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Tarot Divination in Prediction, 1953

October 18, 2011

By 1953, the Prediction Tarot articles had become rather intellectual – strong on theory, lacking on the practical side. The January ’53 issue has a piece entitled The Tarot: the Polar Keys by H.T. Howard. Mr Howard had joined Brian Burgess as a regular contributor on the subject of the Tarot. In his article he equates four Tarot Trumps with four polar constellations. Death he associates with the Polar Dragon, The Emperor with Hercules, Judgment with Cygnus and The Fool with Cepheus. The tone is high-flown and the reader learns nothing new about the Tarot – other than that Howard and other occultists approve the correspondences set out in the article.

Frank Lind writes on Tarot and Divination in the February 1953 edition of the magazine but gives no examples of telling the future with the Tarot. The article is a paean of praise to divination; it’s basic message: divination does work! In March, unusually, there is no Tarot article. But in April Lind is back again writing on variations in the designs of Tarot cards.

The May issue sees Lind begin a three-part series on Dual Aspects of the Tarot. Lind is much taken with the principle of polarity – which finds expression through male and female, positive and negative, and active and passive elements in life. He expands on the subject in his Tarot course How to Read the Tarot, Lesson 6. These Prediction articles concentrate on the designs of the Trump cards, and over the three issues (May, June, July) all twenty two Trumps are cover.

In April ’53, H.J.D. Murton became editor of Prediction having previously been sub-editor, taking over the role from James Leigh. Fairly swiftly thereafter, Murton commissioned Madeline Montalban to write a short series of articles on Tarot divination. Lind’s three-parter on positive and negative as reflected in the symbolism of the Tarot Trumps was already working its way through the system, the first episode coming out the month after Murton assumed his duties as editor. They were the last Tarot articles Lind would write for Prediction.

Madeline Montalban’s four articles on Tarot divination appeared in the August to November issues of Prediction. In December ’53, that series having concluded, no article on the Tarot appears. Had Murton offered Miss M. the opportunity to write more on the Tarot? And were they negotiating what her next topic would be, protracted discussion causing the hiatus? For the January ’54 issue contains the first article of a new series that represents a radical departure for Miss M and Prediction both. It hardly touches upon the divinatory aspect of the Tarot. Its subject matter is the Arthurian myth cycle and its links to the Tarot. This series continues over fourteen issues and by its end Miss M. is established as resident writer on the Tarot for the magazine, a position she maintained until her death in the mid-80s.

Here is the first of her articles on divination by the Tarot.


How to answer your own questions

No. 1 of a new series in simple interpretation

By Madeline Montalban

Many students of the Tarot complain that it is very complicated to read and learn: too much so for the answering of simple questions. This may be because the expert interpreters of the Tarot
often fail to make clear that the exoteric and esoteric meanings of the cards can be separated.

There are hundreds of ways of setting out the Tarot, but if you, like myself, want to use it for answering specific questions in a certain way, then you need the mundane translation of the cards, and a simple method which does not require too much synchronization.

Most people consult the Tarot for four basic reasons, for questions concerning love, finance, their families, and proposed (or feared) changing of conditions.

If you were thinking that Miss M. intends the four reasons for consulting the Tarot to correspond to the four suits of the Minor Arcana, you would be mistaken. This may have been the intention at the outset – who can tell with Miss M.? Love, dealt with in this article, corresponds to Cups, and finance obviously comes under the rule of Pentacles, which Miss M. at this stage calls Deniers. In the third article, she equates Wands with family matters, but feared changing conditions, so obviously fitted to equate with Swords, are dealt with in a singular manner I have never come across before.

As a consultant, I have found that by far the most frequent queries are for those which concern love. For that reason I have chosen love problems to illustrate this first article on a simple way of reading the Tarot.

Lay aside the common belief that “you mustn’t consult the cards for yourself,” it is quite fallacious. The only danger in interpreting the cards on your own behalf lies in the danger of tugging the lay-out’s interpretation to give you the answer that you want.

As Miss M. says, it is possible to read the Tarot for oneself, though it is often devilishly difficult to get an accurate reading, for the reason she supplies. That said, her methods, as laid out in these four articles, are as good as any at producing a clear and unequivocal answer, mainly because she corrals the meanings of the cards within fairly tight bounds. Any “interpretation” required consists only of placing given meaning 1 beside given meaning 2 and blending the two as best one can.

Before you begin your reading, concentrate a while on the main question you want answered, and boil your queries down to that, then vow that you will interpret the cards as fairly to yourself as you would do to anyone else for whom you were reading them, and not colour them with your own desires.

