Many people find determining timing with tarot to be challenging. One reason is that the future isn’t set in stone, so timing remains fluid. Any number of actions, decisions, or situations can occur that could affect the timing of, well, anything. And it’s possible that something won’t happen…so trying to determine when it will happen would be frustrating, to say the least.

However, just like the weather can be forecast based on existing circumstances and probabilities, our futures can be, to some extent, forecasted. What follows are a few techniques that you can try. See which ones work for you, or use these as inspiration to develop your own technique. You will notice that not all these techniques assign the same meanings to the suits. If you research a bit, you will see there are many different methods of association. In the end, the most important thing is to find what makes sense to you and works for you. Also, you can use any of these techniques as a base or foundation and tweak it to suit your own associations, beliefs, and practices.

Narrative Approach

This approach is best suited for those who do not wish to use numeric or deterministic approaches. It does not predict a specific timeframe; instead it suggests what must happen before the event will occur. The querent asks the question and then you draw one card for the answer. So, let’s say your consultant asks, “when will I find true love?” and the card draw is the 8 of Cups. The answer would be “you will find true love when you realize what you really want and seek it out.” Or, if the card drawn is The Chariot, the answer may be “you will find true love on a trip.”

Active and Passive Cards

Another way to determine the timing of an issue to do a three-card reading as you normally would, but first survey the cards in the reading to get a sense of how quickly the issue will be resolved. Wands and Swords are considered active cards. Cups and Pentacles are considered passive cards. Look at the reading and count the number of active cards. Three active cards suggest that the resolution is occurring now or in a matter of days. Two active cards means a period of weeks. One active card means it could take months. If there are no active cards, this situation could take years to resolve.

Numerical and Suit Assignations

The following techniques are really variations on the same idea. This idea is that in your reading you are including one card as a timing card. Whatever card that falls in that position is read as the answer to “when.” The following techniques are some different options for interpreting the timing card.

Minor Arcana Weeks

This system assigns each week of the year to a Minor Arcana card. Each suit governs a season (approximate starting dates based on the northern hemisphere): Cups = spring (March 20), Wands = summer (June 20), Swords = fall (September 21), Pentacles = winter (begins December 21). The Ace of each suit represents the first week, the 2 represents the second week, etc. So, the 5 of Swords would mean the fifth week of fall, or about the third week in October. The Pages are the eleventh week; the Knights, the twelfth; and the Queens, the thirteenth. The Kings are the transitional week in between seasons.

Suit, Court, and Major Timing

In this system, Swords = days, Wands = weeks, Cups = months, and Pentacles = years. The number on the card (Ace – 10) indicates the number of the measure of time specified. So, the 4 of Pentacles means for four years and the 3 of Swords means three days. Court cards indicate that the resolution is dependent on the actions of another. Major Arcanas mean that no timeframe is specified but instead the issue indicated by the card must first be resolved. Reversals should be noted, as with this system they represent obstacles that must be overcome before the event can occur.

Golden Dawn Techniques

The Golden Dawn had its own associations that are used by many tarot readers. The season are assigned to the Aces: Wands = summer, Cups = autumn, Swords = spring, and Pentacles = winter. The suits are associated with various times of the month: Pentacles = New Moon, Swords = waxing moon, Wands = Full Moon, and Cups = waning moon. The suits are connected to various times of the day: Pentacles = midnight to sunrise, Swords = sunrise to noon, Wands = noon to twilight, Cups = twilight to midnight.

Major Arcana Timing

There are lots of ways to read the Majors as time based on the image or card meaning. For example, The Sun can mean the event in question will happen within the solar year, or it could mean in the summer. The Moon can mean within the month, or it can mean in the winter. The Tower can mean soon, as soon as a few days. Judgement can mean now. The Star can mean a long time from now, about a year. The Wheel of Fortune can mean the answer is unpredictable because of the influence of random factors.

Major Arcana Timing, part II

Here is a more traditional way to read the Major Arcana as timing, based on their planetary and astrological assignations.

The Fool—Uranus/Aquarius (Jan. 21-Feb. 20)

The Magician—Mercury/Gemini and Virgo (May 21 – June 20 and Aug. 21-Sept. 20)

The High Priestess—The Moon/Cancer (June 21 – July 20)

The Empress—Venus/Taurus and Libra (April 21 – May 20 and Sept. 21 – Oct. 20)

The Emperor—Aries (March 21 – April 20)

The Hierophant—Taurus (April 21-May 20)

The Lovers—Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

The Chariot—Cancer (June 21 – July20)

Strength—Leo (July 21 – Aug. 20)

The Hermit—Virgo (Aug. 21 – Sept 20)

The Wheel of Fortune—Sagittarius (Nov. 21-Dec. 20)

Justice—Libra (Sept 21. –Oct. 20)

The Hanged Man—Neptune/Pisces (Feb. 21-March 20)

Death—Scorpio (Oct 21-Nov 20)

Temperance—Sagittarius (Nov 21 – Dec. 20)

The Devil—Capricorn (Dec 21 – Jan 20)

The Tower—Mars/Aries (March 21-April 20)

The Star—Aquarius (Jan 21 – Feb 20)

The Moon—Pisces (Feb 21 – March 20)

The Sun—The Sun/Leo (July 21 – Aug 20)

Judegment—Pluto/Scorpio (Oct 21 – Nov 20)

The World—Saturn/Capricorn (Dec 21 0 Jan 20)

Written by Barbara Moore
The tarot has been a part of Barbara Moore’s personal and professional lives for over a decade. In college, the tarot intrigued her with its marvelous blending of mythology, psychology, art, and history. Later, she served as the tarot specialist for Llewellyn Publications. Over the years, she has ...