything else in the spread looks bright and shiny to try and dismiss the last card, or diminish its presence based on the others. We’d all prefer to deliver good news but sometimes it just doesn’t go that way.
It helps to lay all the cards down first, rather than finding an unpleasant surprise after painting a rosy picture from the wonderful cards that came before. I’ve seen the Ten of Cups in the immediate future lead to a Ten of Swords as the outcome, and The Sun leading to Death, just as some examples from self-readings and also for clients.
When everything else in the spread looks great the resulting negative outcome can be one of those occasions when life throws in a curve ball, something unanticipated. Sometimes the flow of the spread and the apparent contradiction of the last card can be quite literal in how events eventually unfold.
If the person you’re reading for is present they usually notice it straight away so it’s easier to break the ice rather than if it’s a telephone or email reading. The seeker comes to us for guidance and places their trust in us, so as much as we’d love to give them the answer they want we’d be doing them a disservice, and ourselves, by not being honest.
It’s not so much what we say but how we say it, yet equally, being so subtle we give the wrong impression doesn’t really help either. I usually begin by saying something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry but this doesn’t seem to go as well as hoped…” or, “Well, this starts out very well but…” depending what I’m faced with. It’s worth practising a starting point response to ease into the reading, because somewhere along the line it’s a situation we can face. If the result is as foreseen and we dressed it up or put a positive spin on it, imagine facing a disappointed friend or client afterwards.
Which leads to our second scenario…
We ask a question about work but the final card definitely relates to love, or vice versa, or where you feel the cards have gone off on a tangent and relate to something else. In either case there’s a technique we can use to delve deeper and find out more.
Take the last card and place it in the centre, like a significator, then gather up the rest of the spread and place back into the deck for shuffling. Rather than asking about the specific situation, concentrate on opening the card and continuing the reading. When dealing the cards out we still place ten cards, the first card goes over the top of the card in question and the second crosses and so on, in the usual way (just as if the significator isn’t there).
The one thing to consider with this technique is that we’re moving further forward in time because the outcome card was the future. The first four cards can tell us more about the card we’re opening, (you just need to get your mind around the time aspect!)
Card 1: This is what covers this situation – the first card shows what it’s all about, if a King or Queen turns up here then we can see the person described is central and connected to the matter. In our normal Celtic Cross the first card is the present, so it represents what would be the present landscape of the future card we’re opening.
Card 2: This is what crosses this situation…the second card shows what is influencing or connected to the first card and provides more information.
Card 3: This is the basis of the situation…the third card provides the history behind the first card, and what lead to the present situation. Bearing in mind that since we’ve moved forward in time the history could be now or yet to take place, in real terms, for both cards 3 and 4.
Card 4: This is behind this situation… the fourth card shows the immediate past of the card in question.
Together all four cards relate to the outcome card we didn’t understand from the first reading, they should open up more information and provide the background creating a timeline and chain of events of how our mystery card comes into being, what or who creates it, or leads to it. It’s as though we’ve put the original outcome card under a magnifying glass or microscope to focus on it.
The next five cards are placed in their usual positions and reveal how events will move forward toward the potential outcome, so it shows us what follows our mystery card but moves further into the future to see what comes next. I’ve used the Celtic Cross as an example but you can try it with your favourite positional spread.
Whether the outcome card is an unpleasant surprise or something of a mystery, opening it up in this way can help to provide some clarity and depth as to why it appeared. Depending upon what we find it can steer us in the right direction as to where we move next, so we can consider other options or choices available to the seeker, or possibly help them to avoid a difficult situation.
If you have the Easy Tarot kit you’ll find this technique on p.172-176, and you can see it being used in some of the case studies in Easy Tarot Reading.
You can also find detailed information for Tarot Card Meanings and Combinations from this link.
For Josephine Ellershaw the Tarot has been a constant life companion on a personal journey that spans almost four decades. Alongside her business background she has many years experience providing readings, healing, and metaphysical guidance to an international clientele. She's the author of the international bestseller Easy Tarot: Learn to Read the Cards Once and For All, and Easy Tarot Reading: The Process Revealed in Ten True Readings, published by Llewellyn. She lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her family and large menagerie of pets... READ MORE