I don’t think this is the usual “Think about the question you want answered while you shuffle the cards” directive. It’s part of Miss M.’s system to achieve an accurate and unbiased reading. As you will discover in the second article, she places great emphasis on getting the question right. Wisely so, for a sloppily framed question generally evokes an amorphous or chaotic answer from the cards. Miss M. wants us to think clearly about our questions and limit their scope: “boil down your queries to that.” Some people ask a package of questions, one contingent upon another: “If I take this job I’ve been offered, will I have to live abroad for two years, and if so would it be better for the children to continue their schooling here or to relocate with me?” Miss M. offers a simple method for reading the Tarot; it can’t handle complicated questions like the one I’ve concocted. Thus one must take time to think what the most vital issue is, what does one really need to know, and ask a question about that one thing and nothing else.

To answer a question concerning love

From the Tarot pack pick out the suit of Cups. These are used for all love questions. They correspond to hearts in the ordinary pack of playing cards.

Should you be a woman, the Queen of Cups represents yourself, and the King of Cups the man you love.

If you are a man, you reverse that order, and the King stands for you.

Shuffle the thirteen Cup cards well, then cut into three heaps.

Find the heap which contains the card which represents yourself. This heap contains half of the answer to your question. Lay aside the others. They will not be needed, but as no writer could interpret all the possible permutations of the three heaps, here are the meanings of every card in the Cups pack. Only those which lie in the heap which contains the card which represents you should be read.
Ace: A happy gathering. Good news and rejoicing. Reversed: The beginning of a love affair.

King: A sympathetic man. Reversed: You are counselled to be on your guard against this man’s charm.
Queen: A charming woman. Reversed: You will regret her influence over you.

Knight: A lover, not the one you are thinking about. Reversed: One who will not be straightforward with you.

Page: The bearer of a message. In some cases, a birth. Reversed: Trickery.
Ten: The place in which the inquirer resides, and the esteem of friends. Reversed: Friction in the family circle.

Nine: Success and your wish granted. Reversed: The inquirer’s success may be marred by his or her imprudence.

Eight: A happy marriage to one you least expect. Reversed: Happiness, a proposal, and much gaiety.
Seven: An unexpected stroke of good luck. Reversed: Good fortune. Any way up this card denotes a successful romance.

Six: This card indicates that the shadows of the past bear on the future. Reversed: This has not yet come to pass, but will do so in the future.

Five: A marriage, or happy and triumphal conclusion to a love affair coupled with monetary gain. Reversed: Receipt of unexpected news or the unlooked for arrival of a friend.

Four: Your love affair is in serious danger, owing to outside influences. Reversed: A new and pleasant friendship.

Three: Success in what you are thinking about. Your hopes will be fulfilled. Reversed: Danger of disgrace, or an unfortunate accident.

Two: Reciprocated love, but danger from miserliness. Reversed: Love is discouraged or rejected. Do not commit yourself.

Laying out the Cup Cards

Take the heap in which the card lies which represents yourself, and lay the cards out in a semi-circle, in the order in which they fall.

Now take the 22 Tarot trumps. Discard all but the following: 0. The Fool, 1. The Magician, 3. The Empress, 6. The Lovers, 7. The Chariot, 9. The Hermit, 12. The Hanged Man, 13. Death, 14. Temperance, 15. The Devil, 16. The Tower, 18. The Moon, 19. The Sun, 21. The World.

Although applicable to the Waite-Smith deck, these titles come from the Thompson-Leng cards, this being Miss M.’s tarot pack of choice. They’ve slipped through the editing process in this article. By the time we reach the fourth and final article in the series, steps have been taken to ensure that students of Frank Lind’s Tarot course are furnished with familiar alternative titles for Death and The Devil, for example.

Shuffle these fourteen trumps, cut once, lay the bottom heap of the cut on the top heap, then deal out one trump on each of the Cup suit cards in your semi-circle.

The trumps which fall on the card which represents yourself contain the answer to your question, and those which fall on the others tell how it comes about.

There’s a minor error in the text here. The sentence should begin, “The trump which falls on the card which represents yourself contains the answer to your question …

Here are the meanings of the fourteen Tarot trumps used for this lay-out.

The Fool. Want of thought and heedlessness of action. Reversed: A neurotic condition leads to muddled thinking and self-induced troubles.

Miss M. shares with Lind the older view of The Fool, namely that it represents either folly or foolishness.

1. The Magician: For a woman querent it presages a change of condition. Reversed: This change may be unfortunate. If a male querent, it stands for changes made in haste of your own volition.

3. The Empress: Fertility and domestic happiness. Reversed: Disharmony and lack of the desired union. Presages a love  disappointment if it falls reversed on the querent’s card.

6. The Lovers: The loved one hesitates, not knowing his (or her) own feelings. Reversed: Love troubles, a broken romance, and heartache.

