Looking to the Past to Guide the Future

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop!

An international group of tarotists are all writing on the same topic and then linking to each other so that the reader can hop from one blog to the next, seeing all the permutations and facets that the topic inspired in different writers.

Louise Underhill of Priestess Tarot wrangled this hop, proposing that at this season of the year we think about those who have passed, seeking their advice on what we need to work on in the year to come.


Looking to the Past to Guide the Future

We’re going to use an acting technique I learned many years ago paired with a device taught in Pen and Ink Tarot (a Denver Tarot Meetup workshop from last week and last year) to use the past as the foundation to create our future.

Think of something you would like to accomplish in the next year (or other time period). Got it? Jot it down so you can keep it in mind as we do this exercise.

Get Your GOTE


Back when I worked in theatre, we learned a technique actors can use to build a character. It’s called the GOTE method. GOTE is an acronym that stands for Goal, Obstacle, Tactic, Expectation. Those will be our four card positions.

Card 1 – Goal: Your objective, what you want to accomplish

Card 2 – Obstacle: What’s standing in the way of achieving your goal

Card 3 – Tactic: The steps you take to overcome the obstacle, your action plan or strategy

Card 4 – Expectation: Your level of confidence regarding the goal, what you anticipate will happen

Now for the reading. Consider choosing a deck you don’t work with too often to get a fresh perspective. Shuffle up and pull four cards around the Goal you specified above.

Interpret these four cards as they fall in the GOTE positions. Now, when I say “interpret,” I don’t mean glance at them and get a vibe and say, yeah, man, so true. Write in your journal. Talk into your voice recorder. Bring out your art supplies. Do whatever you can do to engage the images and tease out their meanings, as they relate to you and your specific question. What are the similarities between the cards? What are the differences? What common symbols do you see? Interpret your tarot basics, such as number and suit. What is the story? And yes, how does it make you feel? After you’ve worked on your interpretation, summarize each card with a phrase or short sentence to remind you of the most important aspects of your interpretation.

Now for the fun stuff. We’re going to re-interpret the spread based on one or more of the following. See where it takes you!

Reinterpretation #1: Ancestors


Of your predecessors (alive or dead, everyone has an opinion, I’m sure), pick two or more people (ideally from different generations, and of course because these are ancestors we’re talking about the generations who have gone before) who would give you the best advice on the topic of your goal. For me, if I’m asking about growing my business for next year, I would ask my Dad, who is retired now but was self-employed for most of his career, and then someone from the previous generation, my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born but ran a small business that he had inherited from his father (a printing shop–you might remember I had tea with him a couple of years ago for the Blog Hop).

Card 5: Ancestor 1: To do the reinterpretation, I’m going to pull one card for my Dad. Now I’ll interpret my original GOTE spread, combining each card with the card that represents my Dad, creating four new interpretations of the original four cards.

Card 6: Ancestor 2: Next I’ll put the Dad card away and pull a card for my grandfather, and again interpret the spread as if the advice is coming from him.

Reinterpretation #2: Progeny

Card 7: Progeny 1: What if your child or a young person asked you for help on this topic? What advice would you give them? Thinking of a real or imagined person from a future generation, pull a card to represent the youth and mesh it with your original spread to discover the advice that arises.

Card 8: Progeny 2: If you like, take this one more generation into the future.

Reinterpretation #3: Historical Drama

Card 9: Historical Drama: Pull a card to represent the genre of your historical drama. Keeping that genre in mind, and setting your story in the past, set the timer for 12-15 minutes and write a flash fiction piece based on a character who had the same Goal, Obstacle, Tactics and Expectations as you. Again, interpret each of the four original GOTE cards in conjunction with the historical genre card to create fresh inspiration.

Reinterpretation #4: Futuristic Fiction

Card 10: Futuristic Fiction: Pull a card to set your genre for your futuristic fiction. Again, allowing about 3 minutes per card or a bit more, use the genre indicated by your random draw, plus a time period set in the future (next year? next century? next millennium? It’s your choice!), and write a story based on your original GOTE spread, combining each original card with the futuristic card to create new meanings.

For Real

If you want the excitement of this exercise to stick, get up and act out your stories, or write a monologue you can recite. Our minds are often rather loosely tethered, so bringing this exercise out of the head and into the body and voice can give it gravitas, making it real.


You might find it worthwhile to set aside a couple hours so you can work through all the variations. Invite some friends and share your results! Or offer this up as a meetup topic. Working through your goals from a variety of perspectives is certain to bring out new ideas and an inspiring freshness. Like the determined goat, I bet you will overcome your obstacles with successful tactics and exceed your expectations!



Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into the most active and one of the largest tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a reader and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

© 2016 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

Articles: 472

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

No comments yet

  1. I think the only trouble I would have with trying this out, is my lot going “what do you want this time…” Thank you for sharing and I like this spread a lot, so it’s going into my tool box <3

    • LOL! Yes, I knew that was a weird one. Easiest way to deal with difficult people who would probably focus on the negative instead of being constructive, or simply get off track, instead of being on point with what’s relevant to you. 🙂

  2. Now that’s an interesting idea! Definitely one to try, but I can see I’ll need to set aside a good chunk of time for it. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. This is a really interesting take, but sadly I don’t really know any of my ancestors well enough (or at all) to be able to interpret their views with any realism. I shall have to think on how I might do this.

  4. Ha! I immediately grabbed for a deck then about half way down realised that maybe it would have been a good idea to read to the end of the instructions before starting… but hey ho… I ended up with an interesting sprawling fractal of cards across the room… I’m going to have another more focused go… my mind was definitely loosely tethered today! I loved the title of your spread; I think a small part of my mind went – keep pulling until you get the Devil! He appeared for the Historical drama much to my amusement! 😀

    • I love it! Yes, Get that GOAT with the Get Your GOTE spread. I’m glad he showed up as expected! The Devil for Historical Drama….that could provide many hours of amusing storytelling!

  5. This spread seems like it could be just the thing for working with a friend who has a goal she wants to achieve and is looking for an advice reading. I’ve given her my personal advice frequently, so asking for her ancestor’s advice could really give us a fresh spin. And acting it out would be just up her alley! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *