Tarot circles are divided on whether or not the use of the cards to answer simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions is a good idea. The camp that argues in its favour suggests it’s a good way for those who are new to the craft to become familiar with the cards and the psychic associations that come with each card.
However, the other school of thought argues that those who use the cards in this way only gain a superficial understanding of the multi-layered images and that it creates a false impression of what the cards can really do. Let’s take a look at what this form of reading has to offer and how it can be used.
The traditional Tarot
Naysayers contend that a yes/no reading doesn’t give the reader or the querent any understanding of the role they play in their own lives and in the lives of others. Traditionally, the Tarot is used for self-divination. The 78 cards of the Tarot unite to tell an allegorical tale: the Fool’s Journey. The central figure, the Fool, is representative of the ‘everyman’ figure; he represents each one of us on our journey through life.
On the first card, he is seen at his most naive and open-hearted; ready to embrace whatever comes his way. As each card unfolds, so too does his story. Throughout the journey we are privy to the challenges he has to face and see the lessons that he must learn and, by return, how they represent our own, personal 'Fool's Journey'.
In a traditional Tarot reading, the reader looks at the cards drawn and, using his knowledge of the cards, interprets that particular part of the story, making it pertinent to the querent’s situation. Using this method, the querent is given insight into how their strengths and weaknesses are at play in whatever problem they are facing. They come to understand that we have to accept some responsibility in determining our own destinies. Often, a reader will suggest that certain aspects of the querent’s character need attention and they are given a positive path to follow, which helps to put them in the direction they want to be going.
The question of free will
Traditional readings do not offer shortcuts to the future, and it is widely accepted that they are not tools for fortune telling. Instead, the querent is made aware of how their thoughts, feelings, actions and energies are influencing current events. Consequently, the reader can offer advice and even give the querent ‘homework’ through which they can improve their outlook and, hopefully, improve their situation.
This relies on the vital understanding that the future is not a fixed point and, as a result, is not accessible through the cards. While there are likely destinies if we pursue particular courses of action, there is always the awareness that where we end up depends entirely on what we do. Free will is an essential part of a traditional Tarot reading; the understanding that what we have done in the past and what we do in the present are the building blocks for the future, which is ever-changing.
Framing your question
Part of the argument against yes/no readings is that they are predictive, which really goes against the grain of a true Tarot reading. The querent asks a question to which the answer is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, which invariably means that ‘will I?’ questions creep into the mix. The answers given give the querent no clues as to how their actions, thoughts and feelings have any bearing on the situation. Instead, they treat the situation as though the path that leads to it is fixed in tie. More experienced readers tend to eschew questions of this sort, preferring to focus on the more personal aspects of a problem. To this end, you’re more likely to be encouraged to ask ‘should I?’ questions instead.
Those in favour suggest that, by using the deck in this fashion, you can gain an understanding of the influence of the cards. They suggest that by beginning the day with a yes/no reading and observing the results and influences that occur during the following hours, it’s possible to understand, on a psychic level, just how each particular card operates. This, however, doesn’t include the literal or interpretive understanding of the stories behind the cards and ignores the nuances and subtleties that are concealed within the imagery.
A practical and academic understanding
However, there is a method that incorporates something of each school of thought, giving you both a psychic and more specific understanding of each card, as it is used. In addition, it also incorporates the notion of free will, rather than looking at the deck as a tool for ‘reading the future’. This method can be used on a daily basis, allowing you to understand how the cards operate on a psychic level, while increasing your knowledge of the cards, in a literal sense. Let’s take a look at how it can work for you.
Start by asking yourself a question to which the answer can only be ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, take care that the question you ask isn’t one that puts the cards in a predictive position; don’t ask ‘will I?’ questions. Instead, go for ‘should I?’, ‘can I?’ or even ‘is it a good idea if I?’ style questions. These imprint the notion of free will into your subconscious and mean that you won’t reject the associated responsibility of your actions.
Next, select your card. Ensure that the deck is well shuffled. Using your intuition, decide whether the card you have chosen is a positive or negative answer. Not only does this help increase your awareness of how you perceive the cards, but it will also encourage your intuitive abilities. Once you have your answer, go about your day – but make careful note of when you can see the results of the card’s influence in action.
At the end of the day, go to your resource book and look up the story behind the card. As you read it, see just how what you have experienced applies to that part of the Fool’s Journey. This gives you both a practical and academic understanding if each card that you encounter, increasing your skills as a reader.