Usually when we scan an email or an article, we miss important information or significant details. When we use scanning in a tarot reading, as a single step in a multi-step process, it becomes a powerful tool that creates a framework for the message.
A tarot reading is a tapestry made up of many threads: the reader, the querent (the person asking the question), the question, the spread, the deck used, and, of course, the cards drawn in the reading. As readers, we know that a reading is synthesis of all these elements. From there, we usually approach the reading by interpreting individual cards in their positions in the spread, in relation to the question asked.
That approach is, to me, like putting the cart before the horse. I use scanning a reading in the same way that an artist uses a sketch. A light pencil sketch is a great way to get a sense of the composition of a piece…how to all the parts fit together to create a meaningful and coherent whole? Scanning creates a framework, gives focus, and provides useful information.
Tarot cards include images, of course, which most of us "read" when we read the cards. Scanning makes effective use of the numbers and suits and other symbolic or otherwise abstract elements of a card, separate from the image and the individual card interpretation. Scanning can help identify timing. It lets you know what aspects of a querent are affected or at play in a situation. A quick analysis of the suits can let you know if anything important is missing or if there is an energetic block.
Here are the steps I use for beginning a reading. However, reading the cards is an art…things do not always happen in a linear fashion. Find your own rhythm and flow…and be open to the flow of each particular reading. These steps are further detailed in my forthcoming Steampunk Tarot (Spring 2012).
- Look for Major Arcana cards.
These cards represent energy and events beyond the querent’s control. If there are a disproportionate number in the reading, the querent has less control over events and is likely in the midst of learning an important life lesson.
- Look for the Court cards.
If there are a disproportionate number of court cards, too many people are involved in the situation or the querent is having identity issues. If the reading (and situation) feels confused, start weeding out the influences of others and bring the focus back on the querent.
- Analyze the suits present.
Are the four suits equally represented? If not, what does that say about the situation? If many swords are present, the querent may be too much in their head. Cups? Overly emotional. Seek to bring balance, if necessary. What does the absence of suit mean? What does the lack of Cups tell you about a relationship reading?
- Check the numbers.
If there is more than one of any particular number in the spread, I pull that association into the reading as well. For example:
- Aces: new beginnings
- Twos: duality, balance, relationship, choices
- Threes: creativity, full expression of the suit, nurturing
- Fours: stability, structure, organization, stagnation
- Fives: conflict, loss, or chaos
- Sixes: communication, problem solving
- Sevens: reflection, assessment
- Eights: movement, speed, power
- Nines: compromises, possible stagnation, nearing completion, satiation
- Tens: completion, ending a cycle
If there are more than one of any particular number, I consider that number as influencing the theme of the reading. For example, if there are more two or more 2s present, the issue of choices or decision-making is significant. If two or more 8s are present, that tells me that things are moving or developing quickly.
I can get an idea of how far developed a situation is by using the numbers as well:
- Multiple aces, twos, and threes: a situation is in early stages of development
- Multiple fours, fives, and sixes: a situation in the middle phase
- Multiple sevens, eights, and nines: near the end
- Multiple tens: all but complete and over
I believe that we have some control over our lives but not total and complete control. I also believe that the earlier the stage of development, the easier it is to change course. So if I am looking at a relationship, where the querent has just begun dating someone, it is easier for her to affect change in the direction and course of that relationship. If it is the week before the wedding, it will be harder for her—for any number of reasons—to change course.
Look at the visual pattern made by the cards.
Step back and look at your reading as one large picture. Look at the colors. What do they tell you about the situation? Look for repeated symbols and consider their significance.
One of the downsides of scanning is it means you must deal your spread face up. If you prefer facedown, you could try your usual method of going card by card and then scanning to pull the reading together. That’s the beauty of any reading process we readers share…they (like the tarot, are organic. It is fun and easy to adapt new things to suit your own personal style.
By scanning a reading, you create a framework that you use to organize the details of the reading, which come from interpreting the individual cards. You also gain other information that can help you clarify the question or the situation and direct the answer in the most useful way.