Timing Questions

APPROACHES FOR READING TIMING QUESTIONS

Timing questions are some of the most difficult that tarot readers face, and this lesson is intended to provide you with a wide variety of tools for handling them. These tools range from qualitative and general approaches to highly specific timing methods. The goal of this set of exercises is to give you an opportunity to try out all of these methods and find one that works for you. Since these are only practice readings, I encourage you to try each method, even those that you are initially uncomfortable with. You may find that your views about a potential approach change after trying it, and that your comfort level with timing questions may increase as you become a more experienced and confident reader, and as you have more practice with them. If after trying them you still don't like them, you need never use them again – but at least you know what methods are available and you can return to them later if you need them.

Approach #1 - Narrative

The first approach is the simplest and also the best for readers who do not wish to use numeric or deterministic approaches to timing. This approach is great with one-card readings, and simply answers the question "when" with a narrative answer also starting with "when". For example, if the client asks "When will I get a raise and promotion?" the answer might be "When you are able to develop a better relationship with your boss" or "When you improve your communication skills" or "When you move to a different department". None of these answers predict a specific time when the event will occur, but they tell the client what they need to do to bring about the wished-for event, or what needs to happen first. In fact, if you wish, you can think of the original question with the "when" being replaced by "what do I need to do to…" or "what needs to happen before…", depending on whether or not the things that have to happen first are in the client's control or depend on outside factors.

One inherent problem with "When" questions is that they contain an assumption that the event will someday happen. For example, the question "When will John ask me to marry him?" assumes that John will ask her to marry him – which may or may not be a safe assumption. Although clients may often ask questions this way, don't fall into this assumption yourself. Be on the lookout for cards that imply that the event may not happen at all, or is very unlikely, or is too up in the air to predict whether it will or will not occur. These questions can still be handled in the manner described above, as long as the reader is aware of this issue. For example, if you are doing a three-card reading and all three cards are reversed, you could say something like "This and this and this would need to happen in order for you to get a raise in your current job, but the chances of all these things happening are remote due to blockages in each of these three areas – you either need to prepare yourself for the possibility that you may not ever get a raise if you stay in this job, or work very hard to overcome all these obstacles".

Exercise #1 – Do a one-card reading on the question "When will our family be able to finally afford a house of our own?" Use the narrative approach in answering the question.

Approach #2 – All the things that need to happen first

This approach is credited to John Gilbert, Grandmaster, who often uses it as a demonstration at tarot conferences. Like the narrative approach, it avoids giving a specific timeframe and uses a narrative answer format. However, it recognizes that the number of things that may need to happen varies from case to case. In this method, one card is drawn first. This card is not read directly (although it often seems to comment on the situation), but is only looked at to determine its number. This card represents the number of things that would have to happen before the desired outcome can come to pass. Then, the number of cards indicated are drawn to see what these things are, and each card is read accordingly. Obviously, the more things that would need to happen (and the more reversals among them) the longer it will take and the more unlikely the event is. However, it should be possible to reach the goal with enough determination and hard work.

In reading the first card, A-10 cards are given the number on the card. Trumps are also given the number on the card, and the number is not reduced – so there can be up to 21 things that need to happen (!) – although this will be rare. Court cards are read as follows: Page = 11, Knight = 12, Queen = 13, King = 14. If you draw the Fool, it may mean that the event has already happened, or that there is nothing they can do to bring about the desired event (and they are Foolish for even asking).

Exercise #2 – Conduct a reading on the question "When will I find a fulfilling and rewarding job?" using the following approach: First, draw one card. The number on this card shows the number of things that have to happen or key issues that need to be resolved before this person will find the job they wish for. Next, place that card back in the deck, and draw the number of cards indicated. Read these cards as the things which need to happen before the hoped-for job can be found. Those cards that are reversed are the issues or events that will be more difficult to resolve among those things that need to happen.

Approach #3 – Active/Passive

Active and passive cards can also be used in timing spreads to get an idea how quickly an issue may be resolved. This is an especially good method to use when the "when" question is just part of a larger question or reading. You can do the main reading first, then look at the cards as described below to get a sense of how quickly the issue will be resolved. Active suits are Wands and Swords, passive suits are Cups and Pentacles. Note that court cards can have elements of both – active courts are Knights and Kings, passive courts are Queens and Pages/Princesses, modified by their suit. Trumps are assigned to active or passive depending on the element or astrological sign they are associated, and some may be considered to be neutral.

