What does ‘outcome’ really mean?

Lucky me – I got to do a reading for a friend last night! When you’ve got used to chuntering along in your own mind, interpreting the cards whichever way you damn well please, it’s a totally different thing interpreting a set of cards for someone else, with their expectations, ideas and beliefs thrown into the mix…some of it they’re sharing with you, some of it you’re guessing at, some you have no idea about. I’m pretty sure I need some more practice! Luckily though my friend is someone who’s willing to look really deeply into each card and ‘have the conversation’, rather than sitting back and hoping I’ll do all the talking.


We did a couple of spreads – the little four-card ‘what lies ahead’ that I’m currently lovin’, and the ‘spread for moving forwards’ I’ve been working on. This was great because I really felt that I was starting to perfect this spread. The ‘two cards for each position’ thing worked really well – for example, in the ‘where you’re coming from’ position, we drew the extreme opposites of the Ten of Cups and the Nine of Swords. How limiting it would have been to have had just one of these cards. My friend was coming from a place where there had been both complete joy and happiness, an era of close friendships and lots of fun, which was coming to an end. She had also been through some serious emotional anguish over the past couple of years. Both were important in the reading, and it would have felt wrong to have the focus put on just one of these aspects.

Another thing I realised as we read the cards together was that there was no need for that ‘outcome’ card. Outcome of what? Of incorporating the advice? Of leaving things as they are? Does it mean the possible consequences of your actions, or does it mean this is what’s fated to happen? Can’t we instead draw our own cnclusions as to possible outcomes? The more I thought about it, the more I started to feel that an outcome card was not only wrong for this spread, but that I’d like to take it out of other spreads too. Perhaps a little extreme, and maybe I’ll approach this on a case-by-case basis. I’m guessing it’s my reluctance to get with the idea that Tarot can divine the future, that the cards can actually tell us what’s coming, that’s making me feel so opposed to having this card in a reading. On the other hand, it’s the outcome that many people go to a reader for. Whilst I enjoy using the Tarot to explore a situation from different angles, the most common ‘use’ of Tarot is to find out what’s going to happen to you. If I don’t believe the cards can tell you this, then can I legitimately read for someone who wants to know the future?

I believe so, because, whilst no-one can predict what corners life’s going to throw at us next, I do think that there is an understanding of the consequences of our actions deep within us. When I think back on some of my past mistakes (and there have been many!), I realise something that I refused to recognise then: that I knew what the outcome would be, even whilst I was making those mistakes. So why didn’t I change my actions? That’s something I’m not yet sure I understand…

All this talk of not using an outcome position to divine the future throws some of my favourite spreads into the air – not least the four-card ‘what lies ahead‘ spread I mentioned. By it’s very nature it’s about predicting the future, isn’t it? Well…yes and no. If you look at what the positions actually show, this spread doesn’t tell you what’s coming, but prompts you to find those ideas within yourself. Card 1 suggests something to let go of – a behaviour, a habit, a person, a feeling, that’s holding you back. Card 2 is about confronting something – it’s a bit of direct advice about positive action you can take. Card 3 is called ‘what you need to know’…another hint as to the energies you need to start channelling, the power that lies within you and how you can use it. And card 4 tells you what can be attained. Is this an outcome? I don’t think so. This card shows you what you’re capable of, what you could achieve if you set your heart to it. No part of the reading tells you what’s coming, what’s going to happen to you or what you will do – but by working through the cards, you can identify patterns in your behaviour, hidden motivations or other factors impacting on you…and this can help you to see what possiblities lie agead of you. That, I think, is the true power of Tarot.

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  1. Helen says:

    Hi little red!I only decide which spread to use when I know what the question is, and then I would only include a Likely Outcome card if I am assessing the future prospects for a particular situation or choice.

  2. tarotmimi says:

    I totally agree, i’m not on board with using the tarot to predict the future either. All that divination stuff is not for me. Your thoughts on the “outcome” card and the ability of the tarot to help us explore a problem is just what I’ve been thinking, but much more clearly articulated than I could have done

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