Q&A with Joy: False Cuts in Tarot

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Yesterday I was working with a client and we were rounding out the reading with some quick answers to the last few questions she had. For quick questions like these, my practice is to have the client cut the deck in two, then I (or they) reassemble the deck and I pull the top and bottom cards to get the answer. The querent had asked about budgeting some extra money–should it go to her bills, or some bills she was helping her kids with. We first asked what the outcome would be if she put the money towards her own bills and got a nice solid answer, something along the lines of the Six and Seven of Pentacles, kind of a “generosity brings a harvest” type of interpretation. Then we asked what would be the outcome if she put the money towards her kids’ debts. As she cut the deck, a few cards fell from the top half and landed on the table. She said, “What do I do? What pile do those go in?” This is called a false cut (not to be confused with jumper cards) and there are specific rules in tarot as to what to do in such a case.

Here’s the question:

What happens when you cut the deck, but some cards fall from the bottom of the pile?

Here’s my answer:

Whoops–did something get left behind? (“Seven of Swords” from the Rider Waite Smith Tarot by A. E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, Pamela-A edition.)

First, I always let the client do what comes  naturally to them. If they automatically reach out and add those cards to one pile or the other, I don’t say a thing and continue with the reading. Even if they then ask me about it after they’ve intuitively assigned the cards to one pile or the other, I say, “You did it perfectly.” But on the rare occasion when the client makes no move to place the cards in one pile or the other and instead immediately defers to me, I explain the concept of a false cut. In one of the traditional sources (I think Book T by Mathers, but I don’t have the time to look it up right now), instructions are given for just such an occurrence. The operation is to be abandoned and not pursued for at least 24 hours. In personal use I have found that I can tweak this extreme recommendation and still get accurate results. To me, when I get a false cut, it means that I don’t have the right question. I carefully contemplate what it is I want to know, rephrase the question accordingly, and continue.

In this case, instead of asking for the outcome if the woman added to her contributions towards her kids’ debts, we asked, is there any reason she shouldn’t increase her payments. This new question produced a clean cut and an interesting answer–Page of Pentacles and King of Wands. I told her if the kids had good jobs (King of Wands) they should be taking on more of a payment themselves. She admitted one had a good job and the other also had steady employment, even if not a King of Wands type of job. Also, it came out in conversation that the kids were not paying anything towards these debts. I suggested that she request each child to start making small (Page of Pentacles) payments directly to her, maybe just $50/month, to be increased at a reasonable proportion on a regular schedule. She could add this extra money to the payments she was making. She quickly calculated and said that even a small additional payment would make a big dent in paying off these commitments. And it was an innovative solution she had not previously considered.

You don’t need to abandon the question when you get a false cut. But considering it as an indication that the question is off track gives you a chance to reconsider, rephrase and arrive at a more relevant answer.

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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.
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