As I’m always saying, there are as many approaches to tarot as there are people to read the cards. One major difference between readers is whether you feel that a tarot reading can predict the future or not. There are readers who use the cards specifically to find out what the future holds, readers who feel that that’s just downright impossible, and people who are somewhere in between. (My 2014 reader survey revealed an almost-even split between the predictors and the non-predictors, with 47 and 53% respectively. I wish I’d asked again in this year’s survey!)
Meanwhile, many common tarot spreads have an ‘outcome’ position. The classic ten-card Celtic cross, for example, ends with an ‘outcome’ card, as do many other spreads. (If you’re not sure what a tarot spread is, here’s a primer!)
So what do you do if you’re a non-predictive kinda tarot reader? How do you reconcile your feelings that tarot can’t foretell future events with the fact that the very last card in your reading is purporting to do exactly that?
You do you, of course! It’s 100% totally fine to remove, alter or swap positions in a tarot spread to that it suits your purpose better. If you’re bamboozled by the outcome card at the end of your reading or it makes you feel uncomfortable, try missing it out or swapping it for something that suits you better.
Here are a few alternatives to outcome cards that I use in my own spreads, or swap in to existing spreads when I need to (feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!)
Where the situation is heading
Okay, so this is a lot like an outcome card, but its focus in on the path the querent is travelling. It’s more about an overall trajectory than a specific outcome, and it’s a nice way for in-between-ies to still work with an idea of ‘the future’ without committing to an actual ‘this is what is going to happen’ kinda thing.
Advice, or ‘next steps’
This is my favourite position to swap in to the final card in the Celtic cross spread. The other nine cards in this spread give so much indication as to where the querent is headed, that it seems redundant to offer an ‘outcome’ and so much more useful and proactive to have an advice card. So this card could be an overall approach to take, something to do or learn, or a specific thing that needs dealing with.
Many of the spreads I create provide a ‘next steps’ card towards the end and I find it a really helpful way to bring real, practical advice into a reading.
What the situation needs
I suppose this is rather like ‘advice’, but it’s less direct. It’s not an instruction or advisory to the querent, so much as an indication of helpful energies to bring in. How the querent will interpret or do this is up to them.
Often when reading using, let’s say for example the Celtic Cross spread again, I’ll stop when I’ve drawn the first nine cards. I’ll read these, and discuss them with the querent. If we have enough, then so be it.
A final card for clarity
…on the other hand, missing the last card out entirely may leave your reading feeling incomplete. In that case, you could draw a final card, and use it as a lens through which to view the whole reading, clarifying any tricky points that came before and bringing the reading to a close.
Something else entirely
Tarot readings usually take care of themselves, don’t you find? One last option is to leave the ‘outcome’ position open and see what feels right. Maybe you need to go back to a tricky point in the reading and explore it further. Or maybe there’s a sense that there’s *something else* that the cards have not revealed — something they’re asking you to ask them. By leaving the ‘outcome’ position open, you give yourself the opportunity to discover this.
How do you feel about outcome cards in tarot spreads? Do you think tarot can predict the future? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!
Beth, I love this! I am of the opinion that time is too cyclical and wibbly-wobbly for predicting the exact future.
Personally, I’ve encountered many spreads where the outcome card was a future prediction based on the querent following the path/advice laid out in the rest of the spread. I don’t really consider that ‘predicting the future’ so much as ‘summing up what the rest of the reading has been hinting at’.
Yeah, I’ve seen those ‘outcome if you follow this advice’ cards, and also ‘outcome if nothing changes’. I get the purpose of those positions, but to me they feel so clunky.
I like to frame the last card as indicating a tool for the querent to use going forward or something to keep in mind. We’ve analyzed the history of an issue and how things are now, and the querent usually has an idea of where they want to go moving forward. Seeing the last card as a tool (either one already in hand or one to be developed) or a detail or circumstance to remember moving forward can give the querent a “take-away” to think on without purporting to tell them what will happen next. I’ve also found it useful (and fun) to use any cards that jump out of the deck during shuffling or get stuck in the box in this way.
That’s a cool idea @jonbonanchovi – such a nice way to round off the reading on a pro-active note or with that succinct ‘take-away’ as you say. Neat!
Does anyone know what the black deck with rainbow coloring is? It’s absolutely gorgeous and I would love to know
Hey Joseph, it’s the Wild Unknown Tarot – my favourite deck! Right now, the first edition is out of print (I have a few left in my shopright now) and the second edition is coming out in November!
It’s called “The Wild Unknown Tarot” I have it – it’s my absolute fav!
I like this. I’m definitely inspired to change it up the next time I use a spread. Also, what deck is that? ;w; I need it in my life.
The black and colour deck is the Wild Unknown tarot deck and it is stunning! Beautiful to work with and every card is as stunning as the ones shown. The first edition is currently out of print (awaiting a second edition with revised artwork) but many places still have the first edition still in stock, including Beth’s own website Little Red Tarot!
I can’t recommend it enough.
Last night I did my first reading for someone else! – My best friend who was really enthusiastic and basically did the reading herself, or as a conversation between us, where I gave her some standard-ish outline meanings of the cards, and a few suggestions on what they might have a bearing on, and she basically did the rest, working out what they meant for her and in relation to her situation and her question. It was great! That’s how I read for myself, and is a much more sort of therapeutic-meditative way of reading than me sitting there telling her what was going on for her and trying to guess stuff. Tarot as a prompt for, and a validation of, your own reflections on and feelings about a situation.
ANYWAY – point is, I did a 2-card cross to start with, for situation+extra info/barrier/carrying, then a third card for advice, and a fourth card for a resource. The advice card is already slightly uncomfortable for me – tarot isn’t there to tell you what you should do, you have to decide how you want to act for yourself, the future’s open and you’re terrifyingly free; but the fourth card – the resource – kind of modified the third card even more, and gave us extra room to think about how my friend wanted to interpret the advice, what she was going to use or draw on as she went forward. I really like the ‘resource’ position – it’s a good way of accessing the validating, encouraging effects of tarot, telling you that you are powerful, and helping you to think about your power and intentions with reference to a beautiful picture, some stories, symbols and ideas, and a glimmer of magic.
Thanks for sharing this @squareflowers! Good for you doing your first reading for someone else! I love the idea of incorporating a resource card to pair with (or replace) advice :)
Sounds excellent, I have to try this spread. Love the empowerment in it.
This was relevant to my interests.
It looks like two different decks of cards are shown – or am I wrong? I love the cards used in the first two pictures. Could you please let me know what they are called? I think it’s time for a new deck. :)
@ivar Gorgeous, isn’t it? It’s Thea’s Tarot – it’s an 80s feminist lesbian deck created by artist Ruth West. It’s out of print, but if you’re in the US/Canada Metonomy Press have some, and if you’re elsewhere in the world it will be in my shop soon!
Also it’s featured heavily in this article: http://www.autostraddle.com/fools-journey-she-is-sitting-in-the-night-is-the-queer-tarot-book-youve-been-waiting-for-308315/ – the reason it’s come to light and the last remaining decks have now been made for sale is because Rima Athar and Oliver Pickle created a book about it, ‘revisioning’ it in a modern queer context. It’s amazing.
That sounds intriguing; I’ll have to check out the article.
Thanks so much for info about the cards! They are very beautiful, yes!
I am one of those people who tend to avoid outcomes, as I’d like to feel I have agency over the course of my future. I do, however, recognize that strong tendencies towards a certain outcome are often at work, tendencies I’m not always fully aware of, so I look for those in a reading. This roots the reading firmly in the present and alerts me to my behavior and how it is shaping the future.