One of the geniuses of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is the story-telling qualities of the Minor Arcana. Each card can tell a story, but a sometimes overlooked factor is that the suits tell stories as you move from card to card. In classes I encourage students to write a tale based on each suit so that they can get a personalized feel for how one image changes into the next. Pamela Colman Smith was a trained book illustrator and story-teller, so she may have told her own stories, although I believe Waite gave her specific tales to illustrate (see here and here).
Whatever the original stories, this “tarot flow” perspective can be used in your own readings. Rather than looking at the Minor Arcana cards as static scenes, try seeing them as a moment that is only one step in a progression. Something happened just before this moment and it’s about to change into something else. It’s like individual tai chi gestures that should really only be part of a living, flowing, connected movement.
Many modern spreads, rather than focusing on a sequential development, favor single cards interpreted according to an individualized position: What helps you? What blocks you? How does your partner feel about you? I can guarantee that your partner doesn’t have only one feeling regarding you! If you see the cards in terms of a sequence, then you get more of the sense that on the way from one feeling to the next one, your partner, in regards to your question, is only temporarily dominated by the feeling shown by the card.
Let’s say you got the 5 of Pentacles. Your partner may be feeling emotionally cold and thinking that sticking with you, right now, is a hardship to be endured. That can be pretty depressing. But if you consider both the 4 and 6 of Pentacles, then you could consider whether your partner might have made a firm commitment to holding on to the relationship (4 of Pentacles) and is aware of a possible pay-off later (6 of Pentacles). It’s just that right now he or she is feeling hurt or going through a cold spell that might be only temporary. Do you see other possibilities for this sequence?
This kind of approach works very well with one of the reversed card techniques. This optional way to read a reversal says that an upside down card is an energy that is attempting to manifest, but there is still something to deal with in regards to the preceding card. That is, you need to revisit the prior card in the suit before you can fully take on or manifest the present one. In this example, if the 5 of Pentacles was reversed, then you might want to consider what needs to be held on to in times of scarcity, by reminding yourself what you both found so valuable (4 of Pentacles). Consider what your partner has always clung to. Is there some way you can be supportive of or honor that in order to be a true companion in difficult times?
In The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, I opened most Minor Arcana card interpretations with a possible scenario of how the figures depicted on one card might have arrived there from the preceding one, seeking to link all the cards in a chain of actions and consequences. It’s worth taking a second to consider this perspective when doing a reading.
If you would like, in the Comments, also tell us your “tarot flow” story for the cards pictured below. How does the 8 of Cups card follow from the 7 and lead to the 9 of Cups? If the 8 of Cups is reversed, then how might you be better able to handle it by first revisiting the 7 of Cups?
These cards are from what’s been called the “Edith Waite” deck, that illustrates and accompanies El Tarot Universal de Waite.