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A Matter of Timing
by James Rioux, CPTR




Some Tarot readers say that it is impossible to obtain timing information from readings, since the future is always in motion, and making predictions about such a fluid subject would be pointless. I respect this opinion but I must disagree. My experience as a reader has proven to me that timing information can indeed be extracted from a reading. This is an important skill if you read for the public, because a large number of clients want specific information about the future, and being able to give them this information will greatly improve the quality of your readings - and the size of your repeat clientele.

 There is a simple method which allows you to see timing information within most ordinary readings. Obviously not every reading will contain timing information; many questions do not require it and for some it is actually better that the question of timing be left unanswered. But whenever timing information is needed it will be provided and can be uncovered by a three- step method which I will outline below. Do a reading as usual and then, if necessary, use the method to look for timing information.
The first part of this method relies on the elemental associations of the cards to determine a rough time frame. It's essentially an estimate that paves the way for the second step. Simply count up the number of passive cards (those associated to Water or Earth) and compare that number with the number of active cards (Fire or Air). The ratio of passive to active will tell you what kind of time span is being indicated - days, weeks, months or years. Generally,
  • If more than 75% of the cards are active, the timespan is days.
  • If between 75% and 50% are active, the timespan is weeks.
  • If between 50% and 25% are active, the timespan is months.
  • If less than 25% of the cards are active, the timespan is years.
You can determine how many days, weeks, months or years by looking at the numbers of the cards. It's not necessary that every card have the same number (though with small spreads this is possible). All you need is a majority of a certain number. In a five-card spread, for example, two 3's are not significant, but three of them might be important. Consider Major Arcana and court cards in this part of the process as well, reducing their numbers to single digits when appropriate. Pages are 11 or 2, Knights are 12 or 3, Queens are 13 or 4, Kings are 14 or 5.
At this point, perhaps an example would be helpful. Say that a client who works as a songwriter comes to me for a reading. She's been feeling burned out and want to know when she will get some new ideas. I do a reading and get Two of Wands, High Priestess and Page of Wands. Before looking for any timing information I interpret the reading normally. I tell her that she is close to a breakthrough, and if she turns within and pays attention to her own feelings and desires, the inspiration she seeks will come to her. When she reminds me that she wanted timing information, I re-examine the cards using the process described above.
There are two active cards here and one passive card, which means that the rough time frame will be a number of weeks. The number of the Priestess is 2 and the Page's number 11 reduces to 2, so it seems quite likely that in two weeks she will start getting some new ideas, if she follows the advice given in the reading proper. This is important: if you say that the client must do a certain thing in order to acheive their desired goal and then proceed to give timing information, you must make it clear that the timing information is only applicable is the rest of the reading also comes to pass. Otherwise, the timing information is useless.
Obviously not all readings will work out this nicely with all of the cards having the same number. Occasionally you'll see a pair of cards with one number and a second pair with a different number. How do you know which of the numbers is the correct one? In this circumstance you proceed to the third and final step of the process - using astrological correspondences to provide corroboration. Fortunately for those who are not astrologers, this process does not require thorough knowledge of astrology. All you need are astrological attributions for each card and a calendar that can tell you when each sign starts and ends.
Say that I do a reading and the client requests timing information. The cards I drew are Five of Cups, Death, King of Wands. (These cards might be saying that the client will go through a painful breakup before meeting a new lover. Remember that these readings should be interpreted normally before trying to get timing information.) The time frame will be expressed in months since there are two passive cards and one active. But can we be more specific than that? The cards are 5, 13 and 14 respectively. It is tempting to reduce the two-digit numbers to 4 and 5, showing a time frame of 5 months... but it could also be 13-14 months, which is nowhere near 5 months. How do you know which is correct?
In this case the astrological correspondences make the difference. The Five of Cups is Mars in Scorpio, Death is Scorpio, and the King of Wands rules 10 degrees of Scorpio (in addition to 20 degrees of Sagittarius). All this Scorpio energy tells us the reading will come to fruition when the Sun is in Scorpio (late October or early November). If this reading was done at the time this article is being written, in late May, clearly the predicted event is five months away; five months from the end of May is in Scorpio at the end of October. If the reading were done in late November, then the other option, 13 months, would be the correct one.
Astrology can be helpful even when the numbers provide all the necessary information. Astrological correspondences allow you to confirm that what you have interpreted from the numbers is correct. Say that at the same time as the previous example (late May) I do a second reading and draw Chariot, Seven of Wands and Strength. Using the first two steps of the method we see that something will happen in seven or eight weeks. The Chariot is a Cancer card while the other two have ties to Leo, and seven or eight weeks from the last week in May would put the event right on the boundary between Leo and Cancer. The prediction is confirmed.
In conclusion, I will re-iterate that this method does not always work, and it becomes more difficult as the number of cards in the spread increases. Trying to find a common bond between the cards in a Celtic Cross could take a while, but for a three-card reading it's fairly simple. With practice it becomes almost second-nature to see timing information in spreads. Some readers may question the ethics of providing timing information but this is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that the ability to access timing information is a valuable skilll, but whether or not you use it remains a personal decision.
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