My friends who regularly read certain oracle cards often get literal readings. This is a reading where the symbol depicted on the oracle card turns out to mean that thing, rather than what the symbol stands for. I’ve noticed this is somewhat common with the Lenormand, and especially the Gipsy (Zigeuner Wahrsagekarten), oracle decks. Yet it can happen with the tarot as well.

A sample of this with the Lenormand cards might be the following.

Bear + Mountain + Fish

Depending on how one reads the meanings of the cards, this might mean that the client’s financial investments will take a long time to show dividends, or that there are unlikely to be management opportunities at a particular business in the near future.

Later, it may turn out that the client or someone close to the client went on a fishing trip — in the wilderness if not an actual mountainous (or hilly) area — and saw a bear. This may seem like a drastic example, and it’s certainly contrived, but the idea is no less valid.  The problem is that it’s often tricky to determine when the cards are being literal. A good rule of thumb seems to be to consider if a daily draw is literal, since the nature of a daily is that it tends towards the mundane. Otherwise, you have to trust intuition — and I haven’t yet met anyone whose intuition is infallible. So the literal reading is often only evident in hindsight.

I mentioned that this is common with oracle cards but it’s certainly a possibility with the tarot as well. I did a lighthearted reading for my partner today, asking what he could expect for the rest of the year. (At the time of writing, that is twelve days left in 2009.) I got the following three cards, using the Lo Scarabeo Tarot:

4 of Cups 3 of Cups Judgment

4 of Cups – 3 of Cups – Judgment

In basic terms the 4 of Cups tends to represent boredom; the 3 of Cups is a celebration; and Judgment is an irrevocable change. These cards could be read in depth along these lines, to explore the subject’s possible emotional state. Yet looking at these cards, I got a much more literal interpretation. If you view them in the context of the end-of-year, maybe you can see one as well.

The 4 of Cups looks like a drunk man, possibly debating on having another drink. The 3 of Cups shows three women stomping grapes to make wine, and maintains the joyous celebratory aspect often read for this card. Then Judgment is the blare of a trumpet, which is akin to the noisemakers that will be used at New Year’s Eve parties around the world — and is also a reminder for the irrevocable passing of this year.

In short, it looks like temptation to drink too much while celebrating New Year’s Eve. I laughed and passed the message to my partner (who didn’t quite believe me).

So literal readings can come from anywhere, sometimes we just have to be open to intuition and the illustrations on the cards we use.