7. The Chariot: Triumph over mundane obstacles to the desired love affair. Reversed: Discouragement and quarrels.

9. The Hermit: Caution against subtle intrigues. Reversed: Your own timidity stands in your way. When falling on the card of the querent, foreshadows failure in love unless the Nine of Cups is present in the lay-out.

12. The Hanged Man: Upright or reversed, when lying on the card of the querent it over-shadows all others. Your love affair is doomed to failure.

13. Death: Falling on the card of the querent – abandon all your hopes of love. No good can come of them however propitious it may seem now.

14. Temperance: Forecasts a rich marriage, or union with one who will become rich. Reversed: A warning that “When wine is in, discretion may be out.”

15. The Devil: Represents a temptation that will come your way with overpowering force which, if not resisted, brings great sorrow.

16. The Tower: A warning of secrets made public. Reversed: ruin and disgrace if you persist in your present course.

18. The Moon: You see your love through the mists of illusion. He (or she) is far less than you imagine. A warning of disillusionment in the future.

19. The Sun; A wholly beneficent card, and in any lay-out modifies all threatened evil.

21. The World: A happy omen of success in your hopes, health and fertility. If reversed, these hopes may be delayed but not extinguished.

I have given the mundane meanings of both the Cup suit and the 14 Tarot trumps to be used, but, of course, in any lay-out you will not use all of these cards for your final reading.

The cards which fall on the one representing the querent are of paramount importance. If a woman, and the King falls in your lay-out (or vice versa if the querent is a man) the trumps lying on that card are of secondary importance. Third in importance are those which lie on the ten, eight, seven or the Wish card (the nine of cups).

Most lay-outs present at the most six suit cards and six trumps to be read. With the meanings given above, these are read in conjunction, pair by pair, and the meaning of the cards emerges clearly once the querent’s the loved one, and the Cup suit is considered.

Clearly there’s an error in the final sentence. Perhaps it was shortened so as to have the article fit the space available for it. If so, unintentionally, the result doesn’t make sense. I would reconstruct the sentence thus: Using the meanings given above, these [cards] are read in conjunction, pair by pair, and the meaning of the cards emerges clearly once the querent’s card, that of the loved one, and the cards from the Cup suit falling in conjunction with them are considered.

[Prediction, August 1953 ]


If one keeps to Miss M.’s rules, making a reading with this spread is fairly straightforward. Here’s a practical demonstration.

A young lady has been seeing a man for some months. She declares herself in love with him and wants to know if he feels the same about her. The cards in the spread are: Queen of Cups + The Moon; 2 Cups reversed + The Hanged Man; 4 Cups reversed + The Sun; Knight of Cups + The Empress; 8 Cups + The Magician.

The reader must start with the Queen of Cups and the Trump falling on it, because that pair of cards tells one the answer to the question. The Queen has no divinatory significance; it simply represents the inquirer. The card with it, however, is of great importance. Here it is The Moon. Miss M.’s notes tell us that this Trump predicts that disillusionment lies ahead. It also reveals that this woman’s beloved is not the man she thinks he is. The “answer” then appears to be that the inquirer will come to see this man in a very different light. The implication is that her affection for him will subsequently wane. But, as The Moon isn’t a definite “no” in the way The Hanged Man falling in the same position would be, we must look to other cards in the layout for confirmation of this interpretation.

The 2 of Cups is reversed and falls with The Hanged Man – not a good combination. Love discouraged or rejected is the message of the 2 of Cups when reversed while The Hanged Man suggests that the inquirer’s love affair is doomed to failure. The next pair of cards carries a cheerier message. The 4 of Cups reversed forecasts a new and pleasant friendship. Miss M. instructions say that The Sun has a fortunate influence and through this modifies other cards in the reading.  In this instance, The Sun is directing the inquirer’s attention away from the man she is currently involved with, towards a new love interest.

The Knight of Cups, signifying a lover, but not the one about whom the question was asked, is paired with The Empress, a Trump that presents a much better prospect for marriage and domestic happiness. Finally, the 8 of Cups falls with The Magician, intimating union with someone one wouldn’t expect to marry at the time the reading is made (8 Cups) and a change in the condition of the inquirer’s life (The Magician). I think we can safely assume that, so far as this reading is concerned, the change of condition is marriage.

The story revealed by these cards is that the inquirer will, in a while, come to feel differently about the man she has been seeing. But someone else will enter her life, and her prospects of forming a lasting partnership with this gentleman are far stronger and her chances of true happiness much higher.