3-card Spread

Three active cards: happening now or being resolved within a matter of days
Two active cards: timeframe of weeks
One active card: timeframe of months
No active cards: timeframe of years

The specific numbers on the cards can be further used to provide a numeric range, if you wish. For example, a 3-card reading with the cards 2 of Pentacles, 4 of Cups, and 3 of Swords would equate to 2-4 months (one active card, numbers ranging from 2-4).

Exercise #3. Do a 3-card reading on the question "We need to sell our house, but the market isn't very good right now. Is there anything we can do to improve our chances, and how long might this take?" Use any spread of your choice or design, and use the active/passive approach described above to answer the "when" part of the question (with or without the numeric range).

Approach #4 – Suits/Elements

There are many other timing approaches that are much more detailed and deterministic which are not covered in this basic lesson. Just to be aware of a few of these, they include primarily:

Astrological: in this method, each card represents a specific planetary transit (e.g., Mars in Libra). Each card can therefore be associated with a certain time of year, of various durations depending on the planet and its transit time.

Golden Dawn: the Golden Dawn used a similar system to assign all 360 degrees of the zodiac (not to mention angels, demons, verses of the bible, and the 3-letter names of God) to the 2-10 cards of the minor arcana. Courts, aces, and trumps are overlaid on these and rule larger parts of the year.

Deck-Specific: certain deck authors have developed their own timing systems in which they assign their cards to certain days of the year (e.g., Ancestral Path) or certain periods of the year aligned with solstices and other natural cycles, such as the Celtic Wheel of the Year (e.g., Greenwood).

Approach #5 – Seasonal

The seasonal approach is another way of using the associations between suits and seasons. To use this method, you must first decide which season you associate with each suit – this may vary from deck to deck or you may choose to use the same associations with all decks. Here are the associations I use for readings:

Cups: Spring (water – spring rains, new growth, creativity)
Wands: Summer (fire – fullness of life, sunny, hot)
Swords: Autumn (air – cutting back, harvesting, planning for the winter)
Pentacles: Winter (earth – dormancy, putting down roots, quiet)

Using this method, the suit gives the season, and the number on the card gives the week of the season, all the way through the courts. Each season has 13 weeks, Ace-Queen. The Kings are traditionally considered transition cards, and indicate the cusp between seasons. In this method, only the minors are used. The Trumps represent major issues or events that cannot be easily timed, and are read narratively. Reversed cards may indicate a delay in the normal timeframe, and are sometimes read as one year delayed while the issue indicated by the card is worked out.

Exercise #5. Use the seasonal method above to answer the question "When would be the best time to ask Joanna to marry me?" Use the spread below or one of your choice:

Card 1: When would be the best time
Card 2: Why this would be a good time
Card 3: What else he can do to have the best chance of success

Other Timing Approaches

The seasonal approach is another way of using the associations between suits and seasons. To use this method, you must first decide which season you associate with each suit – this may vary from deck to deck or you may choose to use the same associations with all decks. Here are the associations I use for readings:

Cups: Spring (water – spring rains, new growth, creativity)
Wands: Summer (fire – fullness of life, sunny, hot)
Swords: Autumn (air – cutting back, harvesting, planning for the winter)
Pentacles: Winter (earth – dormancy, putting down roots, quiet)

Using this method, the suit gives the season, and the number on the card gives the week of the season, all the way through the courts. Each season has 13 weeks, Ace-Queen. The Kings are traditionally considered transition cards, and indicate the cusp between seasons. In this method, only the minors are used. The Trumps represent major issues or events that cannot be easily timed, and are read narratively. Reversed cards may indicate a delay in the normal timeframe, and are sometimes read as one year delayed while the issue indicated by the card is worked out.

Exercise #5. Use the seasonal method above to answer the question "When would be the best time to ask Joanna to marry me?" Use the spread below or one of your choice:

Card 1: When would be the best time
Card 2: Why this would be a good time
Card 3: What else he can do to have the best chance of success

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