Last time, I started to look at a list of ten common “commandments” concerning formation of a proper question for card divination. This is advice commonly given to readers of tarot, Lenormand, playing cards and most other oracles. This post is a continuation from Part 1 which introduces the topic. The commandments are repeated here for your convenience.

The Ten Commandments of Cartomancy Questions

  1. Thou shalt not ask yes or no. Otherwise thou shouldst just flip a coin.
  2. Thou shalt not ask the cards anything about, “Should I…”
  3. Thou shalt not ask the same question more than once.
  4. Thou shalt only ask An Important Question.
  5. Thou shall not ask questions on thy own behalf.
  6. Thou shall rephrase an improperly formed question from another.
  7. Thou shall not asketh of the future, for only fortune-tellers do that.
  8. Thou shall not ask questions requiring professional knowledge thou doth lack.
  9. Thou may not ask questions of a general nature.
  10. Thou may ask questions of a general nature.

2. Thou shalt not ask the cards anything about, “Should I…”

This is a piece of conventional wisdom that I originally accepted without question because it fully matched my sensibilities.This is a kind of question I’ve commonly seen posted when people are sharing or exchanging readings on internet forums, and it’s one that I will sometimes step in to gently criticize, especially for known newbies. Really, I’m quite gentle — no heavy sticks or other blunt instruments are involved!

The reason I have long believed that this approach is bad is because asking the cards if I, or my querent, should do this or shouldn’t do that is tantamount to absolving ourselves of responsibility. The querent is potentially giving some pieces of pasteboard that power, should he base his decision on the cards. Let me give some examples.

Should I go on this date with Gerald? Yes, because the 3 of Cups says I’m going to have a great and social time!

Should I apply for this job? No, the 7 of Swords implies that someone is going to manipulate the situation, so why bother?

Should I buy a new car? Hey, Death with Ace and 10 of Pentacles suggests a windfall inheritance coming my way. Buy, baby, buy!

Should I ask Gloria to forgive me for stealing her boyfriend? Hmm, 3 of Swords and Judgment don’t look so good. I’d better not.

Hopefully these examples make sense. In each case, the cards are used as the basis for a decision. Just because someone asks a “should” question doesn’t mean they are basing a decision on the reading, but generally it seems safest to avoid the possible temptation by avoiding these types of questions.

Or so I’ve always advocated, until studying horary and geomancy. “Should I…” seems to be a staple for those; the diviner’s bread and butter, or maybe the bruschetta if you favor Italian food. Plenty of examples from experienced and established readers show questions phrased this way, as “Should I marry Mary?” (It would be merry!)* There is no admonishment of resolving responsibility and no talk of rephrasing the question. The astrologer or geomancer goes on to show how to answer such a question, usually in great detail. So why is it okay for them, but not for the card reader?

I believe the answer lies in the intent of the reading. When the card reading “commandment” is given, it is assumed that the subject of the reading is likely to base life decisions on whatever the cards have to say, thus avoiding personal responsibility for her decision and the outcome. With the horary reading, even though the question is phrased the same, the answer is given more along the lines of: “here is what you can expect if you do this thing you are asking about.”

It’s a subtle difference, yet I believe it’s an important one. One absolves responsibility, one does not.

So my way of thinking is changed regarding this common question formation. I am more open to “Should I…” questions, as long as I am comfortable that it is being treated as a way to explore the outcome of some action, and not an excuse to perform or avoid that action.

To be continued. Meanwhile, share your thoughts in the comments!

*Apologies to any of my readers for whom English is not the primary language, who may not find this play on words amusing.