According to Miss M., we must pay most attention to the Trump that falls on Queen of Cups and then to the Trump paired with the card representing the loved one. That would be the King of Cups, but he doesn’t appear in this layout. The Knight is present, however, and we may treat that card in the same way, though keeping in mind that it indicates someone other than the present beau. The card in conjunction with the Knight is The Empress, extremely fortunate in all questions concerning love. The message of the two key Trumps, The Moon and The Empress, is clear: the inquirer’s affections for her current love-interest will evaporate (she will probably cease to view him through rose-tinted spectacles) and a new man will enter her life who is a better proposition as a partner. Next, says Miss M., Cups cards numbered 7 and upwards and their associated Trumps should be allowed greater influence than the other pairs of cards. For this reading, only the 8 of Cups comes under this heading. It is coupled with The Magician and together they imply marriage to a person other than the man inquired about. In this they back up the meaning of the Knight of Cups falling with The Empress. Take note that by studying these pairs only – the ones which Miss M. says are the most important in this type of spread – we have obtained the very essence of the reading.

Some students stumble over pairings when one card is positive, the other negative. As a general rule, the Trump card takes precedence. Imagine the 7 of Cups has The Tower in reverse fall with it. The 7 is a beneficent card; Miss M. tells us that either way up it denotes a successful romance. On the other hand, The Tower threatens ruin and disgrace. How are these meanings to be combined? First off, the combination must be interpreted in the light of the “answer” given by the Trump that falls with card of the inquirer. Let us say that this card is The Hanged Man and that in consequence the “answer” is no to the romance the inquirer had in mind when she asked the question. Then the combination 7 of Cups with The Tower can be read as: No matter how well matters appear to have been going (7 Cups), the ruin of your hopes and possible disgrace lie in the future (Tower). But if the “answer” was yes – if the inquirer’s card fell with The Sun or The World – the pairing might read thus: the inquirer may experience ruin and disgrace in the eyes of the world, but the loved one will stand by her loyally through thick and thin.

My own advice, for what it’s worth, for when a fortunate card and an unfortunate one are paired and you can’t decide what the result would be, is to treat the combination as if the two elements cancelled each other out. I know there are Tarot students who will say that the combination must mean something and shouldn’t be ignored, but Miss M.’s method aims at getting at a clear answer shorn of all the trimmings. It is in accordance with that objective that I present my advice. Think of it this way: Would you rather sit for hours fruitlessly puzzling over what a particular card-combination means or would you prefer to reach an unequivocal answer to a pressing problem relatively quickly and with minimum fuss? It’s a matter of swings and roundabouts; loss of detail being more than compensated for by receipt of a definite answer – yes or no.

  1. Melissa Grove permalink

    Hi Auntie,
    I tried this spread on a friend and it was the smoothest reading I’ve ever made! The whole story just appeared to me as I looked over the eight cards. Of course, we have to wait now to see if the prediction comes true.
    But then I tried the spread on my neighbour, a divorced man in his late fifties. This reading was much harder, but I think I got it right. He asked about a lady he’d been seeing. She’s twelve to fifteen years his junior, a high-flying career woman who has never been married. The cards were 5 of Cups with the Fool, King of Cups with the Hanged Man, 7 of Cups with the Empress, 10 of Cups with Temperance and 4 of Cups with the Moon. The 5 and 7 of Cups are fortunate cards and I expected the 10 to be fortunate too, but three of the five trumps have a negative significane. So there was a lot of weighing up to do.
    Trump 12 with the querent’s card gives the answer sure enough – the querent’s hopes of settling down with this woman are not well starred. Working out why was a trial. Five of Cups with the Fool I interpreted as saying his hopes of a happy conclusion to this love affair were foolish. (Not keeping exactly to what Miss Montalban said but I assume we are allowed some latitude.) Turning to the 4 of Cups with the Moon, I read this as hinting that the ending the querent was seeking will not come about due to some outside influence. In fact there are things going on that he doesn’t know about, possibly behind his back. He thinks this woman is looking to set up home with him, but that probably isn’t the case.
    When he finds out he has been let down, his friends will be supportive (10 of Cups) and help him regain his equilibrium (Trump 14). (If I read Temperance as Miss Montalban suggested, I couldn’t make sense of this pair.) Taking the 7 of Cups and the Empress last, I saw this as forcasting a stroke of good fortune that brought him into contact with a woman with whom he could find the domestic bliss he yearns for.
    How have I done with this, Auntie?

    • Hi Melissa,
      That is an excellent reading you’re made. It is broadly in agreement with the interpretation I would have given myself.
      Miss M. wrote these articles for another era and we must at times update her comments. I have the remarks about making a rich marriage in mind.
      Also, as you’ve found, the brief delineations Miss M. gives for the Trump cards are at times inadequate. We need to bring our understanding of other facets of these cards into play at moments like this.
      Even so, I am amazed at how rarely I need to do this when using this spread. More often than not I complete a reading without having to add anything that isn’t in the article, an experience you’ve had yourself, apparently.
      I hope you continue to make successful readings using Miss M.’s spreads.
      Best wishes,

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