I often get questions about reading the Marseille tarot, and how I find reading with either the full pack or just the trumps. I always say, ‘there’s nothing like it’. I have written a number of posts about the Marseille tarot and other posts in which I have used the Marseille tarot as an example, both the full pack as well as just the trumps. A click on the tag ‘marseille tarot’ will give you the full range.
But I thought of exemplifying here the classical French Cross read the French way. This means that I will read the 5-card layout, first with the trumps, and then, for each of the cards in play, I will use the pips for more information or practical clarification.
Here I should also mention that I know of no French reader that I admire who reads in the so-called New-Age style, a style that tends to emphasize symbol over image, universal archetype over specific and ordinary experience, and psychology over ‘what stares you in the face’. The aim is to read the cards, not to make guesses.
Let’s have a look at what I’m talking about. The layout of the French Cross is as follows: Card 1: Situation. Card 2: What opposes or aids it. Card 3: Advice. Card 4: Outcome. Card 5: Synthesis (or the tone, not the outcome of the reading in general, to which you arrive by adding the value of the 4 cards and then reducing the number if it exceeds 22. There are some arithmetical problems with this, as you never get trump 1 or 2 as the synthesis card. Esoterically speaking this is interesting, but mathematically it has its limits).
1 5 2
Let’s look at the cards below, from a recent reading related to a question about work. This is in fact a question that comes up often.
‘Why is the situation at work so tensioned?’
But first a word about the question: For me, without a question there’s no reading. I’m not interested in shooting aimlessly and maybe hitting a nerve. I prefer going for the bare bone, and I find that this is quite impossible without the context of the question.
As I don’t claim to be a psychic – I have no idea what that is, and even if I did I would not be interested in exploring psychic phenomena in public – I prefer to stick to what I see in the cards, not to what I suspect to be the ‘truth’ coming from this or that ‘energy’. Others may be very good at doing such work, but I’m not.
The Emperor, The Tower, The Papesse, Temperance, The Hermit.
This was a straightforward one that answered the question directly, so I said:
‘A powerful man (Emperor) is out to get you (Tower). Be discreet (Papesse) and the relations will smooth out (Temperance). Eventually he will stop (Hermit).’
The sitter went: ‘Crap. Why is this man doing this?’ (The ‘powerful man’ was identified on the spot.)
‘Because he’s like this. First he stabs you (5 of swords), and then he tells you that he did something good for you (Knight of Cups)’.
‘What a hypocrite,’ the sitter said. ‘Indeed, enough to create a tension that can bring the whole house down.’
Just to get an even more nuanced picture of what is at stake, I pulled a card from the minors to tell me something more about each trump, still considering the position of each trump in the layout.
The additional pips told the following story:
The powerful man, the Emperor, is a cruel warrior whose meddling in other’s affairs ends in losses (3 of Swords). His interest in seeing his colleague down, the sitter, is related to his big project, or idea that would get him more money, or the realization of a grand thought (Ace of Coins).
The Papesse, the sitter, is secure in her position (4 of Coins), so she can afford to stand back and keep quiet. If the Papesse won’t rock the boat, but rather keep her ground by shutting the door to her room – as she was advised from the outset – Temperance will bring balance in the form of collaboration with others at work on small other tasks (3 of Wands).
The Hermit, representing the synthesis of the situation, shows the Emperor losing his crown, and literally impaling himself (Ace of Swords).
A rather nice toning of the outcome for someone who is out to get others for no other reason than because he has a personal agenda involving getting more power without any competition or resistance. How I like to see the Ace of Swords finishing off the ones that deserve it. Excellent job of retribution.
The classical French Cross is a good way to go about it, in just about any situation, and one can glean a lot of information from using the cards in this way, first by looking at the major issues in the trumps, and then by taking the pips to peep into motives.
Go get them. Reading cards with the Marseille tarot is easy. Just keep focused and sharp.
For more info on what value I assign to the pip cards, and according to what system, read my post Fortunetelling in Three Steps.
For more on the French cross, I recommend the books by Colette Silvestre (this presupposes some command of the French language, as her books, on Tarot and Lenormand, are not translated into English).
But you might also like to look up my own book, Marseille Tarot for more examples of this and how the French Cross compares to reading the cards in line.
Note on the deck: Jean Noblet (1650), Tarot de Marseille, reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy.
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