Sin 2: Two-Card Arrangements.

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I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: reading cards in combination is a fundamental skill. Even if you've got all 78 cards on the table, you’re only ever reading two of them at a time. There are fortune-tellers who get intimidated by large arrangements, but their intimidation is unwarranted. It's like they say: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Or in this case, "How do you read a large arrangement? Two cards at a time." Contrary to what most sitters and some fortune-tellers believe, a detailed, nuanced performance isn't the result of one or two cards, but of 10 or 20 cards and trying to keep track of the narrative that emerges from them.

For this reason, learning to read two cards at a time (anchor and reference) is fundamental. Learn to read two and three cards at a time, and then expand into larger arrangements. The reason for this approach is because fortune-tellers are story-tellers, cards are paragraphs, small arrangements are chapters, and large arrangements are books. If you learn to tell your stories one chapter at a time, you'll become a stronger story-teller and a better performer.

Remember that your perspective within the arrangement depends on where you anchor your focus, and you can move your anchor as the performance progresses. To aid your comprehension, short examples will be included for each arrangement that follows.

A + B

In this arrangement, one card represents one subject, and this subject can be any person, situation, or thing that you want to examine. Whether you're deceiving yourself or somebody else, an easy way to know how many subjects will appear in an arrangement is to look at the original question and then isolate the important parts. Here's an example:
"Jane is having an affair John, but he's sending mixed signals about the relationship. John's married to another woman and he doesn’t want to leave his wife. The affair was a lot of fun in the past, but it's currently on rocky ground and Jane doesn't know what John wants moving forward."
Now isolate the important parts: Jane, Affair, John, John's Desires, Marriage, Wife, He Wants, Future. See how the arrangement naturally emerges from the question? At a minimum, you'll lay one card for Jane and John, but you can add more cards for additional subjects. This method of looking at the question, isolating the important subjects, and laying down cards in an aesthetically pleasing configuration is how I treat most of my sitters' questions. It's not as sexy as the Opening of the Key from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but it gets the job done and has served me well for many years. 

To show you how this works, let’s use the improvised arrangement above to explore some card combinations:

tarot card relationship reading

Exemplars


John (7 of Hearts) + Affair (Chaos)


John is the anchor card, and the Affair is the reference card. John's cardinal 7 of Hearts shows him as a person of habit who likes to stay within his ignorant comfort zone while at the same time attempting to control what happens around him. Paired with the synthetic qualities of Chaos, John's mixed signals aren't bugs, they're features, and they're part of his plan to keep Jane off balance and keep her guessing at what he'll do next.


Jane (Slave of Diamonds) + John’s Desires (The Devil)


Jane's Slave of Diamonds is the anchor card, and John's desires are the reference card. Paired with the antithetical qualities of the Devil, the Slave of Diamonds expresses the 8 of Diamonds in a fixed aspect. Arranged thus, Jane is portrayed as a self-respecting and resourceful woman who has reached the point that she realizes she is unwilling to be strung along in John's desire for a disoriented mistress he can vampirize until she's got nothing left to give. 


Affair (Chaos) + Future (Inequality)


The affair is our anchor card, and the future is our reference card. If the novelty of the affair has grown stale and Jane's lost her tolerance for the uncertainty it represents, then she'll have to either end the affair or else habituate herself to John's fancies because the way things are now is the way things are going to remain.