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Three-Card Spreads: Reading with a Significator

Pierre Madenie deck three-card spread

Here’s a technique for getting a quick answer to a question. It’s especially useful if you want to know whether the universe, or Dame Fortune, supports your plans.

Designate a significator for the question. Keep it in mind, but don’t pull it out of the deck. Shuffle the deck while focusing on your question. Look through the deck for the significator and take it out along with the cards on either side of it. Line the cards up and look at how well the flanking cards support the significator.

Example: The night before I flew to Dallas for a tarot convention I asked if my trip would go smoothly. With the Chariot as the significator, I shuffled the deck then found the Chariot flanked by the Three of Batons and the Queen of Batons. The Queen reassured me that I was in control of the situation and had my travel arrangements well-organized. The structure of Three of Batons mimics the Chariot to some extent, which was reassuring. This card has the general meaning of events moving forward swiftly and smoothly.

The Chariot was supported by its neighboring cards. My trip went very smoothly, with no delays or missed connections.

I believe the cards respond to one’s intention; so consistency prevents confusion. Always use the same significator for the same situation. I use the Chariot for travel, Wheel of Fortune for the lottery, Eight of Coins for large sums of money and real estate, Two of Cups for relationships, and Three of Coins for work and career.

Use this technique for clarifying the meaning of a card in a reading. Put the card back in the deck, shuffle, then locate the card. The cards on either side of it are its clarifiers.

Give this a try and tell me us how it works for you.

Deck used in the illustration: Pierre Madenie 1709 Tarot de Marseille, facsimile produced by Yves Reynaud.


5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love these newsy little reading hints you’ve written and published here. They help me learn — or remember — reading techniques that tend to get “lost in the shuffle” … so to speak. This one was fun to pull out of the memory library, but one of your earlier posts was especially instructive for me.

    That one was about interpreting a three-card reading as “where you are” (the first card) … “where you’re liable to end up” (the last card) … and the stepping-stone or situation that stands between you and that result (the middle card.)

    In a way I guess, that sequence is automatically contained in most three card readings, and yet the way you presented the idea put lots more emphasis on the middle card than I’d been used to doing. (My double Aries self always wants to get from here-to-there as fast as possible, and so that middle step is often seen as more of a stumbling block … or an annoying delay … than a stepping -stone.)

    Your post here got me to settle down and give that middle card its due consideration, rather than my usual habit of trying to rush from Point A to Point B — so I can get on to Point C and beyond, doncha know! I really give that card more careful thought now.

    Also, I’ve pondered your post about problems getting the Tarot to come up with a correct quick yes-or-no answer. That’s always been a puzzle for me, too, and I know other readers who wrestle with it. As I recall, you tried several of the standard techniques and got about a 50-50 success rate … which is no better than coin-flipping or good old Random Chance.

    I’m wondering if a variation of the technique you’ve described here might be better / more informative than straight yes-or-no. Pick a card in your mind that represents the situation … pose your question … shuffle the deck … and then look for the card. Its condition could be a lot more informative that just a random draw, especially when you factor in your own hopes about the answer. (We just can’t ignore those, can we?)

    If you have time — or are interested — then looking at the cards-on-either side … laid out in a three card line … would tell you WHY the answer is liable to be yes-or-no (card to the left) and
    what that yes-or-no result is apt to render (card to the right.) Maybe not getting your wish could prove a blessing in disguise … or draw attention to some other life-factor that needs attention.

    Or maybe background circumstances or attitudes could be altered to set up a better result. (Just a thought.) Any of these thoughtful adjustments might make life run smoother. (And isn’t that what we really want, after all??)

    I realize this is more time-consuming and cumbersome than the usual quick-grab-a-card technique, but maybe if the question is worth asking at all, it’s worth more consideration.

    Ok, I’ll hush now. But FYI, this is what you get when your mail lands fresh in my Inbox first thing in the day, before I’ve got stuck into all the pending chores and business that keeps me running hard from the moment I wake up. (There’s no more natural way for a double Aries to handle life, and as long as I can do it, I’m not apt to change. My decades of self-investigation have at least taught me that!)

    Thanks so much for your blog posts. I really do enjoy them. They really help fill in the gap left over from our early days together when list-posts let us talk a lot more often.

    Have a good evening!

    April 16, 2015
    • Hi Rebecca,
      Good to hear from you again. These little three-card spreads are really nifty. It’s where I start when designing a spread for a client. I always ask myself if more cards are really necessary, and often the answer is “no”.

      April 16, 2015
      • Hello again, Rebecca,
        For some reason WordPress didn’t show me your entire comment, I just read the rest of it in my email. I really like your idea for doing Yes/No spreads. Much more sophisticated than the usual methods. What do you mean when you say to “shuffle the deck..look for the card…and its condition could be informative”. What do you mean by “condition” – whether it’s reversed or not? Reversals don’t work with the TdM, so I always rely on the neighboring cards to modify the condition of the central card. I might have to come up with another condition to consider, like Batons and Swords are “no” and Coins and Cups are “yes”. I really like your twist on the flanking cards; why the answer is what it is, and what the result will be. The next time I have a yes/no question, I’m going to try your method and report the results here.

        ps: if you ever get tired of being a double Aries, you could send some of that energy my way. My self-indulgent Taurus Moon insisted on having a glass of wine this evening, and my irresponsible Sagg Sun said “cool, who wants to focus on those tiresome deadlines anyway”? So I think we’re all going to go outside, listen to the frog chorus in the creek, say goodnight to Venus blazing in the western sky, and hope for a more productive day tomorrow.

        April 16, 2015
      • Re: “the condition of the card” — yes, mostly I meant whether it’s reversed or not. But I really meant whether the meaning of the card is positive or not. (And maybe whether the answer is what you’d hoped for.)

        As you know, I read with reversed cards, and consider that the most miserable ones when upright (3S, 9S, 8C, The Devil, etc.) have a positive message when reversed. It’s a philosophical thing with me. Nothing can be just down-and-out awful no matter what, there’s always an upside to discover.

        And since a reversed card is, by definition, not expressing itself in its usual fashion, a negative card reversed becomes a lesson learned, a blessing in disguise, an indication that things are turning around and the bitterness is mostly history, an indication to look inward and make adjustments that put you back in flow, etc.

        As for giving up some of my Aries energy … for you, I’ll try to share, but honestly, don’t count on much. I burn through it pretty fast myself … and I absolutely LOVE who I am. Sometimes I worry that in my next life my next chart won’t be so wonderful. which if you think about it is pretty silly. My next chart — if there is such a thing — will be ME, no matter what. That’s just the way of things.

        Wishing you a fabulous day!

        April 21, 2015
      • Hi Rebecca,
        Thanks for sharing your use of reversed cards. I use reversals with fully illustrated decks and see something wonky about the energy. With NSPs (non-scenic pips) I look at the surrounding cards to tell me how well-supported the card is.

        With Uranus in Aries Trine my Ascendant for the next two weeks, I’m getting a little taste of Aries energy, and am feeling rather cheerful. I think I’ll put in for more of same next time around.
        Have a great day

        April 24, 2015

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